How long should the Raiders wait for a player to develop?

Typically, a drafted player needs to hit the ground running and start producing immediately. As it relates to drafted players, the Raiders have consistently used speed and potential as determining factors. For the most part, In 2010, the Raiders put down the stopwatch and drafted players with outstanding football intelligence and instincts.

The results yielded from that approach were solid quality starters like MLB Rolando McClain, DE Lamarr Houston, and OT Jared Veldheer. There was some solid depth and potential added in LB Travis Goethel and S Stevie Brown. Gem WR Jacoby Ford came via the stopwatch but proved to be much more than speedy.

A large factor that determines a team’s success is how well they go about selecting and evaluating talent. The Raiders have been lacking in the area for quite a few years which helps explain why they couldn’t get above five wins in a season. Some solid draft picks of late help explain why they were able to get back to .500 last season.

The team’s expectations of a player are important as well. A first or second round player has to show the coaching staff in his first year that he belongs and that the staff can have confidence in putting him on the field.

Any player a team burned a draft pick on must show improvement in his second year. This will develop trust between the player and the coaching staff. The team in return will invest an average of two to three years in a player. Teams don’t have the luxury to wait any longer to see them develop.

The phrase “developing a player” is almost non-existent in today’s NFL because coaches are not given enough time with them. A head coach signs a deal from three to five years and is given the task of implementing his scheme and turning the team around as fast as possible. There is rarely enough time between a coaching staff and a player.    

A first round draft pick signs a deal between four and six years. The top 16 picks in the first round can sign six-year deals. The maximum length of contract a player drafted in the bottom half of the first round can sign is five years. After the first round, the length of contract will not exceed four seasons.

While a team should expect immediate starters from the first two rounds, a franchise really builds their team in rounds three through seven.

Here’s a look back at current Raider players from drafts 2005 -2009:

2009

1. Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland
2. Mike Mitchell, S, Ohio University
3. Matt Shaughnessy, DE Wisconsin
4a. Louis Murphy, WR, Florida
6b. Brandon Myers, TE, Iowa

2008

1. Darren McFadden, RB, Arkansas
4a. Tyvon Branch, DB, Connecticut
6. Trevor Scott, DE, Buffalo
7. Chaz Schilens, WR, San Diego State

2007

2. Zach Miller, TE, Arizona State
3b. Mario Henderson, OL, Florida State
3c. Johnnie Lee Higgins, WR, UTEP
4a. Michael Bush, RB, Louisville

2006

1. Michael Huff, S, Texas
2. Thomas Howard, LB, Texas-El Paso

2005

2. Stanford Routt, CB, Houston

Several high Raider draft picks who are not listed here are CB Fabian Washington (Round 1, 2005), Kirk Morrison (Round 3, 2006), JaMarcus Russell (Round 1, 2007), and Quentin Moses (Round 3, 2007). Moses never made the team out of camp. The team gave up on Morrison and Washington and traded them away, and the Raiders finally grew tired of Russell and cut him.

The good news is the lower rounds have indeed built the team with picks like Michael Bush, Tyvon Branch, Matt Shaughnessy, and Louis Murphy. They are all players who either made an immediate impact as rookies, or have improved each year in the league.

The unfortunate thing for the Raiders is the majority of players expected to make an impact next season in silver and black are currently 2011 free agents. Those impact players who will be returning include WR Chaz Schilens, DE/OLB Trevor Scott, RB Darren McFadden, DE Matt Shaughnessy, SS Michael Mitchell, TE Brandon Myers, WR Louis Murphy, and WR Darrius Heyward-Bey.

Time is running out for Darrius Heyward-Bey. He improved his overall numbers last season over his single digit receptions total (9) his rookie season. However, he is clearly the number four wide receiver and the Raiders need to consider bringing in two more receivers — one via the draft and another as a veteran free agent.

Time has long since run out on players like Jonnie Lee Higgins who has regressed since his breakout 2008 season.

Once the labor issue is resolved some of the players drafted from 2005-2009 will return. For some others, their window for remaining a Raider has likely closed.

Jeff Little contributed to this article

About Levi Damien, Senior Writer

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