2010 NFL Draft: By Act of God, the Oakland Raiders Are Now Contenders in the AFC
In 2005, some sports writers wrote that the addition of Randy Moss made the Oakland Raiders an "instant contender," which of course was far from the ensuing reality.
Since 2005, the NFL draft has been an expose for track stars and raw talent for the Raiders.
By acquiring Moss in 2005, the Raiders in effect passed on quarterback Aaron Rodgers. That was after a 2004 draft in which the Raiders opted for Robert Gallery instead of Philip Rivers or Ben Roethlisberger (thank goodness).
In 2006, the Raiders opted for Michael Huff instead of Matt Leinart and Jay Cutler.
In 2007, the Raiders finally bit and used its top pick on quarterback JaMarcus Russell from LSU. On the same day, the Raiders sent Randy Moss to New England for a fourth-round pick.
I intentionally detailed this draft history to build up to a bold statement. In 2010, the Oakland Raiders have officially ended the streak of woeful draft days.
The Raiders have done so not only with a haul of NFL-ready defensive players and steals on the offensive side, but by swinging a trade for quarterback Jason Campbell from the Redskins.
One of the most common questions about Campbell has been, "why will Campbell turn around the Raiders if he was only average in Washington?"
First, you must consider the circumstances. New Washington coach Mike Shanahan wants to win now and so Donovan McNabb had more appeal.
Second, the coaching staff in Washington has turned over several times in Campbell's short career, with a new offensive system being installed each time. Yet, despite the lack of cohesion, Campbell has improved in each season of his career.
Now in Oakland, Campbell will have a wide array of explosive talent to work with, and he will also have some comfort level with tight end Zach Miller. Campbell's favorite targets in Washington were tight ends Chris Cooley and Fred Davis.
Miller is arguably the best tight end in the AFC. I say that with awareness of Antonio Gates, Heath Miller, Dallas Clark, and Owen Daniels.
All one must do is consider that Clark has Peyton Manning, Gates had Drew Brees and later Philip Rivers, Heath Miller had Santonio Holmes and Ben Roethlisberger, and Daniels had Andre Johnson and Matt Schaub.
Zach Miller has been the only target for multiple quarterbacks and yet still earned status as a Pro Bowl alternate in 2009.
Will the Raiders contend?
First, I must define "contention." When I ask whether a team can contend, I ask whether that team has a chance at a wild card spot or better.
In 2009, the Raiders were dramatically different with Bruce Gradkowski at quarterback and yet his numbers weren't eye-popping.
Gradkowski only completed about 55 percent of his passes, but the Raiders suddenly looked like a contender.
Campbell completed about 65 percent of his passes by spreading the ball around in an offense that did not rely on the running game.
Campbell can do for Oakland in 2010 what an average quarterback did in late 2009, and then some.
Games between the Raiders and clubs in the AFC East and AFC South will be of utmost importance, because if the Raiders have a shot at a wild card spot, they will need to win against clubs in the East and South for the tiebreakers.
I would submit to you that the Redskins have struggled not because of Campbell, but because of Dan Snyder and the frequent changes to other parts of the team. You also must consider that Washington plays in one of the toughest divisions in the NFL.
The mention of Snyder recalls the popular analogy between Al Davis and Snyder. Surely, some will argue that Oakland is just the same situation as Washington.
The Chargers are still the team to beat, but as we saw on a Monday night in 2009, the Raiders can "rough up" the Chargers. The Raiders have improved significantly since then.
Some have wondered whether Al Davis was truly part of the draft process this year, because it seems like some kind of miracle has taken place in which Davis finally gets it.
I am willing to make the bold claim that what we in Raider Nation have seen in the past three days has been divine intervention and an act of God.
On a personal story, I caved last Monday. During Bible study, I asked the group to pray that Al Davis would not do something to humiliate me (and Raider fans) for another season.
We did. And look what has happened.
Am I the only one who thinks it's funny that Campbell's initials are "JC?" Okay, I'm being facetious with that one, but I couldn't resist.
Yeah, I pray for the Raiders. Not so much "to win" but rather, to not defeat themselves, to not give up when things look bad, and if nothing else, to try hard. Once that is understood, then that is when you will win.
We also prayed for Ben Roethlisberger to turn his life around.
And I do believe that this draft weekend has been an act of God.
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