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Draft review: 1997

Third in a series reviewing Raiders’ draft classes since they returned to Oakland in 1995:

1/2_Darrell Russell, DT, USC
3/72_Adam Treu, OL, Nebraska
3/85_Tim Kohn, G, Iowa State
4/123_Chad Levitt, RB, Cornell
6/172_Calvin Branch, FS, Colorado State
6/193_Grady Jackson, DT, Knoxville

The top pick_In the days leading up to the draft, the Raiders dealt the No. 10 pick in the first round along with selections in the second and fourth round, plus wide receiver Darryl Hobbs, to the New Orleans Saints, enabling Oakland to move to No. 2 overall.

The target, ostensibly, was Ohio State tackle Orlando Pace. Except the Rams, the day before the draft, made their own deal, acquiring the No. 1 overall pick from the Jets. They took Pace. Pace and Russell were considered the two top talents in the draft. Oakland’s company line, after taking Russell, was that they were going to be happy with either man.

Russell, miscast as an end as a rookie, became a Pro Bowl player, only to ruin his career through his own lack of personal discipline. He ran afoul of the NFL substance abuse policy, and died in an auto accident last year while still on suspension.

Could have had_Walter Jones, a left tackle out of Florida State who has been equal or superior to Pace as a pro, was taken at No. 6 by Seattle.

Mr. Reliable_Treu is the Raider of longest service and has distinguished himself as a long-snapper, backup center and occasional starter when Barret Robbins was out due to injury or illness.

Draft bargains_Jackson, out of tiny Knoxville, became an effective and popular player at defensive tackle, a player of immense natural strength and surprising quickness. Only his weight (too high) and disposition (too nice) prevented him from becoming a Pro Bowl player. Branch is a special teams player who is now a Raiders scout.

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Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer