Waking up on Sunday, I almost believed that it had all been a dream.
So many years I have woken up after the draft with a feeling of disappointment, and then had to dig down deep to find some kind of optimism and positivity for the coming season.
But not this year.
This year, more than any year I can remember, I think the Raiders have drafted and traded their way to improving this football team enormously.
Yes, we drafted some athletes, but the Raiders' draft was made up of quality players at need positions. This was also true of the trades we made.
Oakland finally faced up to several problems that have haunted them over the last few years, and dealt with them.
The awful run defense was addressed in the first and second rounds. I loved the Rolando McClain pick. In picking him, the Raiders overlooked some minor athletic limitations and went for a guy with real football intelligence, great instincts, and a player who was the physical and vocal leader of a BCS championship defense.
In the second round, another quality player from an excellent program who fits a need was selected, defensive lineman Lamarr Houston.
In the third round, a guy I really hoped we would take at this point was on the board. Every year it seems one player from a small school comes into the league and makes a splash like Sebastian Vollmer or Jared Allen. I put Jared Veldheer in that bracket.
He has great size (6’ 8”, 312 lbs.), great strength (32 reps on the bench), and was equally fast at the combine in the three-cone drill and the 20-yard shuttle. That short area quickness makes him a great fit for Oakland’s zone blocking scheme.
We picked the right time to take two physical standouts, Bruce Campbell and Jacoby Ford in the fourth round.
We got them as value picks having already addressed positions of need. With value again, with a good cover cornerback in the fifth round, Oakland pretty much completed their draft.
I even liked the later picks, and Travis Goethel looks like a useful backup and special teams gunner.
My only moan was that I would have liked to have seen another interior offensive lineman added to the rotation, and I thought we needed a fullback. I found out shortly afterwards that they had signed guard Alex Parsons (USC) and fullback Manase Tonga (BYU) as free agents.
That leaves me with nothing to moan about at all.
When you add the trade for a starting strongside linebacker in Kamerion Wimbley, and a possible starting quarterback in Jason Campbell, this has been a hell of an offseason.
No splashing out on flashy free agents, just quality players who are system fits.
What has been hugely satisfying for the fan base, in addition to a great draft, is that bringing in Jason Campbell shows a willingness by Oakland to accept that JaMarcus Russell probably is not the guy.
That is a big step forward for this team.
I see Tom Cable’s influence in this draft (as well as Al’s of course), and I genuinely think that as a team they work well together , instead of pulling in different directions like many previous coaches have with Mr. Davis.
That means for the Raider Nation, the future is brighter than it has been for many, many years.