No matter what any of the paid professional evaluators say, there is no such thing as a “can’t miss prospect“. Adjusting to the NFL is not as simple as just showing up and playing. Many cannot cope with the heightened expectations and constant scrutiny. Others were perhaps shielded by a clever college scheme that will never translate to the next level. And, of course, there are those who were just never meant to collect an NFL check.
Drafting in the top 10 is a dangerous dilemma for NFL franchises. The very nature of the sport itself makes it difficult to evaluate talent, yet the daunting price tags that come with the top 10 can be damaging. Truly a modern conundrum where unproven commodities are overvalued based on their draft status alone.
In 2004, the Raiders selected a left tackle from Iowa named Robert Gallery as the second overall pick in the draft. Gallery was said to be the “can’t miss prospect” of 2004. Picking Gallery as high as they did would cost the Raiders a seven-year deal worth $60 million, of which $18.5 million was guaranteed.
Gallery was unable to adjust to the speed of the NFL as a tackle has since been moved to guard where he has flourished. Robert Gallery also did something very unprecedented this off-season when he restructured his massive contract to help the front office save a little money and some face as well.
With the 7th pick in the 2009 draft this Saturday, the Raiders will help to script the American dream for yet another collegiate athlete. By simply hearing his name called, the lucky student will become an instant millionaire.
As the top pick in the 2007 draft, JaMarcus Russell held out until finally being rewarded with a 6-year deal worth $68 million. Darren McFadden was picked 4th overall in 2008 and his draft status carried a value of $60 million over 6 years. Michael Huff went 7th in 2006 and he was presented with a contract worth $43 million over six years before ever playing a single game in Silver and Black.
Of the aforementioned players, Huff is the only one that appears to be on his way out. Gallery was not the dominant tackle that was expected and the jury is still out on Russell and McFadden.
Since selecting Gallery in 2004, the Raiders have committed more than $200 million in contracts to top 10 picks. The results have been only 20 wins and no Pro Bowlers among the picks to show for their selections.
Now, the 2009 draft comes knocking and at the door is yet another unknown commodity that comes with a bloated value.
The Oakland Raiders simply cannot afford yet another massive rookie contract for a player that is marginal at best. The 2009 draft could very well be a make or break moment for Tom Cable.
Cable’s roster looks almost the same in April of ’09 as it did back in December of ’08. Khalif Barnes and Jeff Garcia are the two biggest signings this off-season and neither of them are starters as of now.
Tom Cable knows that his staff must find value in every round as rookies will be expected to step in and compete for jobs immediately. When the clock begins for Oakland on Saturday, expect 10 of the most tense and suspense filled minutes in franchise history.
No matter who the Raiders select, the price will be steep and the expectations higher than ever. Six years of misery were given a faint glare of hope by the strong conclusion of 2008, now the 2009 season begins as the roster takes shape before our very eyes.