Al Davis: Top 10 Raiders That Must Commit to Excellence to Pay Tribute to Owner
Through the years, deceased Raiders owner Al Davis rolled the dice on a number of players. In the good ole days, Davis was never wrong because when Davis gave a player an opportunity they knew they couldn't get elsewhere, they worked extra hard not to let him down.
In today's society, things don't always work out that way, as we live in a materialistic, hustler's society. On top of that, the NFL is a huge business and one contract can set a man from humble beginnings up for life.
The result of that were guys like Jamarcus Russell and Javon Walker cashing in on Davis' vision instead of fulfilling it. In his passing, Davis has left behind some players that he rolled the dice on, so how they perform going forward will affect his legacy.
They all vary from first-round picks, to blockbuster trades, to reclamation projects, to late-round gems. If these players commit themselves to excellence, they will carry Davis' legacy even further.
Turn the page for a ranking of those players.
No. 12 Ron Parker
Ron Parker is from a small school named Newberry.
Davis is known for getting unknowns—be it from small schools or otherwise and turning them into household names. Switching the player's position often comes into the equation as former Raider Nnamdi Asomugha was switched from free safety in college to corner with the Raiders.
The result was a smash hit, as Asomugha was at one time the best corner in the NFL. Parker, an undrafted free agent, was cut by the Seattle Seahawks and brought into Raider Nation where he's working out at corner.
At 6'2" 210 pounds, Parker could end up being Asoumugha 2.0—or is it Asomugha 4.2. I say that because he is the same height and weight as Asomugha but has blistering 4.2 40 speed—something Asomugha doesn't have.
This is one that has to be watched for the future, as it took Asomugha four years himself to be "the guy." He's on the list because he came from a small school and could very well turn into something.
He's not higher because he was a cheap pick-up.
No. 11 Denarius Moore
While Parker could be the small school, undrafted gem, Denarius Moore is the late round gem—picked in the fifth round. In typical Raiders fashion, Moore fell to the fifth round because of some off the field issues and instability at the quarterback position holding his production back.
After being selected by the Raiders, Moore came to Raider Nation and ripped camp up. He followed that by launching an assault in the preseason and put himself on the radar in Week 2 in Buffalo with a 146-yard performance that included a late touchdown the put the Raiders ahead.
Moore now leads all Raiders receivers with 199 yards and two touchdowns receiving. He has also made plays on reverses like his 18-yard touchdown run that help beat the Jets in Week 3.
Another guy no one wanted in the draft.
He's not higher because the fifth-round pick from Tennessee doesn't cost very much right now.
No. 10 Marcel Reece
Marcel Reece is a fullback from the old-school Raiders mode with his ability to run, block and catch. When I say catch, I mean the man is a 4.4 40-yard dash running collegiate receiver that can catch the deep ball.
The modern fullback is more like a third guard but "sometimes you must reach back to stay a step ahead." Reece showed us last year that he was dangerous on screens as well as the deep ball—shades of Clem Daniels.
The modern NFL isn't ready for such a weapon.
He's on the list because he is represents a revolutionary move Davis made with his skill set. He isn't isn't higher because he has shown himself to be quite a weapon for the Raiders already and isn't that expensive.
Raider Nation pretty much knows what he's going to do.
No. 9 Stephen Wisniewski
Davis struck gold the first time he picked from the Wisniewski family tree with Steve. Davis has picked from the tree again with his nephew Stephen, as he was the Davis' first pick in the 2011 draft—coming in the second round.
Wisniewski has done a good job to date—receiving Pepsi's Rookie of the Week honors once in four games. His family name and the fact that he was the Raiders first pick in 2011 have him on the list.
He's not higher because he wasn't expensive.
No. 8 Jarvis Moss
Jarvis Moss is a first-rounder that is now a Raider trying to reclaim his career. After getting cut by the Broncos last year, he was picked up by the Raiders and he's paid dividends early with 1.5 sacks and putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Davis recognized that the Broncos tried to use Moss as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 and he needs focus on just rushing the passer in a 4-3. He only has one start as a Raider because of an injury to Matt Shaughnessy.
He's on the list here because he's a former first-rounder trying to reclaim his career. He isn't higher because he wasn't that expensive and only comes in on third down as a pass rush specialist.
But he could add to Davis' legacy if he improves enough to be a full-time player.
No. 7 Kamerion Wimbley
Kamerion Wimbley is another former first-round pick that looks to have reclaimed his career— leading the Raiders in sacks last year. Wimbley racked up 11 sacks his rookie year in Cleveland but his numbers dwindled in his ensuing three years—leading the Browns to trade him.
Davis was able to see that the Browns didn't have any other pass rushers with Wimbley—making it easy to slide the protection toward him. Wimbley has only one sack this year so far but that's because the Raiders don't blitz at all anymore.
However, he does have numerous pressures from being a third-down defensive end. Now it's all up to Wimbley to put his mark on Davis' legacy as another one of his reclamation projects with a big contract.
He's not higher because there are others with more to prove.
No. 6 Richard Seymour
Davis traded a first-round pick for former New England Patriots defensive lineman Richard Seymour. Many wondered if Seymour was worth such a high pick, as his best years might have been behind him.
Many thought that Seymour would go to Oakland to get paid after already winning three Super Bowls. But Seymour has been worth more than two first-rounders since his arrival—playing well and making those around him better—changing the culture of the team.
Seymour is on the list because he is the last blockbuster trade Davis made—making around $15 million a year with his new contract.
He's not higher because he is already proven and playing well.
No. 5 Darren McFadden
The last four draft classes have been good ones with all but five players still on the team. At the top of the first of those four draft classes is fourth-year running back Darren McFadden.
McFadden was taken No. 4 overall by Davis in 2008, as his blistering speed was just what Davis loved. After a slow first two years and breaking out last year, McFadden is using his speed to lead the league in rushing though four games this year.
He leads the league in runs of over 20 and 40 yards from 2010 through the first four games of 2011. His quick-strike ability to run and catch passes from the backfield is what Davis saw in McFadden when picking him in 2008.
McFadden is on the list because he heads the draft class that started the rebuilding of the team they have now. He also has a chance to be the best football player that Davis ever drafted—improving his legacy even more.
The reason he's not higher is because he's already made that climb to elite running back status.
No. 4 Rolando McClain
Rolando McClain is another Top 10 pick—going No. 8 overall in the 2010 draft, and that was considered to be another strong draft for the Raiders. The Raiders haven't stopped the run since 2002 when they were No. 3 in the NFL.
The defensive line that Davis had assembled to that point was more than up to par so the middle linebacker position is what was needed. McClain was up and down in his rookie year, as he struggled to make the transition from 3-4 inside linebacker in college to 4-3 middle linebacker with the Raiders.
The Raiders haven't consistently stopped the run yet but they no longer get gutted out of power formations. They now have trouble stopping the run when in nickel formations with extra defensive backs on field.
The Jets and Broncos failed in trying to ground and pound the Raiders inside, as McClain can be given credit for that with his physical presence. He is on the list because he needs to prove Davis right and play up to his No. 8 overall selection.
He's not higher because the top two guys have a bit more to prove with the pressure they are under.
No. 3 Darrius Heyward-Bey
Darrius Heyward-Bey was considered a big reach like many of Davis' high picks in the past. He was selected No. 7 overall in the 2009 draft because of his mercurial speed, but was laughed at by former NFL great Chris Carter.
Darrius Heyward-Bey, to his credit, has worked his immortal behind off and improved immensely because of it. He looked pretty darn good in a loss against Patriots (four REC 115 YDS) but had a key third-down drop.
I have to admit now that he is starting to look like a No. 1 receiver after looking so bad in his first two years. If Heyward-Bey turns out to be the guy, the Raiders draft of 2008 looks even stronger—making the drafts of the last four years even stronger.
Plus, he was supposed to be a reach in the first round.
That's why he is so high on the list.
No. 2 Jason Campbell
There was tremendous amount of pressure put on Jason Campbell from the moment he entered Raider Nation. Davis said, "Jason Campbell is the next Jim Plunkett. I hope he doesn't let me down."
Plunkett won two Super bowls for the Silver and Black, so that's the kind of pressure that's put on him. The comparisons come from Campbell being a first-round quarterback looking like a bust, as Plunkett did in his first few years.
Davis saw Plunkett, and sees Campbell for what he can do in a Raiders offense, and made a trade for him. Campbell looks good overall this year despite a couple of ugly turnovers last week against the Patriots.
It was a toss-up between he and Heyward-Bey for the No. 2 spot, but being called the next Plunkett wins over a top 10 pick any day.
No. 1 Hue Jackson
In an interview, Hue Jackson once said, "This is my dream job!"
You can tell the former security guard at the L.A. coliseum wasn't lying. He, like Davis, is a proponent of the vertical passing game, as he brought offensive coordinator Al Saunders, who Davis once tried to hire as a head coach, to Raider Nation.
He truly has the same vision as Davis and appreciates the rich history of the Raiders organization. He was promoted to head coach from offensive coordinator after taking the Raiders offense from No. 31 to the Top 10. in one year.
Davis finally got his man after so many changes after Jon Gruden.
Why is Jackson No. 1?
He is the one most responsible right now for carrying on Davis' philosophy and tradition for Raiders football.
Doing this article has made me see that Davis has made some real good moves as of late. He seems to have found character guys to go with whatever the freakish talent they have is.
From first-round picks, to undrafted free agents with blazing speed, it's all there. Davis has left them all behind in the care of Jackson to lead this proud franchise into the future.
Davis willed himself to live just long enough to leave the Oakland Raiders in a good place. He may very well have done his best work at the end of his life, as it looks like a future contender has been built.
If the players he has collected all commit themselves to excellence in Davis' honor, you're looking at a future dynasty.
I just wish big Al could be here to see it.