The Demarcus Van Dyke argument

The most controversial selection the Raiders made in the 2011 NFL draft was that of Demarcus Van Dyke. It seems in every draft there is that one player who leaves everyone with their head in their hands — Van Dyke is this year’s culprit. But there are two sides to the DVD argument.

Let’s start with the argument against his selection.

Many of you have probably heard or have even stated yourself that he was a “reach” with the Raiders’ mid third round pick — the team’s second pick of the day. The reach could be seen as a considerable one since after last season he was not even projected as being drafted.

Van Dyke came to Miami and started eight games as a true freshman, so his career began in a very promising way. Then he lost his starting job as a sophomore and was relegated to nickel corner.

As a junior he regained his starting job with the injury to former receiver turned corner, Ryan Hill, who went out for the season with an injury. But when Hill was healthy again, Van Dyke was once more moved to nickel after just three starts.

Typically losing one’s starting job twice in college doesn’t bode well for one’s chances of being drafted into the NFL. But all that went out the window when Van Dyke ran a 2011 combine best 4.29 forty yard dash. That time caused his stock to shoot up from UDFA to a round four prospect.

The Raiders didn’t even wait until their lower round three selection before swiping up Van Dyke. As Hue Jackson said, “We don’t run from speed, we run to speed.” And did they ever. The Raiders could have set their own record time in grabbing Van Dyke. And in doing so they passed up the chance to draft some more proven prospects such as Curtis Brown out of Texas, Johnny Patrick out of Louisville, and Curtis Marsh from Utah State.

The speedy, unproven factor had DVD being compared to DHB the moment the pick was announced.

Now let’s examine the other side of this argument.

First off, is Darrius Heyward-Bey a good comparison? Not really. Sure, the Raiders were enamored with the speed quotient in both cases. But there is an extremely big difference between taking a player seventh overall and taking a player halfway through the third round. Even DHB would have likely gone no later than the mid second round had the Raiders not chosen him.

The choice of Van Dyke seems more significant because the Raiders didn’t have a first round pick. So after waiting through the entire first round and half the second round, Raider fans were chomping at the bit for the Raiders to make their first pick. It made the Van Dyke selection feel more like a round two pick.

The Raiders may have taken Van Dyke earlier than most thought he should go but it was just one round. And in the middle rounds of the draft, if you like a guy enough, sometimes you have to take him early to make sure someone else doesn’t.

DVD also doesn’t carry the burden of replacing Nnamdi Asomugha all by himself. The Raiders grabbed another corner a round later in Chimdi Chekwa.

Chekwa was projected in the third round so he was a find in round four. Imagine if the Raiders had taken Chekwa in round three and Van Dyke in round four. Would anyone have raised a fuss over that? Probably not, because those are the rounds in which both were projected to go.

But there is still that red flag about Van Dyke losing his starting job twice at Miami, right?

To get to the bottom of that situation, one must look at his Miami teammates. Brandon Harris was solid, there is no question about that. He was a longtime starter for the Hurricanes and went in round two (#60) because of it. But what of Ryan Hill, the guy who replaced Van Dyke his senior season? He wasn’t drafted at all.

How can it be that the guy who started over Van Dyke does not get drafted? I will let Demarcus explain it to you.

“Well, at Miami, my last year I was coached by Coach [Randy] Shannon. It wasn’t really like I was benched or anything like that. All three of us was real good cornerbacks. So it wasn’t really like these two guys are starting. If you look at the film, 95 percent of the time all three of us were on the field, because [in the] ACC, you’re playing against great defenses. So that’s what really happened my last year.”

One way you could look at this shuffling of corners is that Ryan Hill was limited in his coverage abilities, forcing him to line up and cover the boundaries. And in football, it is the sideline corners who start. In Miami’s defensive system, three corners are utilized extensively, and if Van Dyke had the skills necessary to be moved around, he was relegated to those duties. He was a team player.

The scouting reports contradicted the versatility angle by claiming Van Dyke was stiff in the hips. And in the demanding man defense the Raiders play, he must possess a lot more than just straight line speed.

The Raiders’ new defensive backs coach Rod Woodson went down to hold a private workout with Van Dyke and it appears there were no serious red flags about him — at least none that would sway Al Davis from grabbing his speedy corner. Woodson disputed the reports in stating that Van Dyke had fluid hips.

If Woodson truly believes Van Dyke has the skillset necessary to shadow receivers in the Raiders’ man defense — and we know he has the recovery speed — this could end up being a decent pick.

The draft is an inexact science and is often closer to a crap shoot, especially in the mid/late rounds. Too many good players go undrafted and too many washouts sit in the green room at Radio City Music Hall ready to hug the commissioner and cash a huge paycheck.

Demarcus Van Dyke may be a player on whom the Raiders are taking a chance, but then again a third round pick is not exactly a huge risk to take.

The Raiders alone have had several boom or bust players in round three. Quentin Moses was considered a steal in the third round and he didn’t last through camp. Matt Shaughnessy was not a celebrated pick in the third round and he has turned into a standout defensive end for the team. Just last season, rookie third round pick Jared Veldheer started at left tackle for the Raiders. Those were the last three third round picks for the Raiders, so you just never know.

What it comes down to is this: 1) Van Dyke won’t be starting next season regardless.  2) He will be making third round pick money, which isn’t much by NFL standards. 3) The Raiders appear to have had a great draft otherwise.

If he proves his doubters right, the Raiders will survive. But if he outshines his draft status, it would prove far more valuable.

Follow Levi on Twitter @LeviDamien or befriend him on Facebook.

About Levi Damien, Senior Writer

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