With just over a week remaining until the NFL draft is underway, the picture is as clear as a foggy morning in the East Bay. If the rumors of the Detroit Lions opening contract talks with Matthew Stafford have any legs to them, then they’d better go from a motivated walk to a full on sprint sooner than later. For the sake of our sanity – and to save my man Daniel Evans over at NFLMocks.com from having to anticipate another 100,000 different scenarios – Detroit needs to get the 2009 draft party started and put the Rams on the clock.
Depending on your view, the Oakland Raiders are in either a precarious or an auspicious position at number seven. With a multitude of options floating around out there, I’d like to whittle down the top 10 scenarios for the Oakland Raiders and present a conspiracy theory for selecting Michael Oher of Ole Miss.
1) Michael Crabtree will be gone by the time Al Davis is on the clock: Forget about it Nation. This was wishful thinking from the start. That screw in Carbtree’s foot was only a tease. I don’t see him lasting past Seattle or even Kansas City for that matter. However, this writer doesn’t see that as a bad thing. I’m in the minority here, but I’m not buying the Crabtree hype. I think Crabtree will be a solid pro, but so is Antonio Bryant who was a second round pick. Brian Robiskie anybody?
2) There will be no swapping of first round picks: I am a subscriber in the “trade out of the top 10″ movement. Unfortunately, I think I’m the only one keeping that scenario in circulation. When asked about trading down on draft day, Tom Cable said, “It has to be an option.” Don’t get too anxious though, Cable followed with, “I don’t think there’s a lot of history to that [in Oakland].”
3) Darrius Heyward-Bey is not “top 10″ material: Many have hoped the Raiders would stay true to form and select the fastest receiver in the draft . To me, the “Heyward-Bey to the Bay” movement is all posturing by the Raider brass. He’s got a lot of potential, but economics play into this and at this point in time he’s not worth the $20 million in guaranteed cash. More on why the Raiders worked out Heyward-Bey later.
4) Andre Smith is still a gamble: Despite Tom Cable’s glowing review of the dominating Alabama tackle, Andre Smith is still very much a question mark. Some have compared his skill level to that of Orlando Pace when he was pancakeing Big 10 defenders at will. However, none have stepped forward and defended Andre’s work ethic after the Bobby Petrino disappearing act he pulled off at the combine. Wait, that last statement is not exactly true. Nick Saban, his former head coach, came to Smith’s rescue. If you trust a single word that Saban utters, then you might want to dial anybody in the 305 and ask them about what Nick the Slick’s word is truly worth.
5) B.J. Raji alone cannot fix the run defense: Terdell Sands is not going to be confused with Albert Haynesworth anytime soon. But not even Fat Albert’s presence in Oakland could help with all the defensive issues. Perhaps Raji is a step in the right direction. But what good is Raji if Kirk Morrison is still out of position? How can Raji be a factor if the opposing QB is never blitzed? What good does it do to pay a defensive tackle more than $40 million if your scheme that has failed to stop the run for 6 years running doesn’t change? I’m not making a case against Raji. This is all about Al Davis, Tom Cable and John Marshall getting on the same page. Sorry B.J., you’re just collateral damage on this one.
6) Malcolm Jenkins cannot be an option for Oakland: After the combine, the top cornerback looked more like the top safety. To quote Brian Billick, “Corners who can’t run become safeties; safeties who can’t run become linebackers.” Jenkins might become a good NFL safety one day, but he does not have “Raider speed” and the last thing our roster needs is another money pit at the safety position. Forget about it!
7) Aaron Curry could be a Raider: Don’t laugh, this is a real scenario. Ignore all the hype out there surrounding the Wake Forest freak. There are some real questions that NFL general managers are mulling over. The biggest question surrounds Curry’s lack of a pass rushing prowess. That issue alone could spell a Brady Quinn-like moment on draft day for Curry as he falls out of the top 5. Hello Oakland! Maybe he’s not the answer, but I’m willing to guess that neither are Sam Williams or Ricky Brown. Oh, almost forgot to mention, I don’t think Brian Orakpo is either. I know I’ll get some heat for this, but I’m done with taking Longhorns in the top 10. Until one of these kids from Austin makes good on all that potential, I’d advise all NFL teams not to buy what Mack Brown is selling. Also, if Curry slips then Eugene Monore and Jason Smith will be gone by the time Oakland’s clock starts, so go ahead and cross them off.
8 Matthew Stafford and Mark Sanchez aren’t even in the equation: There is a lot of JaMarcus Russell hatred out there, even among Raider Nation. No matter what your take is on J-Russ, it’s too early to tell. I don’t even want to list all the reasons why you can’t select quarterbacks in top 10 within three years of each other. Let’s just say that if you know your history, then you’ll understand that for young throwers it’s all about the second season as a full-time starter. But here is one great reason not to even think of going QB in the top 10 again: $ (cah-ching!).
9) Jeremy Maclin has no business being in anybody’s top 10: Yes, he’s going to make an immediate impact on special teams. Yes, he’s still got room for growth. Before you start to remind me of all your You Tube viewings of Maclin, keep in mind that he has been injury prone and has no clue how to run pro-style routes. Maclin is the kind of prospect that needs to prove he’s worth the top 10 price and not the kind who should be given an all-pro contract prior to his NFL debut. I’ll stick with Johnnie Lee Higgins if for no other reason than the fact that I’ve seen him play on Sundays and know what to expect.
10) Michael Oher could very well be the pick: I’m going out on my own on this one. No proof of anything, just a theory I’ve cooked up. Everyone has been so quick to talk of the big three (Jason Smith, Andre Smith, Eugene Monroe) yet it was Tom Cable who was very specific when he said “There’s four of them that are outstanding” when speaking of the offensive tackles in the draft. Here is my conspiracy theory. The Raiders worked out Heyward-Bey to put a little pressure on teams picking late in round one to trade up. Should there be no takers for the trade, Cable made sure to talk up Andre Smith, this time to pressure the teams picking ahead of Oakland. All the while the Raider coach was just hedging his bets to ensure Michael Oher is on the board no matter what when Oakland is on the clock. Stadning at 6’5″ and tipping the scales at 309 lbs, Oher has the ideal ZBS build. His upside is huge and he’s the kind of project Tom Cable would love to undertake.
So there you have it. I’m not advocating the selection of Oher. Heck, I’m not even saying it’s a real possibility. I’m just trying to connect the dots on a picture that’s changing every five minutes. For all I know, Eben Britton is the guy Tom Cable has been eyeing all along.
For what it’s worth, I see trading out of the top 10 as the best option in Oakland. There are too many needs and not enough help coming via free agency. Of course, I’ve already dispelled that happening, so take it for what it’s worth. Merely opinion sprinkled in with hopeful fanaticism. That’s about all we’ve got to hang our hat on in April.
Topics: Aaron Curry, Al Davis, Albert Haynesworth, Andre Smith, Antonio Bryant, B.J. Raji, Bobby Petrino, Brady Quinn, Brian Orakpo, Brian Robiskie, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Eben Britton, Eugene Monroe, JaMarcus Russell, Jason Smith, Jeremy Maclin, John Marshall, Johnnie Lee Higgins, Kirk Morrison, Mack Brown, Malcolm Jenkins, Mark Sanchez, Matthew Stafford, Michael Crabtree, Michael Oher, Nick Saban, Orlando Pace, Ricky Brown, Sam Williams, Terdell Sands, Tom Cable