When all else fails, simply draft the best player available.
This is a golden rule of drafting that has either haunted or helped many a general manager and head coach in the National Football League over the years.
On Thursday night, Al Davis took a step back and saw the big picture.
His once beloved franchise is seven years into a journey to oblivion. He’s foolishly ignored the advice of others, instead choosing to roll the dice on long shots when safer bets were there to be made.
With millions committed to nearly a decade’s worth of worthless first round picks, Davis needed to reverse the trend.
Now nothing is guaranteed. Rolando McClain was the most sensible pick the Raiders could have made with the 8th pick in the draft. There were certainly others areas of need. Unless Rolando can double as a right tackle then his arrival means little in the grand scheme of things. However, this is a move that was long overdue.
McClain has been called a natural leader by Nick Saban though Rolando will tell you he’s not the vocal type instead choosing to lead by example. McClain has good natural instincts, maintains his gap reasonability, keeps a good pad level and is explosive at the point of contact. These are all traits that have been severely lacking in the Raider organization.
Consider the fact that the last Alabama linebacker to be picked in the top 10 was Hall of Famer Derrick Thomas, then toss in that Butuks award sitting on Rolando’s mantle and you’ll see that he’s already keeping some very good company. Not to mention his pedigree of playing middle linebacker in the SEC and studying under one of the best defensive coaches in the game today.
Rolando stands 6’3” and tips the scales at 254-pounds, ideal size for an NFL linebacker. On occasion he will take bad angles and doesn’t always make sound tackles, relying on his strength too often at times. McClain doesn’t have the blazing speed of Thomas Howard or Kirk Morrison but he should be a perfect compliment. In fact, McClain’s arrival could mean the Raiders are either flirting with the 3-4 or are finally willing to move Captain Kirk to the outside where he is probably better suited.
Again, nothing assures that McClain will transition well to the next level. For the record, I felt he was slightly overrated during his time at Alabama. Now that doesn’t mean I don’t think he’ll be a good pro. Just means that the proof is in the pudding and I’m waiting for Bill Cosby to give it the stamp of approval before getting too excited.
McClain’s presence alone won’t equate to an improved run defense. But by simply staying low and waiting for the draft to unfold, Al Davis actually made the best pick possible for his beloved Silver and Black.