Every year it happens. Al Davis is a numbers guy, and he drafts players with impressive size/speed combinations.
His theory is that you can teach a great athlete to be a football player, but you can’t each a football player to be an athlete.
We saw it last year with Darrius Heyward-Bey and Louis Murphy, and in previous years with players like Darren McFadden, Fabian Washington, Stanford Routt, Thomas Howard, and Chaz Schilens. I could go on.
Sometimes Al will pick a player almost out of nowhere (Nnamdi Asomugha—2003) who turns out to be an all pro. Other times they turn out not so well (Bob Buczkowski–1986)
Sometimes it works then, and sometimes it doesn’t.
So Al Davis might say “I would rather be right than consistent”, but the reality is that he is consistent, but not always right. When the combine comes around, all the sports journalists look at the players with the best 40-yard dash times, and automatically pencil them in for Oakland come draft day.
Most of the time they aren’t wrong.
Ironically, the only athlete Al Davis didn’t reach for recently was Chris Johnson who was selected by Tennessee, and became an all pro.
If you run an outstanding 40 time for your position, the Raiders will look at you. If you run in the 4.3’s, you are very much on their radar. If you run sub 4.3, you have a very good chance of landing in Oakland.
So looking forward to this year, the Raiders have some pretty big holes to fill on a roster that, in some areas is loaded with talent, whereas in others there are gaping holes.
Here then is my look at the players you can be sure feature somewhere on Al Davis’s big board on draft day.
Linebacker is another need position for Oakland, and they may need to replace Thomas Howard if he leaves in free agency. As all the Raiders starting backers are free agents in 2010, that isn't unlikely.
Daryl Washington runs a sub 4.6 second 40 at 230lbs, and gave a good account of himself at this years senior bowl. He has excellent game speed, has a nose for the ball and gets sideline to sideline. He had 109 tackles for TCU last season, and 11 for a loss.
Washington plays well in pass defense, and had three interceptions for the TCU Horned Frogs in his senior season. His size and speed will likely mean he will move to the outside at the next level.
It is a fairly sure bet that the Raiders have looked at Washington and how he would fit in their system.
There is no picture available for Jared Veldheer, so the picture is of Cornell Green. If Valdheer is drafted that is the man he would be replacing.
The Raiders simply cannot start next season without better play at the right tackle position.
You don't generally see linemen in terms of their size/speed combination with regard to 40 times, as it is really their short area quickness that matters, but Valdheer has an exceptional 40 time for his size.
At 6'8" and 325 lbs he has all the size, and reportedly runs a sub 4.9 second 40.
That puts him on AL's radar straight away.
He does come from a small school at Hillsdale, but not being from a top flight program has never been a bar to playing for the Oakland Raiders. He showed at the East West Shrine Game that he was capable of playing with better quality competition, and many scouts considered him the best lineman at the game.
Tackle is a big need for the Raiders, and it would be no surprise if the Raiders took Valdheer as early as round two.
His stock is on the rise.
Bandon Ghee has an even more impressive 40 time than Kyle Wilson at 4.35 seconds, and is still big at 6'0" at 190 lbs.
Al Davis is looking for a reliable nickel-back, and he will draft someone with outstanding measurables to work with, even if they need some developing, which Ghee probably does.
Ghee did not have a great Senior Bowl given his physical attributes, but he won't have to slip that far in the draft before he ends up wearing the silver and black.
Definitely a player Al Davis might overdraft based on his 40 time.
At 5'11' and 190 lbs, Kyle Wilson was bigger than listed when he weighed in for thr 2010 Senior Bowl.
Running a 4.4 40-yard dash is impressive in itself, but he was clearly the best defensive back over the week in Mobile. He can run with any receiver, and plays with the kind of swagger and attitude that the Raiders like.
Oakland needs a quality nickel cornerback, as Stanford Routt was victimized regularly last year by opposing offenses, and Al Davis does love to draft his cornerbacks.
If Kyle Wilson slips outside the first round, then he will be very, very tempting for the Raiders to take in round two. Another player who comes from a quality program with a winning history over the last few years.
Dexter McCluster is very similar to Darren Sproles of the San Diego Chargers.
He is enormously quick and explosive.
In his senior season he ran for 1168 yards at 6.5 yards per carry and eight touchdowns. He also added 44 receptions at almost a twelve yard average and had a total of 12 touchdowns.
At 5'8" and 165 lbs he is small, and his 4.42 40 time, though quick, doesn't tell the whole story.
McCluster is a real play maker and a threat from anywhere on the field as a runner or a receiver. Davis loves this type of player, and will find room for him on the roster if he likes him enough.
Although he played defensive end in college, scouts say that Kindle fits better in a 3-4 scheme as an outside linebacker, but he certainly has the ability to play in a 4-3 as well.
At 6'3" and 255 lbs, he runs a 4.55 40, which is exceptional, but he is also an excellent tackler and plays well in space. That should make for an smooth transition to linebacker at the next level.
Brian Orakpo was one of the rookie success stories from last year (he certainly played well against Oakland!), and Kindle is a very similar kind of player. Some have even compared him to DeMarcus Ware.
Oakland could look at him seriously as a strong side linebacker is something they have needed for several seasons. His athletic ability and production puts him on their draft board.
When you run a 4.35 40 yard dash, and then have a great Senior Bowl, you are going to be looked at long and hard by Al Davis and the Raiders.
They never have enough speed and value it above all else.
Price has showed that he can live with quality competition, and isn't just a straight line speed guy. He has explosive football speed and excellent body control.
This is the second year running Oakland will look at drafting an Ohio Bobcats player, as they took safety Mike Mitchell in the second round last year. Price has decent size at 6'0" tall and 200 lbs, and after a good Senior Bowl is beginning to climb up the draft boards.
You might not think that there is room for another runner in the Raiders backfield, but you can never guess what the Raiders are going to do. Don't rule out Oakland trading one of its backs on draft day if they see someone else they like.
Joe McKnight is an Al Davis type of guy. He is from USC, gained over 1000 yards in his senior season at 6.2 yards per carry and scored eight touchdowns. He is also receiver out of the backfield.
Running a 4.35 40 also gets you near the top of the Raiders draft board.
Joe Haden has prototypical cornerback size and speed at 5'11" and running 4.4 40 yard dash, and is the consensus number one cornerback in the draft.
I'm praying that he isn't available at number eight, because he just might be too tempting for Al Davis to pass up, and this team has other needs. That isn't a knock on Haden, he is a quality football player and a class kid, but this team needs help in other areas.
You couldn't actually call Haden a reach as he is a genuine top ten talent, but I would consider him a luxury the Oakland Raiders can ill afford.
At 5'9" tall and 179 lbs, Jacoby Ford isn't all that big, but he is lightning in a bottle.
This kid ran a 4.126 40. That's not a misprint, its 4.126.
That makes him the fastest man in college football, and while he is short for a receiver, he has good hands, runs good routes, and his speed is such that he creates match-up nightmares on defense.
He finished his senior year with 56 receptions for 779 yards and 6 touchdowns, and may never be more than a third receiver, but if he gets in any kind of space he is a threat to go all the way every time.
For me, this is someone Al Davis wants to find a way to bring to Oakland, even if he has to reach considerably for him. Al will find it hard to let this kind of speed go. When you think of Cliff Branch, Wliie Gault, Sam Graddy, and James Jett, you realise that Al Davis and Jacoby Ford are a perfect match.