Oakland Raiders Former Top Draft Picks Disproving Critics

Bleacher ReportSenior Analyst ISeptember 19, 2010

Bruce Gradkowski
Bruce Gradkowski

The match between the Oakland Raiders and St. Louis Rams was a nice display of former top ten picks, Darren McFadden, Darrius Heyward-Bey for the Raiders and Sam Bradford for the Rams.

I should start by saying that I know that the Raiders squeaked-out a win over a lowly team in the St. Louis Rams, 16-14, yet fans and media alike should take note of a few things.

Firstly, the Rams should be quite happy with its draft picks from recent years.  Sam Bradford looks like a star of the future, while left tackle Rodger Saffold has allowed Jason Smith to play right tackle. 

With all the talk about Chargers wideout Vincent Jackson, it seems to me that St. Louis should consider the veteran wideout, or even dare I say, the Rams should consider acquiring Albert Haynesworth.

Musing aside...

With better play from the interior of the defensive line, inside linebacker James Laurinaitis also looks like a corner stone of the defense, while defensive backs Ronald Bartell and OJ Atogwe would also be able to make more plays.

Raiders coach Tom Cable clearly acted like he was on a mission to win.

My apologies to quarterback Jason Campbell, but the Raiders are just a different team with Bruce Gradkowski behind center.  It seems to be a qualitative difference more than a quantitative one.

Cable benched Campbell during half-time.  Gradkowski entered the game for a half, in which the Raiders scored 13 points.  Gradkowski finished the day with 162 yards, a touchdown, and a pick.

Yet, unlike Campbell, Gradkowski was not sacked and did not fumble the ball.  "Bruce Almighty" certainly wasn't perfect though.  His interception started a drive in which the Rams were able to score and bring the game within two points.

Tailback Darren McFadden is looking like the player he was supposed to be when the Raiders made him the fourth overall pick in the 2008 Draft.  McFadden had a 145 yards rushing on 30 carries for an average of about 4.8 yards per carry.

Yet, late in the game, the Raiders attempted to kill time by running, but McFadden would go nowhere.  The Raiders need to be more creative offensively once they have displayed an effective running-game. 

Frankly, I don't want to see McFadden pad his stats when the Raiders have other options.  Michael Bush or Marcel Reece would be better choices on the ground to kill the clock.

Bush is such a physical runner that it doesn't seem to matter if the defense knows that he'll be carrying the rock, whereas McFadden relies more on speed.  I know Bush has been hurt (thumb) but even so, I think the Raiders should have given more carries to Reece.  It will be fun to see what the Raiders can do once Bush is ready.

Raider fans should be smiling right now, rather than smiting over the pass on Michael Crabtree with the seventh overall pick in 2009.

The Raiders took two wideouts in that draft. 

Wideout Darrius Heyward-Bey is quickly shedding the bust label after being the seventh overall pick.  Heyward-Bey finished the day with six catches for 80 yards and a long of 33.  Fourth round pick, Louis Murphy, finished the day with a touchdown on six catches for 91 yards with a long of 27.

It will be interesting to see what the Raiders can do once Chaz Schilens returns to the receiver corp.

The defense was again here, there, and everywhere. 

Early on, Rams quarterback Sam Bradford was five for five, while tailback Steven Jackson had 60 yards running on six carries.  By the end, the Raiders held St. Louis to 242 yards, while Bradford was sacked three times and completed 14 of 25 with two touchdowns and a pick.  Jackson finished with 75 yards running.

The Raiders gave the Rams the equivalent of an unearned run late in the game when Bradford tossed his second touchdown to Mark Clayton, on a drive assisted by costly defensive penalties and that began after a pick thrown by Bruce Gradkowski.

The Rams probably aren't as bad as it seemed in the offseason.

The Raiders win is what it is.  It was nice to see Oakland win its home opener for the first time since 2004.  The Raiders are inching closer to ending the negative streaks from the Era of Stink.