After all the talk of the Raiders making a “head scratcher” in the first round by taking a “workout warrior” or a “track guy”, the Raiders make the right choice. They take the proven leader and winner with a high motor and the intagibles to be great.
Last week in Cables pre-draft interview, he hinted at the kind of player the Raiders were looking for. Here is what he said:
“You like to have the guys that played on championship teams, the guys who were team captains, guys who were really hard-nosed, tough practice players, really put it out there on game day, take care of business off the field.”
To which my response was: “Am I the only one who thought this perfectly described Alabama ILB Rolando McClain?”
As it turns out, that was EXACTLY who he was referring to.
McClain was my pick for the Raiders since the season ended. Here is what I said about him in my Mock Draft:
“Run support has been the bane of the Raiders existence for quite a while. And while some blame falls on the defensive tackles, equal blame goes to the linebackers. The Raiders sent a very clear message that they want to move on from Kirk Morrison when they put a 3rd round tender on him. That is inviting any team who would like to acquire Morrison’s services to come and get him. McClain has long been known as a firey leader in the middle at Alabama. He can also play strong side if need be until he is ready to step into the middle linebacker role. Not to mention he was a huge factor for the National Champion Alabama Crimson Tide. That always sits well with Al Davis.”
And while he can certainly play the run like nobodies business, and can step in and be the leader at middle linebacker, the Raiders may just be considering a move to the 3-4 defense. A scheme that McClain has said he would thrive in as an inside linebacker.
So as much likely as I had McClain of becoming a Raider before, with the additions of 3-4 hybrid outside linebackers Kamerion Wimbley and Quentin Groves, even further raised the likelihood of the Raiders choosing McClain with the #8 pick.
Even though Rolando McClain himself was caught off guard by the Raiders’ interest in him.
“I was for the most part at a loss for words.” Said McClain. “I had no idea really that the Raiders were that interested. All’s I know is they came down the last week and talked with me. But I don’t know, they weren’t like the other teams that I thought were interested in me; they actually brought me in for visits. I don’t know, it was just a different vibe. But when they came out last week I felt pretty strong that they wanted me. I just didn’t know how bad they wanted me.
“I was at home sitting down, playing poker with some of my friends. We were watching the draft and the crazy thing about it is I see Joe, he was crying and I saw him getting drafted and like five seconds before Coach Cable called me and said he was going to draft me, I said, ‘Hey man, I’m tired of sitting around. I want to get drafted.’ Because I saw (Joe Haden) crying and I wanted to feel the way he felt. And five seconds later, Coach Cable called me and I was drafted.”
And if there was any question about what his role would be with the Raiders, Tom Cable cleared that up right away.
“He just asked if I was…ready to play linebacker with the Oakland Raiders. I said yes, and he asked me if I could lead this defense. Said ‘of course I can.”
And playing linebacker is something he has been doing a long time.
“I started out as an outside linebacker and up until my senior year everybody was running the ball away from me and I had to make a lot of plays running people down. So they put me in the middle where I could go both ways, and since then, since my senior year in high school, I’ve been playing middle linebacker, I’ve been accustomed to the job and I think I’ve been doing pretty good at it…You get to hit somebody every play at middle linebacker. It’s like you’re the quarterback of the defense and you have control. And I like to be in control as far as lining everybody up and getting everybody going. I like that and I embrace that role.”
And when you hear him talk, you can instantly see the positives he brings to the team.
“Just my intensity, not just as a football player but as a leader, teammate and friend to these guys. I’m accustomed to winning…When it comes to football, my job’s something that I love doing. I’ll do whatever it takes to win, no matter if it’s go out and yell at a guy during practice just to get everybody up, or just to get everybody together, cause we’re not on the same page on defense, to watch film. I do what I have to do in order for the defense and the team to have success. So it’s something I don’t mind doing, something I’m looking forward to.”
So, for the first time in a good long time, the Raiders seem to have made the smart choice. And with this new “Primetime” format to the draft, we have the whole night to consider the Raiders’ first round selection.