As draft time approaches, it is natural to look back at your team's recent draft picks. For Oakland Raiders fans, looking back at the draft may not be an easy thing. The Raiders will own a top 10 pick for the fifth year in a row.
Their last four first round picks have yet to make the impact that is expected of a 10 pick. Michael Huff, JaMarcus Russell, Darren McFadden, and Darrius Heyward-Bey all have yet to validate their top 10 selection.
Luckily for Raiders fans, the draft goes beyond the first round, and they have plenty of reasons to be optimistic.
Emerging young stars like Zach Miller, Michael Bush, Tyvon Branch, Louis Murphy, Trevor Scott, Matt Shaughnessy, and Chaz Schilens give Raiders fans plenty of reason for optimism.
Branch, Scott, and Shaughnessy have made impacts on the defensive side of the ball, and are quickly becoming fan favorites.
Branch was drafted in 2008 out of Connecticut in the fourth round. In just his second year, he earned the starting spot at safety and recorded 124 tackles, which was good for second on the team.
Scott was also drafted in 2008. He was a sixth round pick out of Buffalo and nobody has recorded more sacks on the team since he was drafted.
Shaughnessy was a third round pick out of Wisconsin in 2009 and is also a young sack machine. He recorded four sacks in his rookie year, and perhaps his contribution to the team late in the season made the decision to cut veteran Greg Ellis an easy one.
The talent isn't only on the defensive side of the ball. The offense has some picks outside the first round that are making their impact felt.
Miller is no secret anymore. He was a second round pick from Arizona State and he has led the team in receiving for the last two years. With a little more help from the receivers, he can become an even more dangerous weapon.
The Raiders have two late round receivers who look very promising. Schilens looked solid towards the end of his rookie season and the start of the preseason in his second year.
He was becoming Russell's favorite target, but an injury made him miss more than half the season. If he can stay healthy, he can be a great target for the starting quarterback of the Raiders.
Murphy led all receivers in touchdowns this season after being drafted in the fourth round out of Florida in 2009. His fire and leadership was exciting to watch during the season. Though he was hampered by drops, he showed why many fans believe he will lead the team in receptions next year.
Bush is another fourth round pick drafted in 2007 for the Raiders. He came out of Louisville and could have been a first rounder had he not broken his leg in college. He was the only running back to go over 100 yards for the Raiders and led the team in rushing.
If the first round picks can pick it up and produce like first rounders should, the Raiders suddenly become a very deep and talented team.
With the draft coming soon, Raiders fans can only hope to find more late round gems like these guys to help them "Just Win Baby."
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