Last week the Oakland Raiders locked in 27-year-old running back Justin Fargas with a deal that will keep him with the silver and black through the 2010 season. Fargas was a product of the 2003 NFL draft, where he was chosen in the third round (96th overall) by Oakland.
The Raiders now face another challenge thanks to the '03 draft. They have exactly four days to attempt to re-sign—or at the very least franchise tag—high-profile cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, the team's first pick that year.
Both scenarios indicate that the Raiders' drafting department did a decent job projecting talent five years ago. Fargas and Asomugha are expected to play big roles in the 2008 season.
That said, let's take a look at the Raiders' top five draftees since 2003.
5. Zach Miller (2007, Round 2)
Miller has only one season under his belt, but it's a good one. The 6’5”, 255-pound tight end caught 44 passes last season for 444 yards and three touchdowns.
Miller is the first Raider rookie to surpass Tim Brown's inaugural season catch mark of 43, set 20 years ago. He also performed well above par in terms of what is expected of a rookie’s blocking skills, becoming a more and more valuable weapon as the season dragged on.
4. Justin Fargas (2003, Round 3)
If it hadn’t been for last season, Fargas may have all but disappeared by now. Instead, the soon-to-be sixth year halfback is sporting a new $12 million contract in response to the 1,000 yards he compiled in just seven starts last year.
Fargas posted four 100-plus-yard efforts in 2007 after registering none in his first three years in the NFL. The Raiders will certainly hope for more of those in 2008.
3. Kirk Morrison (2005, Round 3)
Since he was drafted in ’05, Morrison has started in 47 of a possible 48 games at middle linebacker, putting up over 115 tackles each year. In three seasons the 25-year-old defender has racked up 363 tackles, five interceptions, 15 passes defensed, and a pair of sacks.
2. Thomas Howard (2006, Round 2)
Last season may have just been a small preview of 24-year-old OLB Thomas Howard’s capabilities. The 240-pounder, like Morrison, has missed just one start since he was drafted by the Raiders.
Last year, Howard snagged a team-leading six interceptions to accompany 95 tackles, 11 passes defensed, one sack, and two defensive TDs.
1. Nnamdi Asomugha (2003, Round 1)
Asomugha started off his NFL career ultra-slow, tallying not one pick in his first four years. But he did enough in 2006 to prove he was worthy of the Raiders’ first-round draft choice. The ex-Californian standout registered eight INTs two years ago, primed for what would become a boring but eye-popping '07 campaign.
Last year No. 21 was picked on just 28 times all season long, and allowed only 10 catches.
Anthony Carroll can be contacted at email@example.com