I will never forget the vast and confusing emotions that swirled deep in my gut when I woke up one morning to learn that the Raiders had traded for Richard Seymour. At first, I was ecstatic. Here is a guy that has been the backbone of the defensive line on one of the best teams in football and he was coming at a time when our line was pathetic.
Then, I found out what we had given up to get him, the 2011 first-round pick. My joy immediately left and an unsettled feeling began creeping over my body. For seven years, the NFL Draft was one of the biggest events for Raiders fans. With a team that was perennially struggling, to put it nicely, the Draft offered hope. If we could just draft that one guy who would be an all star and turn things around.
Now, on the day of the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft, my Oakland Raiders do not have a first-round pick, and I couldn't care less.
The Raiders are coming off of their best season since they went to the Gruden Bowl, uh, I mean Super Bowl, and their success is largely due to Richard Seymour.
Obviously, the Raiders' primary problem over the struggle years, as I call them, has been a lackluster offense—again, to put it nicely. However, the offense often found themselves in almost unbeatable circumstances. Often unable to get going at the beginning of the game, opposing teams would run the ball with ease and pick on the corner opposite Nnamdi while compiling a lead that would allow them to run the ball and eat clock the remainder of the game.
When Seymour came to the Raiders, the impact was immediate. While he was not a world beater, his impact on the team was undeniable.
Seymour brought something to the Raiders that no other member of the team could, a winning mentality and a winners' experience. Seymour showed the team what it takes to be a winner when he put his ego aside and was the first player on the rookie/sophomore bus to training camp.
Seymour showed other teams that the Raiders are no longer a team you can push around without getting pushed back when he open hand punched the man who doesn't take no for an answer, Ben Roethlisberger.
Finally, Seymour showed the Raiders what it means to put the team first when he moved from defensive end to defensive tackle without so much of a mumble of a complaint.
However, while his impact on the team's mentality has played a big role in the resurgence of the Raiders, it is his impact on the field that makes him easily worth the first-round pick Al Davis gave for him.
Seymour's own play has been very good as he made the pro-bowl for the sixth time in his career in 2010. But really, it is the effect that he has had on the rest of the defensive line that has made him so valuable.
For the first time since he was playing alongside Warran Sapp, Tommy Kelly has great talent playing along side him which has allowed him to live up to the potential all of the Raiders fans knew he had. In addition, Kelly came into Raiders camp in 2010 in amazing shape, something that I'm convinced Seymour had to do with since Kelly talked so much about how much Seymour has helped him continue to develop.
In addition, the Raiders young defensive linemen like Trevor Scott, Matt Shaughnessy, Desmond Bryant and Lamarr Houston have all benefited from learning their trade from a six-ime Pro Bowler and three-time Super Bowl champion.
Seymour has brought a winning mentality to the Raiders for the first time in years and has everyone on the defensive line playing better because of his influence.
That is something you cannot say about the Raiders recent first round picks. In looking at the value of the trade, one must also consider how the Raiders have fared in the first round in recent years.
Starting with the 2002 draft, the Raiders have selected 11 players in the first round. Those players were Napolean Harris, Philip Buchannon, Tyler Brayton, Nnamdi Asomugha, Robert Gallery, Fabian Washington, Michael Huff, JaMarcus Russell, Darren McFadden, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Rolando McClain.
Harris, Buchannon, Brayton, Russell, Gallery and Washington never panned out for the Raiders. Gallery was the most recent to leave, and though he ended up being a solid guard, guards do not get taken early in the first round.
Of the players that stuck around the Raiders, only two of these 11 could be seen as having a significant impact on the team—Nnamdi Asomugha and Darren McFadden; however, neither of them had much of an impact in their first two years with the team.
Michael Huff finally came into his own last season, but only after struggling for four years and now it looks as though he might not even be with the Raiders next season.
DHB obviously has not been an impact player in his first two years and it is yet to be seen if he ever will be. Rolando McClain had a decent first season but still has a lot of room to improve.
Though we have found two very good players in the first round with Asomugha and DMAC, they are obviously in the minority and did not have the impact in their first two years that Seymour has had in his first two years.