Every year at this time the football world starts looking to the future. College teams begin their spring practices while pro teams evaluate the newest crop of talent. Inevitably the football starved media races at the chance to talk up all things draft related so eager to get their fix that they grade draft classes before a single game has been played.
Common sense tells you that nothing is ever decided at the moment of acquisition. It’s not like buying a lottery ticket automatically means you spent your money wisely. Only the right combination of ping pong balls justifies that purchase. Same goes for the NFL draft. Simply selecting the consensus best player doesn’t mean your team hit the Tom Brady sweepstakes.
So while the rest of the football galaxy eagerly anticipates the upcoming draft we’re going to look back at the Oakland Raiders class of 2008 to see how the silver and black fared. Incidentally the Raiders were limited to only 5 picks back in ’08 just as they are for 2012. Biggest difference then was that Oakland owned a first round pick, 4th overall in fact.
Raiders Draft of 2008
Darren McFadden, RB, Arkansas – 1st round, 4th overall
Career Stats: 45 games played, 2627 rushing yards, 4.8 yards-per-carry, 20 total TDs
Analysis: We all know the book on McFadden. When healthy he’s among the best playmakers in the league. His size, speed, agility, strength and aggressive running style make him one of the most unique talents in the league. At no fault of his own, the injury bug has robbed the Raiders of getting more from McFadden. Four years in, he’s got just one 1,000 yard season and has missed 20 games. There is still time for Run DMC to right the ship but with all running backs the ticking clock gets louder each year.
McFadden Draft Grade: B+
If he can stay healthy, this grade shoots up to an A++. But relative to where McFadden was drafted and how uncertain his future is, those moments of brilliance are the only thing that keeps this grade in the B area. Another rush of injuries will unfairly drop this grade lower.
Tyvon Branch, CB, Connecticut – 4th round, 100thoverall
Career Stats: 56 games played, 347 tackles, 6 sacks, 3 INTs
Analysis: Another Al Davis dandy. Most only saw another stopwatch hero being picked by the Raiders. Davis saw a versatile DB that would eventually develop into one of the league’s best run stoppers at strong safety. Branch embodies everything you’d expect of a Raider. He’s a hard worker that plays every Sunday likes it’s his last. Hard to believe the Raiders nailed this pick after sitting on their hands for three rounds after taking McFadden 4thoverall.
Branch Draft Grade: A
Anytime a guy picked 100th overall earns the franchise tag four years later you know your scouts and coaches have done a great job. Of course all the credit really goes to Branch who hung in there with the Raiders while the figured out where he fit in best. Turns out his speed and hitting talent translated perfectly to the strong safety position. After dealing with injury as a rookie, Branch hasn’t missed a game, starting every time Oakland has taken the field the last three years. The Raiders should be so lucky to land another talent like this with one of their mid-round picks in 2012.
Arman Shields, WR, Richmond – 4th round, 125th overall
Career Stats: None
Analysis: The draft is a gamble, we know this and Shields proves it. He was another Davis special, a receiver with size and speed that might have been a bit of a reach in the 4th round. Shields never appeared in an NFL game and many saw that coming. He missed all but one game at Richmond in 2007 due to a knee injury and suffered the same injury again in the NFL. This was a risky roll of the dice that came up snake eyes.
Shields Draft Grade: F
This is one of those unfortunate stories of the NFL. Next time there is labor stoppage and everyone starts whining about how great a life the player shave keep in mind the story of Shields. He might not have ever become an All-Pro but his career was over before it started at no fault of his own.
Trevor Scott, DE, Buffalo – 6th round, 169th overall
Career Stats: 58 games played, 16 starts, 77 tackles, 13.5 sacks
Analysis: You’re not going to see very many Trevor Scott jerseys sold at your local mall but as far as 6th round picks go this was a great selection. Scott led all rookies in sacks and was a valuable, versatile defender for the Raiders in his first four years as a pro. A knee really turned the tide for Scott who had emerged as a starter. He’s now a member of the Patriots. His knee might not permit Scott to be starter again but you get the feeling Bill Belichick will find some way to get the best out of Scott.
Scott Draft Grade: B
Finding a quality pro that has a chance to have a career in the NFL in the 6th round is rare. Again, Oakland nailed this pick after sitting out the entire 5th round, waiting for their chance to jump on Scott. Scott’s grade should be an A considering his draft stock relative to his production but that knee injury is tough to ignore. Before it he had a real role as a Raider. Now he’s venturing into journeyman territory.
Chaz Schilens, WR, San Diego State – 7th round, 226th overall
Career Stats: 43 career games, 19 starts, 72 receptions, 902 yards, 12.5 yards per catch, 7 TDs
Analysis: Usually you’re happy if you land a player in the 7thround that can make the practice squad. At one point, Schilens was the best receiver on Oakland’s roster. Here’s how good Chaz Schilens was: he actually made JaMarcus
Russell look like an NFL quarterback. Another size/speed guy that fit the Davis profile but this one could run routes and attacks the ball. Of course, like McFadden, you can’t talk about Schilens without mentioning his injury issues. It’s always been a case of what could have been. Now he’s in New York where the Jets will try to get all that Schilens has to offer.
Schilens Draft Grade: B-
At best Schilens might be a solid #3 receiver in the NFL. But for a 7th round pick that’s almost like making the Hall of Fame. Of course, considering Buffalo’s Stevi
e Johnson was selected two picks before Schilens it could be this was just a great year for receivers. Pierre Garcon went in the 6th round in ’08 as well.
2008 Raiders Draft Grade: B+
The jury is still out on this class largely because of McFadden’s health. There is no reason why Oakland shouldn’t have an easy A for this class. Aside from the Shields pick in round 4, each of Oakland’s picks panned out. Branch is on the verge of making a Pro Bowl appearance and McFadden is an MVP candidate when he’s top of his game. Scott and Schilens were great late round picks that could still blossom in the next phases of their career. The scouting department really earned their checks with this class.