It has been a long, long time since the Oakland Raiders had a truly great linebacker. I’m not talking about fairly good, or satisfactory. I mean a genuine standout player.
Kirk Morrison is good in many ways, but has his weaknesses in others. Greg Beikert played competently for a decade but was never in serious consideration for the Pro Bowl. In fact, you have to go all the way back to the days of Rod Martin, Ted Hendricks, and Matt Millen to find a linebacking crew that struck fear into the hearts of the opposition.
There isn’t anything not to like about McLain. He has the size (6’ 3” and 255ilbs) physicality, and take on strength to be dominant in the middle. He also comes from a winning program at Alabama and was a key factor in the Crimson Tide winning the National Championship this year.
Al will like that.
McLain is also a high character kid, a smart football player who takes good angles to the ball carrier and is a solid, wrap up tackler.
When you look at the failure of the Raiders first round picks over the last decade, he is the ideal choice. When you break down first round picks by team, you get less busts at linebacker than any other position. Linebackers generally translate well from college to the pros.
When you add this to the fact that all of the Raiders starting linebackers are free agents in one form or another, this should be a done deal already right?
Well, not necessarily...........
Because as acute as the need is at linebacker, there is another even more pressing need.
Oakland needs an offensive line.
The reality for the Raiders is that they can’t start next season with Cornell Green at right tackle. Not if they want to give their quarterbacks a chance to be successful, and half a chance of staying upright.
Green’s constant pre and post snap penalties have cost the Raiders dear over the last few years, and their failure to protect the passer in general led to all their signal callers being dinged up in one form or another in 2009.
That has to change.
This year there a good crop of offensive tackles in the draft who could start at right tackle on day one. Russell Okung from Oklahoma State is many scout’s top pick, and Brian Bulaga from Iowa looks awesome in the zone blocking system that the Raiders also use.
Anthony Davies of Rutgers has some character issues, but is a great talent. Trent Williams from Oklahoma could certainly man the right side, and Bruce Campbell from Maryland may not be the finished article but has huge potential and athletic ability.
The problem is that all of these players will be gone by the end of round one.
After this group the drop off in talent is quite steep, and Al Davis may not want to gamble that a second tier player like Vladimir Ducasse or Kyle Calloway could come in and start straight away.
There is always of course free agency, but that will be big bucks.
So the answer to my question I think is this: If Oakland can find a player who can start at right tackle on opening day, whether through free agency or the draft (outside of round one), then there is no way that they can afford to pass on McLain.
If they can’t find such a player, then McLain might have to end up on another team.