If there was any real stock placed in draft predictions, then in the past couple of months weeks the Raiders will have drafted nearly every eligible player out there. And I am not just talking about the tens of thousands of amateur mock drafts posted on the web either. Entire articles have been written, that lay out very logical reasoning for the Raiders taking a given player while another completely contradictory article is posted, often on the very same day, with equal logical reasoning. And that is exactly how Al Davis likes it.
While every coach and GM treats the draft like a high stakes game of poker, Al Davis takes it to a whole other level. It seems as if the Raiders already know what they want and he has the coaching staff and scouts doing most of their work bluffing and throwing out smoke screens. It is to the point where draft “experts” like Mel Kiper and Todd McShay put almost no stock in Raider coaching staffs showing up for pro days or interviewing players. They tend to almost always replay the old standard “Al Davis loves speed” because it is the only shred of hope they have for predicting who the Raiders will draft.
This year seems, by most accounts to be quite a different story. It appears that every move the Raiders make is for the sole purpose of confusing the hell out of everyone as to what direction they will go in the first two rounds of the draft.
Those who follow the Raiders know full well what the team’s biggest needs are. Coming into the offseason and after the loss of some key players, the biggest holes and weak spots were at offensive tackle, defensive tackle, wide receiver, line backer, safety, center and defensive end. That is a hell of a lot of holes to fill and I have seen many different draft predictions that have the Raiders taking a player at every single one of these positions with the first two picks.
With the #7 pick the most common assumption is that the Raiders will take either WR Michael Crabtree or WR Jeremy Maclin. But as of yet, the Raiders have not had either player for a visit nor has there been any kind of extensive contact with them. If there has been any contact, it has gone unnoticed (refer to the title of the article). While on the other hand, the Raiders have been making no bones about their interest in 6′6″ Cal Poly receiver Ramses Barden. They have attended his workouts, paid special attention to him when he attended the USC workout, and receivers coach Sanjai Lal has reportedly had many conversation with him over the phone. The thinking being that the team could decide to spend their second round pick on him. Or is it just smokescreens? Never really know with Mr Davis.
(UPDATE: Of course shortly after I post this article, the Raiders schedule a visit with Jeremy Maclin. They must be reading my stuff. That is just like Al to do just what everyone is saying he won’t do. In this case, everyone EXPECTS him to make the speed pick with Maclin so why not continue to throw out those signals? Why else would they have Maclin for a visit despite the fact that it is not the Raiders MO to do so?)
Next in line of positions the Raiders could take with their first pick is offensive tackle. The thinking being that, in a class this deep at the position, the Raiders will simply take whomever falls to them at the #7 pick. Whether that be Jason Smith, Eugene Monroe, Andre Smith, or Michael Oher. Except all the Raiders have been doing this offseason is stockpiling Oline talent- three of the four have been at the tackle position with Erik Pears, Khalif Barnes and Marcus Johnson. So how much sense would it make to draft one as well? Especially considering the Raiders have 6 positions with desperate need and just 5 picks of which to fill them.
Another theme I have heard a lot about recently is the taking C Alex Mack. The options being to trade down in the first round to get him, hope he falls to the Raiders with the second round pick, trade up into the bottom of the first to ensure we get him or just take him with the #7 pick– reaching be damned. Most of this talk came about after nearly the entire Raiders coaching staff and scouts attended Mack’s pro day. Granted, it is right down the road in Berkeley but if it were simply a convenience factor, how would you explain only a couple of scouts attending Stanford C Alex Fletcher’s pro day?
With all the attention being paid to Alex Mack it seemed a lock that the Raiders will do whatever they have to to get him. So, of course a couple days later the team trades it’s sixth round pick and fourth round pick to the Dolphins for C Samson Satele and their fourth round pick. Do you expect me to believe that they attended that workout at Cal and were so turned off by Alex Mack that they started making phone calls to grab a center? I am not so sure about that. But since uncertainty is the theme here, that is to be expected.
The other most commonly mentioned player is DT BJ Raji. Tom Cable has spoken to Raji a couple times but, like the others, has not had him in for a visit. The thing about this choice is, he plays the same position as Tommy Kelly of whom was given a huge contract prior to last season and restructured it this offseason so it appears Kelly will not be going anywhere for a while. So even those predicting (or hoping) the Raiders take Raji, don’t feel too confident in their prediction.
While the Raiders have not made any significant moves at line backer, defensive end, and safety, there are few players at those positions thought to be on their radar at #7. LB Aaron Curry will most certainly be gone by then. Most likely DE Brian Orakpo will be gone as well. LB/DE Aaron Maybin is more suited for a 3-4 alignment and anyone one else would be a reach at that pick. I saw one site that had the Raiders taking DE Michael Johnson who by most accounts won’t go in the first round at all, let alone the top ten. I saw one other prediction that had the Raiders taking S Patrick Chung with their second round pick which I suppose is as likely as any of the others (which is to say, not very likely). I even saw one prediction that the Raiders would take WR Darius Heyward-Bey with the #7 pick which would be a considerable reach.
Contributing to the confusion is the fact that the Raiders tend to only have players in for visits that didn’t attend the combine workouts. That is the only time Al Davis thinks that there is any real reason to have them for a visit. Otherwise, anything else the team needs to know can be found out through film study, at the combine or with a quick follow up interview over the phone. So this almost always means that no first rounders, and usually no second rounders either, will be coming for visits. The only player scheduled for a visit at this point is San Diego State LB Russell Allen, sometime in mid-April.
Quite often the players themselves have little or no clue that the Raiders have interest in them until they get the call on draft day. Mainly because even pro-day workouts tend to be considered an unnecessary extravagance. Besides, visits and pro days would just tip the team’s hand as to what they will do. So instead of setting up smokescreen pro days and visits, best to just save the money and keep everyone else thinking the same archaic “Al Davis type pick” assumptions. The prognosticators would just fall back on that anyway so what would be the point?
–And now with myself and everyone else thoroughly confused, I am going to attempt to put together my mock draft for this year. After last year when the Raiders picked up a RB with their first pick despite have a glut of running backs already on the team, we could see the Raiders take a corner or a guard with their first pick. Nothing would truly surprise me at this point.
While I would love to say that they are never correct in their predictions, the past couple of years they have guessed right– at least in regards to the first rounders. In fact, the selections of JaMarcus Russell in 07 and Darren McFadden in 08 were two of the very few players Kiper predicted correctly overall. Russell was almost a no brainer though. There was only one other player that anyone was even mentioning and that was WR Calvin Johnson. Although, almost no one was seriously thinking the Raiders would pass on Russell.