"...the Oakland Raiders select, Rolando McClain-ILB, University of Alabama."
"Oh thank God!" I uttered to myself! I was so worried that I was going to hear Bruce Campbell, Jason Pierre-Paul, or Taylor Mays!
The breeze you felt immediately following the pick was a collective sigh of relief from Raider Nation!
It appears that Al Davis has finally given Raider Nation something to rejoice about in the first round of the NFL draft—unlike previous years when the sales of antacids and heart-burn medication skyrocketed in Oakland moments after the Raider's first round selection was announced.
I know that I have been critical of McClain in recent weeks, citing a couple of videos I saw of him taking plays off, merely jogging in pursuit, and taking some bad angles. All of this is true, but it is also correctable.
One day of getting called out by veterans like Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly, plus getting chewed up and spit out by coach Tom Cable and defensive coordinator John Marshall will cure him of any "dogging" of which he may have been guilty.
The fact is that you don't win the Butkus award, become a finalist for the Lombardi award and the Bednarik award by "dogging it!" You don't become a first team All-American by taking plays off either.
Rolando McClain is the prototypical inside linebacker. He's 6'4", 258 pounds, not real fast, but fast enough, and his football intellect is off the charts. He made the National Championship defense in Alabama run, and run smoothly.
Rarely did you see a Crimson Tide defender out of position at the snap of the ball. Why? Was it because Nick Saban was shouting orders from the sideline? No, it was Rolando McClain getting everyone in the correct position.
Some have criticized McClain for not making many tackles in big games. This is not due to him being lazy, not being as good as advertised, or making mistakes. It's because every opponent the Tide played knew that if they didn't have a plan for controlling McClain, he would eat them alive!
I have had my concerns about Rolando McClain, but I am completely on board and optimistic about him becoming a Raider. I believe his football smarts and football heart will drastically improve this team.
Let's keep one thing in mind. We can't call a player a bust after only one or even two seasons. Therefore, we can't anoint McClain as "the second coming of Mike Singletary" either. I'll remain optimistic, but let's keep our heads about us and reserve judgment until we see him play at the "next level."
Overall, if the rest of the draft goes as well as the first round did for the Raiders, I can see this No. 29-ranked defense making leaps and bounds up the charts. The right defensive tackle and the right offensive tackle could give the Raiders a legitimate shot at the playoffs, and make Oakland a threat to win the AFC West crown.