The cornerback position has always been one in which Al Davis takes great pride — so much so that he is well known for taking one in just about every draft. This year will certainly be no exception. There are a few good options who should be available when the Raiders pick.
When it comes to the qualities Al looks for in corners he covets, most prognosticators just parrot “speed” ad nauseam. If only it were that simple. Sure, speed is an important quality, but that quality is important in most Al Davis signature picks. Cornerback is the one position in which he takes special pride. Sure, he doesn’t always get it right. But when he does, the result is Nnamdi Asomugha and Charles Woodson.
Here are a few guys who will very likely be on the Raiders draft board when they pick.
Curtis Brown, Texas, Round 2
Brown was known as a great athlete, but at the combine and in personal workouts, he has also proven to be a fine football player. Aside from proving his doubters wrong about his football skills in combine workouts, he also showed the athletic abilities for which he was known. He had the best vertical among corners at the combine and was among the top five at his position in every category except 40 yard dash and bench press. He still needs to improve in some technical areas like footwork but is widely seen as a guy who has a high ceiling. At 6 ft tall, he has good size. He has also been bulking up since the season, going from 180 to 184 pounds.
Ras-I Dowling, Virginia, Round 3
Probably the best fit at corner for the Raiders in this draft — if he can stay healthy. Dowling was injured for most of last season after two solid seasons in 2008 and 2009. He is considered exceptional in man coverage. Though he is one of the biggest corners in this draft at just over 6-1, 200 lbs, he still possesses good speed and athleticism. He ran a 4.4 40 yard dash at the combine despite pulling up injured before the finish. If he is considered to be fully recovered from his injuries, he would be a great pick in the third round.
DeMarcus Van Dyke, Miami, Round 4-5
His 4.28 40 yard dash was the fastest overall time at this year’s combine. That alone is enough to signal the Raiders would reach for his services. I say reach because prior to his 40 time at the combine, he was considered no higher than a round 5 level pick, if that. He was a starter for the Hurricanes for his first three seasons before being moved to nickel corner last season. Van Dyke has good height at just over 6 feet tall, but he has a slight frame at just 168 lbs.
Buster Skrine, Tennessee-Chattanooga, Round 5
Buster has been the talk of the offseason it seems. This “small school” wonder came out of his senior season as barely a blip on draft boards. Even though he was All Southern Conference first team his final two seasons with the Falcons, he was seen as a late round pick or perhaps an undrafted free agent. Then he dazzled at the combine, topping all corners in the 3 cone, 20 yard shuttle, and 60 yard shuttle. UT-C also has him running a school record 4.22 40 yard dash — definitely Al Davis type speed. He has below average size at 5-10 but he is a solid 186 lbs and is an extremely strong player who can overpower receivers in bump and run as well as fighting for the ball in the air.
Chris L Rucker, Michigan State, Round 6
At 6-2, he could end up being the tallest cornerback drafted this year. While he doesn’t possess explosive speed, he is athletic enough to hold his own. He is a solid tackler as well, and some believe he could be destined to play safety in the NFL. In round five, taking a chance on a big corner who, if he didn’t work out at that position, could easily shift to safety, would be a pretty good idea. The Raiders took his teammate, Jeremy Ware, in the early seventth round last year.
Chris Culliver, South Carolina, Round 6-7
At 6-0, 197 lbs, his 4.40 40 yard dash at the combine is that much more impressive. It was good for third among corners. Like Rucker, Culliver could also play either corner or safety. In fact, before playing corner for seven games as a senior, Culliver was an All-SEC selection at free safety. To get an All-SEC anything in round six would be a great pick. But to get a potentially great corner or safety this late would be a real coup.