There were two themes about the players the Raiders chose in this draft. The first was speed and the other was Raider ties. It is not all that hard to pinpoint the Raider draft picks when you consider that Al Davis prizes those two things above all else.
The first pick of the day for the Raiders was Stefen Wisniewski who has the obvious distinction of being the nephew of legendary Raider left guard and current Raider offensive line coach, Steve Wisniewski. Prior to the draft, he said all the appropriate things about not being partial to playing for the Raiders, but now that he is wearing that shield, he opened up.
“I grew up wearing silver and black,” said Stefen. “If you would have asked me what my favorite color was when I was younger, I would have said silver and black were my favorite colors. I got pictures of me as a baby wearing Oakland stuff, with my uncle holding me… But, yeah, shoot, I grew up and my favorite players were my uncle, Tim Brown, Napoleon Kaufman, Rich Gannon and all those guys. It just feels right that I’m wearing silver and black now as a player.”
The Raiders chose Wisniewski with their top pick in round two to play center and then they nabbed LSU tackle Joseph Barksdale in the bottom of the third round. Barksdale is originally from Detroit before signing on to play for the Tigers but as he tells it, his father was quite the Raider fan and even went as far as to say his dad said “I pray to God [the Raiders] pick you.”
The new Raider olineman was beaming while standing with his new head coach Hue Jackson and three of his new rookie teammates on the final day of the draft. Any rookie would be excited to be an NFL player and it seemed clear to me that there was a little something more to it for Barksdale.
“I’m really excited to be an Oakland Raider,” said Barksdale. “I know it sounds simple but my father used to talk about the Raiders all the time. Back when Jim Otto, Tatum and those guys were here. He’s been a Raiders fan for the longest. And when I got drafted to the Raiders he told me you’re about to be a part of something big.
The Raiders next pick after Barksdale was speedy Division ii phenom running back, Taiwan Jones. He is originally from the Bay Area city of Antioch and attended Deer Valley High School there. He attended Eastern Washington due to the fact that he has a learning disability as well as dyslexia. But his talent is obvious when you turn on the tape and his 4.27 40 yard dash at his pro day would have put him atop this year’s class. Local guy with speed to burn? He is a shoe in as a Raider. And it would almost be assumed that being from the east bay, he would be a Raider fan as well.
But when asked if becoming a Raider was his dream scenario, he dodged the question by being non-commital. He said just that, “this is a home team for me.” When pressed further on the issue, he said simply that “when I started this journey I said I’m looking for my next NFL family.”
So Raider ties be damned with that kind of elite speed.
The rest of the Raider picks were track stars.
Third round pick CB DeMarcus Van Dyke was the fastest player overall at the 2011 combine—running a 4.28 forty yard dash.
Round four pick CB Chimdi Chekwa’s 4.40 forty was tied for third best at the combine.
Tennessee wideout Denarius Moore, who the Raider took in round five, ran a 4.39 forty at his pro day.
Even the big blocking tight end, Richard Gordon, they took in round six ran on the 4×100 relay team in high school. And despite being a stout 6-4, 265 pounds, he runs a 4.6 forty yard dash.
Round seven pick, David Ausberry, who is projected as a tight end, has speed in his blood as his cousin Tommie Smith won an Olympic gold medal in the 200 meter dash in 1968.
There is no doubt that the Raiders got the players they wanted. And amongst them are some fine picks as well as solid play. And it just goes to show you that the longstanding value put on speed and Raider loyalty are still alive and well in Oakland.