Is Tommy Kelly More Important Than Darren McFadden For Raiders?

David WilsonCorrespondent IMay 1, 2008

Kelly More Important Than McFadden for the Raiders? 

After the frenzied activity of the draft and the free agency period, we can at last see the outline that the 2008 season roster will have for the Raiders.

There have been big name free agency signings on both sides of the ball, and the impression is that the Raiders are really rolling the dice this year in a bid to win NOW. 

The choice of Darren McFadden in the draft also confirms that.  Oakland had glaring needs on the defensive line that they had the opportunity to address that long term when Glenn Dorsey was still available at number 4 on Saturday.  They chose not to do that and went with Darren McFadden, even though the running game was number 6 in the league last year, and they have a healthy Michael Bush to add to the mix in 2008.

That’s not a knock on McFadden, who is a tremendous player, and I don’t buy the questions about his character either.  You look at the problems he had growing up, problems most of us never had, and he deserves credit for the way he has turned out not criticism.

Javon Walker, Drew Carter, John Wade, and Kwame Harris have all been signed on offense, and even without McFadden this unit was looking in pretty good shape for this year, so McFadden was a luxury pick, not a need.

The real glaring need on this team was the defensive line, and that has not been addressed, at least not in any effective way.  Journeymen Kalimba Edwards and William Joseph have been signed, but they are simply depth and not the answer.  The retirement of Warren Sapp left a big hole on the roster at defensive tackle which hasn’t been filled, and this area of weakness could really hurt the Raiders down the stretch.

Firstly to talk about the players we have at the position.  Tommy Kelly signed a huge contract to play the 3 technique, and has a glowing endorsement by Rob Ryan and the outgoing Warren Sapp.  Terdell Sands was a big disappointment last year, Gerard Warren has shown flashes, but has been unhealthy and inconsistent. We had all these guys on the team last year, and they couldn’t get the job done.  Tommy Kelly has also played tackle before, and the experiment wasn’t a success. 

The size of  Kelly’s contract is mind boggling in respect that he has done nothing to command such a huge salary, and he is also still rehabbing from reconstructive knee surgery.  We are putting a lot of faith in Tommy Kelly, and if he doesn’t produce it will put us in a big hole financially as well as on the field.  But by not taking any defensive linemen until the 6th round of the draft, Al Davis was making a statement that he is happy with the players already in place.

So what makes us believe that these players can get the job done in 2008?  The answer is nothing.  We got shredded against the run last year, and there isn’t anything to suggest that things will be different his year. 

The consequences of this unit failing to produce are that the $100 million in contracts paid out to DeAngelo Hall and Gibril Wilson will be wasted, as you can’t get the best out of an elite secondary when opposing teams are running the ball down your throat for four quarters every week

Perhaps Rob Ryan feels that having two shutdown corners will allow him to stack the box against the running game, where Gibril Wilson should be useful?    

So for me, the smart pick was Glenn Dorsey, who would have made for a much more balanced football team.  As it is, we have to face him twice a year now as the Chiefs got him at number 5.  As I said though, that is no criticism of McFadden, and I will be cheering him all the way in 2008.

Ironically though, even though he was selected at number 4, and was possibly the most talented player in the draft, the future of the Raiders franchise depends probably more on Kelly at this point that it does on McFadden.  Because if Kelly, Sands, and Warren don’t provide some severely upgraded play, it will just be a matter of hoping that the offense can score more than the defense concedes, because it’s going to be a lot.

I know McFadden will be a success in this league, I just hope Kelly is.