Of all the teams in the National Football League, the most difficult team to make predictions for on draft day are the Oakland Raiders. Al Davis is still Al Davis, and his selections are made by his logic alone.
This year, though, may be a little easier than previous years, as the Raiders have some glaring weaknesses on their roster, and you have to feel that Davis will go that way in order to get Oakland competitive again, and to get the offense moving again.
Then again, I said easier, I didn’t say easy.
Based on current scouting reports, history, and this year’s college all-star games, this is how I feel it will go for the first three rounds.
Round 1 (8). Anthony Davis–OT Rutgers. Al Davis always goes for players with a high ceiling, and so I believe Anthony Davis is the player he will be targeting. Davis’s athletic ability and his skills as a pass blocker will mask the character concerns and apparently poor work ethic.
There are some quality offensive tackles in this year’s draft, and this is a huge need position for the Raiders.
Al Davis may also fall for Bruce Campbell of Maryland, who has a very impressive size/speed combination, and is another Davis type guy. But Campbell does not look complete and will need some development. The Raiders need a player who can start Week One.
My pick would be Brian Bulaga from Iowa. The Hawkeyes operate the same zone blocking system as Oakland, and Bulaga does not dominate with just size and power, he is an excellent technician who would be a great system fit in Oakland. Russell Okung is also a safer selection that either Davis or Campbell and a first-class all-around player.
Round 2 (39). Koa Misi–LB Utah. Reports are that Oakland is high on Misi after watching him play at the Senior Bowl where he put on a good performance, showing that he could make the transition to outside linebacker after spending all his college career at end. If Misi impresses at the combine, which he should, then this is the way Al goes.
Oakland has lacked a genuine strongside linebacker for some years now, and the Raiders believe that Misi will solve this problem.
Whilst I don’t think that Misi is a bad selection, I think that Sean Weatherspoon would be better. He is another player who had a strong Senior Bowl, reinforcing what the scouts were already saying about him during his time at Missouri. Weatherspoon has a better size/speed combo than Misi, and that could possibly make the Raiders lean his way.
Weatherspoon is a better pick as he is proven performer at the position and has no transition to make. He fits ideally as a strongside linebacker in a 4-3 defense, and has also shown that he can be a vocal on-field leader.
Don’t rule out Al taking a cornerback here if someone like Kyle Wilson from Boise State is still there, but based on availability, the smart money has to be on Koa Misi.
Round 3 (69). Brandon Ghee–CB Wake Forest. Whilst they may have other more pressing needs, the Raiders still lack a reliable nickel corner. He fits ideally as a strongside back, and Al Davis’s trend of taking cornerbacks high in the draft won’t stop in 2010. Ghee has good size at 6’0", 190 lbs, and runs the 40 in the low 4.4s. That combination is enough to get Ghee drafted by Oakland at this stage in the draft.
Based on need, I would like to see the team go in a different direction and take Cam Thomas, the defensive tackle from North Carolina. Thomas has the size (6’ 4”, 330 lbs) and ability to be a good nose tackle at the next level, and if Oakland has lacked a nickel corner, they have lacked a solid nose tackle even more.
Past this pick it is even more difficult to predict for any team, even more so with Oakland.
Players I think the Raiders may consider in the mid-rounds are Daryl Washington, linebacker from TCU, and Jeff Byers from USC at guard. Washington has the speed that Al Davis loves on defense, and as all of the Raiders' linebackers are free agents they may take more than one in this year’s draft.
Byers seems to have gotten over his injury problems the last two years, and although he is not that big, he is quick and a good technician which should make him a good fit for Oakland’s offense. Al also likes players from USC, which could make him a good bet. I would personally like to see John Asamoah from Illinois in the silver and black.
Like the linebacker position, I think the Raiders need some serious help on the offensive line, and picking one tackle will not cure their problems there.
They lack both talent and depth. A second offensive lineman at some point is inevitable, and as Mario Henderson will occupy one tackle position, that pick will likely be an interior lineman.
The later rounds are always a crap shoot, and the Raiders have had some notable success with small school sleepers both historically and recently (Trevor Scott, Chaz Schilens). Don’t expect a change this year.
The Raiders draft will be as ever.............interesting!