The NFL draft is upon us once again, and most people in Raider Nation are anxiously waiting for our picks.
When NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell steps up to the podium and announces the Oakland Raiders are on the clock, the whole of Raider Nation will nervously watch and wait to hear who the Raiders select with the eighth pick of this year's draft.
Our recent draft picks haven't been able to produce the way we hoped, but 2010 is the year that our highly criticized draft picks will show why they were drafted in the first place.
JaMarcus Russell, Darren McFadden, Darrius Heyward-Bey, and Mike Mitchell were and have been criticized by the media and other members of the "Hater Nation." All of these players are well aware of their expectations, as well as their situation after last season's performance.
None of these players looked great last year, but that will all change in 2010. With another year under these players' belts, and another offseason to work on their flaws, they should come back stronger than ever.
This year, it's put up or shut up for these players.
Russell, McFadden, and Heyward-Bey should all see increased production on the offensive side of the ball. When Russell comes into camp in shape and beats Bruce Gradkowski for the starting job, it will increase his confidence level and elevate his game.
McFadden needs to stay healthy this year, and having Hue Jackson calling the plays should also help McFadden's production. McFadden is a special weapon, but nobody has figured out how to use him correctly. Jackson was brought in to maximize the potential of this young offense, and McFadden should be a major beneficiary of Jackson's presence.
Heyward-Bey came into the league with a lot of pressure. If he were a lesser man, he would have crumbled. His work ethic and great attitude are sure signs of his professionalism, and his athletic ability will soon be on display. This is a young man with a lot of potential and drive, and he has a lot to prove in 2010.
Mike Mitchell was the second pick for Oakland in 2009, and it was considered a big reach. Mitchell was hampered by a hamstring injury last year, but he made his way into some packages on defense and made an impact with the blitz. He is a pure football player and should be another one of Al Davis' draft specials that turn out better than the pundits think.
None of these players had good seasons in 2009, but a bad season can easily be turned into a good one if a player learns from it.
There is no such thing as a failure if the failure leads to success. There was a lot to learn and gain from last year and the issues that need to be fixed.
Look for these young athletes with a chip on their shoulder to progress and improve after such a disappointing year. Every year brings maturity, experience, and knowledge, and 2010 is the year for these young guys to show they were worth every penny that Davis has paid them.
For these young Raiders, it's a time to showcase their talents, a time to validate their selection.
It's their time for redemption.
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