Oakland Raiders Draft Preview: Inside the Mind of Al Davis

David WilsonCorrespondent IJanuary 24, 2010

30 Dec 2001:  Owner Al Davis of the Oakland Raiders watches his team warmup before a game against the Denver Broncos at Mile High Stadium in Denver, Colorado.  The Broncos won 23-17.  DIGITAL IMAGE. Mandatory Credit: Brian Bahr/Getty Images
Brian Bahr/Getty Images

While the name of the head coach is still unknown in Oakland for the 2010 season, it is largely irrelevant anyway when it comes to draft day. 

Al Davis makes the decisions here.  It didn’t make any difference that Lane Kiffin didn’t want to draft JaMarcus Russell.  Al wanted him and so he became an Oakland Raider.

It is early yet to be predicting draft picks, but that doesn’t mean the fans aren’t interested in those predictions.  There will be plenty of them in the next three months, that’s for sure.

Trying to guess what the Raiders will do is harder than any other team, because Al is Al, and he is a wild card. History though, can provide us with some sort of guide.

Many mock drafts have Oakland taking a defensive end such as Derrick Morgan or Carlos Dunlap, but with Richard Seymour (who will hopefully re sign), Greg Ellis, and Matt Shaunessy on the roster, I don’t see it.

Taylor Mays also pops up on a few mock drafts as a pick for the Raiders, but with three good safeties already on board, I think this is also highly unlikely.

Most clearly and obviously Oakland needs a quality offensive tackle to keep their quarterbacks upright, and to stem the flood of pre-snap penalties committed by Cornell Green.  Will Al take a tackle here? 

History says he may well, he has taken seven tackles in the first round over the years, the second highest number to defensive backs (11). 

Even as recently as 1998 and 1999, Al took Matt Stinchcomb and Mo Collins respectively.  It has been five years since taking Robert Gallery at No. 2, enough for Al to get over the disappointment.

I don’t see Russell Okung falling as far as No. 8 to the Raiders, which in reality leaves four main contenders at tackle.

They are Trent Williams (Oklahoma), Brian Baluga (Iowa), Anthony Davis (Rutgers), and Bruce Campbell (Maryland).

Trent Williams is a the best offensive lineman on the best offensive line in the country, but doesn’t have the outstanding athleticism that Al covets, and maybe suited best to right tackle in the end.  Brian Baluga has the athleticism, but does have some health issues.

Bruce Campbell is also very athletic, and reportedly runs a sub-five second forty. But as yet he is not the finished article and may take time to develop.  Anthony Davis has huge athleticism too, and is a far more complete player with a high very high ceiling. 

Reports of his lack of desire and questionable work ethic persist though (JaMarcus Russell, anyone?), which has to be a concern. 

But historically, Davis has always taken potential over production, and athleticism over technique, and I think with that in mind Anthony Davis has to be the early front-runner for the Raiders first-round pick. He strikes me as an Al Davis type of guy.

When I say ‘questionable work ethic,’ I don’t mean a ‘maverick’ or a character like Lyle Alzado or Jon Matuszak.  Those guys might have lived hard and fast, but they were disciplined football players on the field who left it all on the field on Sunday.

What I mean is a questionable desire to play the game, and a probability that given a big payday, he has what he wants in life and doesn’t put in the kind of commitment required to be a successful NFL player. 

You cannot teach desire; it is either within you or it isn't. If he shows well enough at the combine, Al may well be blind to his faults and believe he is the guy regardless.

My pick of the four would be Brian Baluga.  He has good technique, all the tools, and Iowa runs the same zone blocking scheme that Oakland does, so he would be a system fit.  Good teams draft players who fit their systems. But as a prediction, it is Anthony Davis.

Other scenarios that might unfold are if Florida cornerback Joe Haden is available.  Al has taken defensive backs six of the past 11 years in the first round, and the temptation may just be too much for him to resist with Haden still on the board, especially if he runs well at the combine or his pro day.

Al loves his cornerbacks.

As an outside bet,  Al may believe that Rolando McLain is the next great linebacker in the NFL, and fall in love with his size/speed combination and physicality. 

It would certainly be a popular pick with the fan base.  McLain is a quality individual who takes good angles and is as sure a tackler as there is in the draft. 

This would give Oakland an impact player at a need position.  But Davis has only ever taken a linebacker twice in the first round (Rob FredericksonNapoleon Harris).

For the last six years, I am .500 on first round predictions (Gallery, Huff, Heyward-Bey); let's see how this one turns out.  A lot of things may change before April.