For all that is said about the New England draft machine, it appears they deserve as much scrutiny in the past three years as Oakland. On the contrary, the Raiders have put together three of the better drafts since 2006.
The national media has made a living depicting Al Davis as a crazy lunatic owner. His infatuation with speed and athleticism has been mocked by "informed" analysts as small-minded and old fashioned.
Despite winning Super Bowls by means of tuck rules and cheating, Bill Belichick will never be removed from his pedestal of genius.
Every year, we hear about the Patriots' uncanny ability to analyze talent while Al Davis apparently only looks at 40-yard dash times.
Without question, Belichick has discovered a great deal of talent with late-round picks. He is responsible for uncovering arguably the greatest quarterback of this generation in the sixth round of the 2000 draft.
Had they not drafted Brady that year, they would have been judged on the following picks: J.R. Redmond, Greg Robinson-Randall, Dave Stachelski, Jeff Marriot and Antwan Harris.
Over the next four years, the Patriots did not miss on first-round picks. Ty Warren, Richard Seymour, and Vince Wilfork were all first round picks that became the foundation of the Patriots' 3-4 defense.
However, since the 2005 draft, the Patriots have hit on only two recognizable names. Once again, they hit a home run landing linebacker Jerod Mayo. I like Mayo, but it seems impossible to not have success as a linebacker in the New England defensive system. It wouldn't surprise me if Adam Vinateiri could have gotten a few sacks at linebacker.
No one can deny Belichick's ability to gameplan and get the most out of his players. The purpose of this article is not to do so.
With that in mind, here are the remainder of Belichicks picks over the past three years:
2006 2007 2008
Laurence Maroney Brand Meriweather Jerod Mayo
Chad Jackson Kareem Brown Terrence Wheatley
David Thomas Clint Oldenburg Shawn Crable
Garrett Mills Justin Rogers Kevin O'Connell
Stephen Gostkowski Mike Richardson Jonathan Wilhite
Ryan O'Callaghan Justise Hairston Matt Slater
Jeremy Mincey Corey Hilliard Bo Ruud
Dan Stevenson Oscar Lua
LeKevin Smith Mike Elgin
During those same years, Al Davis has been hammered for allegedly sabotaging the Raiders' draft. ESPN and others repeatedly grade the Oakland draft as one of the worst. This year was no different, but lets take a closer look at what came out of the three previous drafts before dismissing this year's draft.
The 2006 draft was the probably the weakest of the three drafts, but did produce Thomas Howard, Michael Huff, and Paul McQuistan. Howard has been great, while Huff and McQuistan have yet to make their mark.
The 2007 draft was tremendous. As a 23-year-old starting quarterback, Jamarcus Russell threw 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions. At the same point in Philip Rivers' career, he had 30 pass attempts for one touchdown and one interception. Yet Russell is already being labeled a bust.
The Raiders drafted Zach Miller with the first pick of the second round. Also 23 years old, Miller's stats are on the brink of being comparable to the elite tight ends in the league. He has shown patience with a young quarterback and willingness to do anything on the field to win.
The Raiders selected Mario Henderson and Johnnie Lee Higgins in the third round. At 24, Mario Henderson replaced the worst left tackle in the NFL and did not give up a sack in the final three games of the year.
Johnnie Lee Higgins was the Raiders' most effective wide receiver last year from a corps decimated by injuries. He established himself last season as one of the most dangerous return men in the NFL. His stats are comparable to any of them..
On day two of the '06 draft, the Raiders acquired Michael Bush, Jay Richardson, and Oren O'Niel. Bush showed last year he could be the best of the Oakland running backs. He possesses a great combination of size, vision, and surprising speed. Ronde Barber would certainly attest to his breakaway speed.
Jay Richardson played well at times, and Oren O'Niel looks to be the fullback of the future.
Last year, the Raiders acquired Darren McFadden with the fourth overall pick. He battled turf toe most of the year, but when healthy, he showed his explosive ability to be a game changer.
With no remaining picks through the first three rounds of the draft, the Raiders did very well on day two. They acquired Tyvon Branch, Trevor Scott, and Chaz Schilens. All three took on increased roles as the season progressed.
Trevor Scott surprised everyone with five sacks. Tyvon Branch played well at times through injuries and is challenging to start at safety this year. He possesses a great deal of speed, and if he can continue to develop, he could solve Oakland's concerns at the position.
Chaz Schilens scored in the final two games of the season last year. At 6'4", he has a great combination of size and speed.
Of course, it takes time to grade a draft, but analysts love to dismiss Oakland's draft each year.
For all the abuse Al Davis continues to absorb, it seems he has executed three of the Raiders' best drafts in recent memory. He has been running the Raiders for a long time. Of course, there have been some bad drafts and major busts along the way.
The media would have everyone believe Al Davis is destroying the Raiders, one draft at a time. The facts suggest the complete opposite. In fact, his recent draft history compares very favorably to the New England Patriots.
If Bill Belichick had drafted Mike Mitchell, what would have been Mel Kiper's response? Would he have been willing to admit he did not have Mitchell on his draft board? Not likely.
By his own admission, Al Davis has missed on his last three coaches, but to contend that he mismanages the Oakland draft room each year is not supported by the facts. The Raiders have built a young corps that, under the right direction, should contend for the next decade.