Monday, January 21, 2008

Building Blocks: The Oakland Raiders

Conference: AFC West
2007 Record: 4-12
Current draft position: tied 3rd

History: The Oakland Raiders operate under the motto of “commitment to excellence” and “Just win baby”, but have recently delivered neither for the franchise and fan base. In 2002, the Raiders posted an 11-5 record and made a Superbowl appearance. Since that time, the Raiders have rolled off 5 consecutive losing seasons, winning a total of 19 games in the span.

Since that successful 2002 season, the Raiders had 4 different head coaches on the sidelines, and numerous personnel changes on the field, yet the misery has continued. They will again enter another offseason searching for a formula for success, with past ingredients only bringing a continuation of failure.

Notable Free Agents:

RB Justin Fargas
QB Dante Culpepper
CB Nnamdi Asomugha

Though Justin Fargas had a breakout season, the most important free agent is the lockdown corner Nnamdi Asomugha. The loss of Asomugha would be greater than the loss of Fargas, for the lack of a worthy replacement. In my opinion, this would be like the Denver Broncos allowing Champ Bailey to walk away, to secure one of many horses in the stable. The backs are in abundance, where talented corners rarely appear. There has been speculation that Asomugha would be “franchise” tagged, and that action would be in the best interest of the team.

The Raiders have also sought quick fixes through free agency and trades. Al Davis has chased the big names, both young and old. Since 2001, the Raiders added Jerry Rice, Warren Sapp, Dominique Rhodes, and Donte Culpepper to the roster. And let us not forget the Randy Moss project, and how quickly it went sour.

2007 Draft:

QB Jamarcus Russell
TE Zach Miller
DE Quentin Moses
OT Mario Henderson
WR Johnny Lee Higgins
RB Michael Bush
CB John Bowie
DE Jay Richardson
SS Eric Frampton
FB Oren O’Neil
WR Jonathan Holland

The Raiders selected quarterback Jamarcus Russell with the No. 1 overall pick in 2007. After an extended hold out, Russell rarely saw the field, and failed to start a game, until the final week of the season. Russell represents someone the Raiders are hoping to be their franchise QB. With the second pick, the offensive minded Lane Kiffin selected a target for his new passer, choosing Zach Miller out of Arizona State. Miller received playing time, and can become a better tight end as the offense improves.

Michael Bush was a 4th round pick, and we’ve yet to see his worth. Still recovering from a broken leg suffered in his junior year at Louisville, he was unable to showcase his talents in the NFL. The addition of Bush gave the Raiders depth at running back, in what was already a crowded backfield.


Defensive Tackle- With the retirement of Warren Sapp, the Raiders are left with a gaping hole in the defensive middle. And despite Sapp’s presence in 2007, Oakland allowed the opposition to trample them, ranking 31st in the NFL against the run. If you can’t stop the run, then you can’t win many games, and the Raiders may be shopping for a big body in ’08.

Wide Receiver- Offensively, the Raiders are without a big play wide receiver, and have been for quite some time. In the midst of the offensive woes of 2007, they failed to have a 1000 yard receiver or anyone appearing as a threat to opposing defenses. To get full value of a new franchise quarterback, and a load off the running game, they are in need of a “go to” playmaker outside. 164.4 represents the passing yards per game for Oakland in ‘07, 31st in the NFL.

Offensive Tackle- The Oakland run blocking was fair, but they struggled with pass protection. The NFL average for sacks is 34 for the season, and the Raiders’ quarterbacks were sacked 41 times. It may not seem alarming to be just 7 above the average, especially with the Falcons and Chiefs each surrendering 55. But when you compare those numbers to teams that lived in the air, New England (21), Cincinnati (17), and New Orleans (16), Raiders quarterbacks are eating turf nearly twice as much, while attempting fewer passes.

Defensive End- Not only did the Raiders defensive line struggle to stop the run, they also put little pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Oakland recorded 27 sacks on the season, which places them 28th in the league. The Raiders attempted to strengthen the pass rush in the 2007 draft, selecting DE Quentin Moses out of Georgia in the third round. The result was a wasted pick, as Moses failed to make the roster. Derrick Burgess produced 8 of the team’s sack total, but received no help from the other side.

Special Teams- Averaging just 5.5 yards per punt return, the raiders suffer a severe disadvantage in a game of field position.

’08 Prospect Rankings

Glenn Dorsey, DT, LSU
Jake Long, OT, Michigan
Darren McFadden, RB, Arkansas
Sedrick Ellis, DT, USC
Desean Jackson, WR, Cal
Chris Long, DE, Virginia

*Projection: At this point, the exact position of the Raiders is uncertain. They will pick no lower than 5th and no higher than 3rd, so much is pending on the first selections by Miami and St. Louis. My determination is Dorsey and Jake Long will be unavailable when the Raiders are on the clock, leaving the next 4 prospects on my list.

Darren McFadden- Despite the desperation of having to fill holes in the defensive line, I believe Al Davis will look to fill seats, with the flash and flare of Darren McFadden. The Raiders have historically targeted, and often received, some of the biggest names in football, and there is no bigger offensive name in this draft class than Darren McFadden. Along with the star power of McFadden, his versatility would allow Oakland to utilize his talents in 2 of the alert areas. McFadden can be used a conventional back, split out wide as a receiving threat, and improve the return game with his speed and elusiveness.

Sedrick Ellis- If Dorsey is unavailable, the Raiders can select the next best thing to Glenn, which would be Southern Cal’s Sedrick Ellis. Lane Kiffin has a relationship with Sedrick Ellis, from his coaching days at USC. Ellis would represent that much needed big body on the defensive line, adding to the run support and pushing forward to force quarterbacks from the comfort of their pockets.

Desean Jackson- For the past 3 years, Desean Jackson and the Oakland Raiders have been neighbors in the California Bay area. Outside of the Niners, no other NFL team is as familiar with the Berkeley talent. Coach Kiffin also spent 2 years on the college sidelines with Jackson representing the opposition. Though I have a problem with his size (6’, 170), there is no question to his speed (4.3, 40). Jackson is most effective in space, which would be a treasure in the return game, but may find space more difficult to come by in the receiving game. The 2007 NFL draft saw Calvin Johnson go second overall to the Detroit Lions, representing the first receiver taken. His rare combination of speed and a large frame made him valuable. Two Buckeyes receivers were also selected in that first round, bumping 2 bigger name Trojans, with more catches, to the second round. The pattern didn’t show and NFL need for great hands, as much as it revealed the NFL’s love for speed.

Chris Long- Not only is Chris Long the top defensive end of the class, but he also represents another Raider link. His father, Howie Long, made a name for himself on the Oakland Defensive line. The NFL expectation is “like father, like son”, and the younger Long would be a great addition to the silver and black.

Conclusion: Look for Darren McFadden to be the primary first round target for Oakland. This would mean not re-signing Justin Fargas and any questions surrounding his recovery from a torn ACL. This would leave the Raiders addressing the other needs in free agency or through trades. Dominique Rhodes, Lamont Jordan, and Michael Bush can be potential offerings in trade packages, disassembling the stable and making room for the new face of McFadden. McFadden may not be the best pick, but is definitely a Raider selection, as the big names are seldom passed over by Al Davis. No running back has been selected first overall since the Bengals chose Kijana Carter with the first pick in the 1995 draft. I'm expecting that trend to continue.

*projections are subject to adjustments accordingly.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Bush broke his leg his Senior year,not Junior year. He will be a huge factor in the NFL.