For Raiders fans, the 2012 NFL draft is pretty much just another day. Oh sure, there will be excitement, and eyes glued to television sets just like there are in every other NFL city, because football fandom breeds obsession. But there will be very little action to watch.
In a series of moves over the past several years, the Raiders traded away five of their seven picks in this year’s draft, and they won’t be on the clock until the fifth round, and the 145th overall pick.
Those picks brought Carson Palmer and Aaron Curry to Oakland this year through trades, and raw QB prospect Terrelle Pryor was acquired during the supplemental draft for a third-round pick. New general manager Reggie McKenzie will also be robbed of a pick by a quarterback who has now departed. Jason Campbell moved on to become Jay Cutler’s backup in Chicago, but the trade that originally brought him to Oakland will still cost a fourth-round pick.
1. Let’s start with an annual question. The Raiders have minimized the draft’s importance in terms of team building, at least in the short-term. Is this an effective strategy? And are you confident that the pieces received in return for those picks will make a greater contribution than what Oakland could have landed on draft day?
McKenzie is a firm believer in building through the draft, but Al Davis and Hue Jackson orchestrated trades that sent five of the Raiders’ seven selections to other teams. Will the strategy of the previous era be effective going forward? Time will tell. The Raiders will roster five of the six players they traded the draft selections to get. Carson Palmer and Aaron Curry will be starters. Joseph Barksdale has a chance to start and Taiwan Jones will be Darren McFadden’s backup and should see an expanded role.
I’ve got to think the moves of the past will pay off. Terrelle Pryor is the biggest question and biggest project of all the players the Raiders acquired with a draft pick.
The Raiders could have landed a few nice players with the picks on draft day and at least helped to add quality depth, but two or three starters and two years of Jason Campbell will be more than enough to offset what the Raiders gave up.
2. Now that key pieces like Carson Palmer are in place and there’s a new general manager, can we expect the franchise’s philosophy towards the draft to change in the coming years?
McKenzie is not Al Davis nor should he try to be like Al Davis. McKenzie will build through the draft and will not be as enamored with height, weight and speed as Davis seemed to be. McKenzie will value his draft selections, but will be more concerned with the number of draft selections than Davis.
Davis never traded down in the first round, but McKenzie would if it meant drafting two quality players instead of one. Instincts and football IQ will now be more valued by McKenzie, whereas Davis always believed it was the coaching staff’s job to get elite athletes up to speed.
3. Speaking of draft philosophy, when the Raiders actually have a draft pick they’ve often favored speed and athleticism, and using a supplemental pick on Terrelle Pryor is a prime example. Do you expect that to continue?
Every team in the NFL wants the biggest and fastest players. Davis took that philosophy to an extreme at the expense of instincts and work ethic.
McKenzie will try to find a balance of traits. Davis has been successful later in the draft because elite athletes sometimes do put it together, but his philosophy has too often caused him to draft busts in the first round. McKenzie will pick his spots to take a shot on an elite athlete, but will be much more discerning when it comes to high draft picks.
4. With Michael Bush gone, will a running back to ease the burden on Darren McFadden be a priority?
McKenzie could look at a back later in the draft or find one in free agency to do the job. The Raiders can use Taiwan Jones and Marcel Reece to spell McFadden, so a backup running back is not really a priority right now.
At some point McKenzie will find a quality body, but he has his focus on a linebacker.
5. Linebacker is definitely a focus after Kamerion Wimbley’s departure. Anyone specific on your wish list?
Manny Lawson seems to be a good fit. He’s got a history with Raiders’ defensive coordinator Jason Tarver and would provide the Raiders with a two-down linebacker with potential to stay on the field for three. Otherwise, Jameel McClain might be a good fit. He could be used on the strong-side and slide over to the middle if Rolando McClain struggles.
Whoever McKenzie signs, the linebacker needs to help the Raiders front seven stop the run.