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Al Davis At the NFL Draft: Times They Are a Changin'

John Doublin@CoachJayDeeSenior Writer IFebruary 19, 2010

29 Aug 1998:  Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis looks on during a game against the Arizona Cardinals at the Oakland Coliseum in Oakland, California. The Cardinals defeated the Raiders 21-14.
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

After CBS switched the coverage in my area from the Raiders/Giants game to the Lions/Steelers game at half time in Week Five, I got to thinking...how much worse does it have to get before Al Davis realizes what’s happening to this once great franchise and the best fan base in football? 

For all we know, this could be exactly what he wants. Think about it. Some people are saying that he is he just trying to drive the attendance down so he can petition the league to move the team again. That’s ridiculous, and I don’t believe it, but it is a scenario that would explain things.

The fact is for the last seven years, the Raiders have gotten a little bit worse than they were the year before. This last offseason, Davis drafted a guy with the seventh overall pick that produced nine catches for 124 yards and only one touchdown in 16 games.

Darrius Heyward-Bey has shown absolutely no desire to catch the ball in traffic and only seems to help the team by being a decent blocker down field. Unfortunately for the Raiders, there is more to the wide receiver position than that.

The two picks after him would have helped this team a whole lot more. 

Eugene Monroe is starting and being productive in Jacksonville. B.J. Raji is a beast that has played one season in the league and is already getting double and triple teamed.  Once again, Al Davis made the ‘sexy’ pick, taking speed over anything else. 

Meanwhile, we already had a good group of young receivers, and now their offensive line is one of the worst in the league. The defensive line isn’t that great either. Mr. Davis seems to have forgotten that NFL games are won at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. 

Head scratching draft picks like this are nothing new to Davis or Raider fans. 

In the second round of the 1981 draft, he took a defensive lineman that was projected to go in the fourth or fifth round named Howie Long. Everyone thought he was crazy. I think we know who was right in this case!

In 1993, he took James Trapp in the third round and Greg Biekert in the seventh. Again, the whispers of his insanity abounded. Once again, Davis proved to be right. 

1995 brought another good draft with Napoleon Kaufman and Barrett Robbins in successive picks. They were both decent players. Kaufman averaged 4.9 yards per carry for his career but retired after only six seasons. Robbins was a key player on the offensive line for many years, only to suffer from off-the-field issues that prevented him from starting in Super Bowl XXXVII.

Raider Nation expected this trend of quality picks to continue, but it hasn’t. So when did it change?

1996 was a signal of what was ahead for Raider Nation. The Raiders drafted highly- touted tight end Rickey Dudley in the first round. Dudley never reached his potential and was traded away. 

The second and fifth round picks that year proved to be much better. Lance Johnstone in the second round and LaRoi Glover in the fifth both developed in to very solid players...for other teams.

Davis followed the Dudley miss with another first round bust in 1997 by taking Darrell Russell from USC. He was a great player but had discipline problems that ultimately led to his demise. Later in that same draft, Al reaffirmed his brilliance by getting future pro bowler Grady Jackson in the sixth round.

The 1998 draft was arguably one of the best drafts in Raiders history. Future Hall of Famer Charles Woodson and pro bowler Mo Collins came from that draft. Great picks!

All things considered, Davis hadn’t really made any huge mistakes up until 1996 with Rickey Dudley and 1997 with Darrell Russell. More contributing players that failures from 1963-1998...not a bad record to this point.

I’ve already described the potential debacle that is Heyward-Bey. Now let’s discuss some other, more recent drafts by Mr. Davis.

In 2008, Al took Darren McFadden ahead of Ryan Clady, Jeff Otah and Branden Albert, all of them are productive starters on teams that run the ball well. 

Although I think McFadden can be a productive back some day, we didn’t need a running back. We had Justin Fargas and Michael Bush. Fargas was coming off of a 1,000-yard season. Bush was coming off of an injury but looked very promising and has proven to be much more productive than McFadden thus far. 

In 2007, Oakland needed a quarterback. So Al drafted the worst quarterback not only in Raider history, but quite possibly in league history. Davis took JaMarcus Russell over Joe Thomas, Joe Staley and Adrian Peterson...two pro bowlers and a future Hall of Famer. 

In 2006, Davis drafted Michael Huff who is finally playing up to his potential but wouldn’t Nick Mangold or Haloti Ngata have helped the team much more at that time? 

2005 saw the Raiders take Fabian Washington. Not a horrible pick as they needed a cornerback, and he is finally producing rather well...for another team! Aaron Rogers, Logan Mankins and Chris Spencer have all proven to be better picks.

2004 brought two good picks in Robert Gallery and Jake Grove but also brought seven more picks that never panned out and are no longer in the league.

The 2003 draft gave Al another first round success with Nnamdi Asomugha, as well as current Panthers starter Tyler Brayton and Raider fan favorite Justin Fargas. Once again, a decent draft from the man that so many criticize.

In my opinion, the 2002 draft saw only two decent players come to Oakland. QB/WR Ronald Curry was well on his way to being a fantastic contributor to the Silver and Black when an Achilles injury ended his far too short career. Langston Walker played adequate at offensive tackle, but was never great. 

However, he did show a unique ability to block field goals and won some games with that skill. Other than those two, the 2002 draft was a waste of time and money.

2001 was miserable on draft day for the Raiders. Marcus Tuiasosopo was never really given a fair chance to succeed, but the rest of the players in that draft, like DeLawrence Grant, were disappointing to say the least.

1999 and 2000 produced some good players for the team. Roderick Coleman and Eric Barton from 1999 turned into great players. 2000 gave the Raiders the cornerstones on which the special teams were built with Sebastian Janikowski and Shane Lechler.

So what am I trying to say with this history lesson?

All of Al Davis’ first round draft picks have one thing in common...great measurables. If it were still the 1960s or 1970s, his picks would seem a lot better than they do now. 

The game was different then. If you found a guy that could run the 40-yard dash in 4.3 seconds you had something special. Now, there are two or three guys on every team that can do that…it isn’t that special anymore. 

Back then, a 300-pound man that could move really well was hard to find. Now they’re everywhere. Again, not that special any more.

The league is no longer about having the fastest or biggest guys; it’s about having the best football players. It’s about players with "football smarts" and "football hearts," and Davis clearly doesn’t get that.  

He keeps drafting guys that are more interested in “walking cool” on the sideline or having million-dollar “bling” made in their own likeness than they are learning, working or being the best they can for the team.    

Truthfully, the great head-scratcher picks that he used to make are getting fewer and further between and aren’t quite as great, but the busts are getting bigger.

Don’t misunderstand; I have a lot of respect and admiration for Al Davis. Respect for what he built and for what he has accomplished over the years, and I don’t wish him any ill will. 

Quite the opposite.

I want him to leave the game like the champion he is. I want to see the Raiders flourish again. I just don’t believe they can do that under the system he currently has in place. 

It is time to hire a proven general manager and let that person make the personnel decisions. It will be better for the team, the fans and Mr. Davis’ legacy. After all, Al Davis and the fans want the same thing...”Just Win Baby!”

If I could actually get a letter to Al Davis, what would I say?

Dear Mr. Davis,

You’ve nurtured, loved and grown this team for decades and you deserve better than how the media has portrayed you recently. You have an entire “Nation” of fans that love and respect you but deserve better than the product you’ve delivered recently. 

Please do what's best for this team. Step aside, hire good people to run things and enjoy you golden years by relaxing and watching your beloved Raiders return to greatness.

Respectfully,

Jay Dee

Now tell me...what would you say to him?

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