The 2007 NFL Draft saw the Raiders select some young playmakers that will be valuable additions to the team both now and in the future. The team selected a much-needed franchise quarterback in JaMarcus Russell first overall.
The Raiders chose Russell over former Notre Dame QB Brady Quinn. JaMarcus’ size and strength made him tough to sack, and he was 25-4 as a starter at LSU.
Both players are still works in progress, and time will tell if this was the correct decision. Russell’s upside, strong arm and diligent work all offseason, have convinced me that it was.
This will essentially be JaMarcus Russell’s rookie season in terms of being given the keys to the offense.
He has made significant strides as a passer. His accuracy, confidence, and decision making have greatly improved. The key is for him to manage the offense and not lose games.
He has grown into the role of team leader and has the respect and confidence of his teammates.
We’ll see a conservative approach and a lot of check downs while he learns the ropes of being a pro QB. This is a solid plan, but if the opportunity presents itself, the Raiders will go deep.
The selection of TE Zach Miller in the second round was a solid move at another needed position. He displayed a lot of talent last season and set the Raiders' rookie receiving mark with 44 receptions.
He has a knack for finding open spaces in the defense. Coach Kiffin said that if he didn’t have to stay in to block, he would’ve had over 60 receptions.
It is customary to wait three years before a judging how good or bad a draft was.
I have to make an exception in this case because someone dropped the ball in the third round. The blame can be placed on the scouts, the front office, or on Al Davis’ doorstep.
The third round is what the squad is in the process of overcoming. The team drafted three players that have yet to pan out: DE Quentin Moses, OT Mario Henderson, and WR Johnnie Lee Higgins.
DE Quentin Moses was cut by the Raiders prior to the end of training camp. He caught on with the Arizona Cardinals, but he was cut again. He did later land with the Miami Dolphins, where he could be a major contributor in pass-rush situations.
Several people were surprised that he was cut, but he was simply out played by fifth-round pick Jay Richardson. Richardson is developing a pass rush and is working hard in training camp, competing to be the starter opposite Derrick Burgess.
He is working on being a complete player. If he can continue to develop as a pass rusher, he won’t be taken out in passing situations.
OT Mario Henderson has not met expectations. The Raiders hoped he would push Cornell Green and eventually start. In the words of coach Kiffin, that isn’t happening.
The Raiders have been doing everything to put him in position to earn the spot, but he has yet to capitalize on the opportunity.
He was called out, so to speak, as Kiffin did not mince words when he stated that Mario wasn’t getting the job done.
He also stated the Mario wasn’t pushing for the starting right-tackle position at all and needed to improve in every area.
Henderson took the criticisms in stride, stating that he has a ways to go to be the player he wants to be.
I felt on draft day, as I do today, that Moses and Henderson were both reaches that could develop. Unfortunately, it is down to waiting to see if Henderson gets it and steps up his game.
He did have his best practice of training camp on Saturday Aug. 2, playing well against DE Jay Richardson.
WR Johnnie Lee Higgins has made little impact as a wide receiver. He has yet to be the playmaker the Raiders thought he would be. He has a chance to make an impact on special teams, replacing Chris Carr as the punt returner.
The fact of the matter is that all three are barely treading water. Two of the three still have a chance to develop and remain part of the Raiders future.
The 2007 draft will be judged on how JaMarcus Russell develops and if he can be effective this season, despite the fact that the team added a lot of talent in TE Zach Miller, RB Michael Bush, DE Jay Richardson, FB Oren O’Neal, and WR Jonathan Holland.
JaMarcus Russell will appear vastly improved from what we saw last year, but he is a young quarterback. Like all young quarterbacks, he will experience growing pains, but he is poised and ready to put forth a stellar performance in 2008 as a team leader and solid game-manager.