Rhodes’ restructure was conditional


It sounds as if Dominic Rhodes was promised that if he agreed to take less money on his contract and the Raiders drafted Darren McFadden, he would be granted his release.

“If they drafted Darren McFadden I was like, ‘Listen, I’ll restructure but it’s got to be to where if y’all draft him I can leave, you know. Y’all let me go.’ That’s kind of how it went,” Rhodes said in an interview on Sirius Satellite Radio Tuesday. “They kept their word and they let me get a chance to go somewhere else and get my opportunity. I know they like Mike Bush. They just re-signed Justin [Fargas] and I didn’t want to have to deal with what I dealt with last year because I know I can play and I know somebody can use someone like me.”

Host Pat Kirwan asked Rhodes if he regretted the decision to come to Oakland as a a free agent.

“The year out in Oakland was a tough one for me, man, especially coming from the Colts which is a great organization. They put together their team in a way with not a bunch of guys that are supposed to be like Hollywood types,” Rhodes said. “They go and get guys like myself who they know can play football and they put them on the field and they win with them, you know?

“Out in Oakland it was tough, man. I got put into a bad situation. The first thing was my fault by getting the four-game suspension but then when I got back, they knew that I was going to have that four-game suspension, and when I got back they kind of held it against me, didn’t give me my shot to get on the field and do the things that they said they were going to do.”

“That right there kind of let me know what was going on and then I don’t see the reason why the Raiders needed to draft a running back, you know what I’m saying? We had like a stable full of running backs that are capable, that ran for a hundred yards, every one of them and we went and drafted a guy that – he’s a great runner, don’t get me wrong – but I don’t understand the logic behind it.”

Rhodes’ complaints about playing time carry some merit, but the thing that hurt his chances the worst was when Fargas exploded for 179 yards against Miami the week before he became eligible.

If McFadden is as good as the Raiders think he is, they simply couldn’t pass on him. Rhodes is an above average back, but not a home run threat. Once Jordan was injured in the same Miami game where Fargas won the job, Rhodes probably should have been the second runner and given more of a workload.

Jordan seemed clearly uninterested once Fargas took over and Rhodes talked from the heart and played from the heart.

He got a chance in the final two games of the season to put two good games on film, and the Raiders did the right thing in keeping their word and letting him go once they drafted McFadden.

Rhodes sounded interested in returning to the Colts.


Draft wrap


The smallest draft class in Raiders history had great measurables. Now all they have to do is measure up.

Everyone knows about the skills of running back Darren McFadden. UConn defensive Tyvon Branch was one of the fastest defensive backs at the combine. Wide receiver Arman Shields ran a sub- 4.4 40-yard dash, and was a warrior on three-cone drills and the like at the combine. Wide receiver Chaz Schillens was another size, speed projection with moderate production.

Defensive end Trevor Scott ran a 4.54 40-yard dash in his private workout.

These guys not only looked good getting off the bus, they got off it faster than most.

With just five members in the Class of ’08, the Raiders look to stock their roster for the rookie minicamp starting May 9, signing undrafted free agents. Teams will scramble for these guys, with the stone reality being that of all the undraftables the Raiders bring in, it’s possible none of them will make the 53-man roster.

You hope for a Barry Sims, Tommy Kelly or Chris Carr. Last year, the Raiders didn’t find a single undrafted free agent worthy of making a team coming off a 2-14 season.

So how did the Raiders fare this year?

Go ahead and give it your best guess, because that is all it is. Trash ’em if you wish, give ’em an A-plus, grades are meaningless and pointless until the players actually take the field.

It seems clear, however, that at least in Kiffin’s mind, putting together a team will be more difficult than it was last year because of free agency and the draft. It probably didn’t win Kiffin any points with Al Davis when he said it, but the coach allowed that the goal was to make it hard to determine the final 53. Last season, Kiffin said it wasn’t all that tough with the Raiders because they simply weren’t all that talented.

It was a classic Davis draft, but it’s up to Kiffin to fit the pieces together.

There remain huge question marks, as gifted starting quarterback JaMarcus Russell is little more than a glorified rookie. The defense still has to prove it can stop the run and looks to be at least one pass rusher short, unless you’re optimistic enough to see Scott as an instant impact player out of the Mid-America Conference.

But there is more talent on hand, with a head coach just getting back his sea legs as well as a defensive coordinator and several key assistants in the last year of their contracts.

There is also one of the easiest schedules in the NFL, although you could make the argument that a team with 19 wins over five years has no easy games.

A few notes and observations in the 22nd blog entry since Saturday morning:

— The rookie minicamp, which begins May 9, is not open to players with an accrued year of experience, according to offensive coordinator Greg Knapp.

That means even if Russell wanted to come, he couldn’t.

— Not so for Michael Bush, who spent the season on PUP and doesn’t have an accrued season. The drafting of McFadden had to be discouraging for Bush, with some projecting him as the Raiders feature back by 2009 or 2010. Now he’s fighting for scraps with Dominic Rhodes behind Justin Fargas and McFadden, providing Rhodes remains on the roster after accepting a cut in pay.

Bush is fully rehabbed, but the level of intrigue regarding his skill has changed in tone, judging from Kiffin’s off-hand reference to Bush Saturday.

“We’re kind of piled there with a number of really good running backs and guys coming back, including Michael Bush, who we really don’t know enough about yet,” Kiffin said.

The fact is Bush practiced for only a short period of time, during the season, when teams are looking for quickness and timing and not laying each other out. One sideline observer of the closed sessions thought he looked slow.

Still, some players look slow who actually are moving well. You never really know until they’re running from (or over) opponents during a game, and the Raiders never gave Bush that chance last year.

With Fargas’ running style, Bush can still be an injury away from playing time and will finally get the chance to show what he can do in training camp and the preseason.

The Raiders, by the way, didn’t overpay Fargas, and should he show signs of wear, Bush could still end up playing in tandem with McFadden.

— Ex-Raider personnel exec Mike Lombardi was floating the idea on the NFL Network that the New Orleans Saints might be interested in making a deal for LaMont Jordan, given Reggie Bush’s role as a change-of-pace back and the fact that Deuce McAllister is coming off a knee injury.

More likely would be the Saints simply waiting for Jordan to be cut and getting to him quickly with an offer far less than the $4.7 and $5 million salaries scheduled for 2008 and 2009.

— Most everything about McFadden’s skill set sounds fabulous, and perhaps it is. Just like it was supposed to be with Reggie Bush two years ago. In the draft, nothing is a sure thing.

— Good to know a single conversation with Tom Rathman has cleared McFadden’s fumbling problem at Arkansas, although I’m guessing the college coaches may have mentioned the same fundamentals a time or two. I like Rathman, but I doubt he’s the only running backs coach around who can teach backs how to carry a football.

— That said, fumbling can be cured. In his early training camps, Fargas was a frequent fumbler and now it isn’t an issue.

— Shields missed 10 games last season with a posterior cruciate ligament injury, but is in no way this year’s Michael Bush, a player who essentially lost his final year in college due to injury and was babied through training camp because of a badly broken leg.

Shields had great numbers at the combine and was shown running and jumping on the video presentation on NFL.com. He even wiped out on the field during one drill and popped right back up.

— Judging from the weight the Raiders gave the speed and strength workout numbers, I’m wondering who Oakland would have taken if someone had jumped up and selected McFadden before they had a chance.

I’m sticking with Vernon Gholston, given Kiffin’s assurances that Kelly is the Raiders’ three technique and that it didn’t make sense to take Glenn Dorsey, a natural three technique.

(I told you during my ill-fated mock draft I was sticking with Gholston and going down with the ship . . . glug, glug, glug)

— The trade of Fabian Washington was a dump job on a far smaller scale than the one that occurred last season when Randy Moss was dealt to the New England Patriots for a fourth-round pick.

Defensive back John Bowie became the man acquired for Moss, Shields came to the Raiders a year later at No. 125 in exchange for Washington.

Moss forced the Raiders hand through his insistence he wanted no part of the program. Washington nudged the Raiders to unload him based on his spotty play and general indifference.

In 2006, Washington might have been the Raiders best defender at training camp. He was all over the field, making plays. True, those plays were coming against the horribly inept offense of Tom Walsh and Art Shell, but I remember writing at the time it looked as if Washington was ready for a breakout year.

Instead, Nnamdi Asomugha was the one who blossomed while Washington ranged from below average to above average. He was nothing special at training camp last season and ended up losing his starting job to Stanford Routt.

Worse yet, it never really seemed to bother Washington. Even corners who deserve to be benched are usually proud enough to give at least a stiff upper lip and insist they are quality starters. Washington was fine with it, and seemed to coast through the season happy to be on the team and collect a paycheck.

He also wasn’t exactly what was advertised. His speed was undeniable, but Washington simply wasn’t physical enough to play the sort of press coverage the Raiders need. At one point, with a group of writers, Washington conceded he probably weighed 170 pounds and had never been 175 in his life. He was listed at 5-foot-11, 185 pounds.

Washington ends up as another Phillip Buchanon and Derrick Gibson on Oakland’s first-round defensive back scrap heap, except in Buchanon’s case, the Raiders manged to take Houston for second- and third-round draft picks.

— All the trade speculation was no more than a yearly tease. Jeremy Shockey, Jason Taylor and Chad Johnson (not to mention Michael Huff and Derrick Burgess) are all still with their respective teams. The Cowboys managed to complete a deal for penal code-challenged cornerback Pacman Jones.

— It’s only a mild surprise the Raiders didn’t draft any offensive linemen. They’re not looking for the same players as everyone else. The Raiders most consistent offensive lineman last season was right guard Cooper Carlisle. The Raiders got him as an unrestricted free agent last year with virtually no competition. He came from Denver, schooled in the zone blocking system.

— Once you get to the fourth round, everyone is a reach. That’s they they’re being drafted in the fourth round. So don’t even bother applying the “bust” tag to any player who has no better than a 60-40 chance to make the roster anyway. Once you get to the fifth round, sometimes you’re happy if they make the practice squad.

Johnnie Lee Higgins was getting glowing reviews a year ago. He may or may not be any better than Shields or Schillens. We’ll have a better idea in July.

— According to the University of Buffalo Web site questionaire filled out by football players, the three people Raiders’ draftee Scott would like to invite to dinner are The Rock, Mike Alstott and George W. Bush.

— Commissioner Roger Goodell, who pushed the idea of shortening the amount of time between rounds and making it more viewer friendly, should have made a unilateral decision Sunday to end the draft when a long-snapper was selected.

That would have been in the sixth round, No. 189, when Seattle took San Diego State long-snapper Tyler Schmitt.

— Either that or when the first person named “Pierre” was drafted. That was also in the sixth round, when Pierre Garcon, a wide receiver out of Mt. Union, was taken by Indianapolis at No. 205 overall.

— Remember how Davis made such a big deal over Kiffin’s recruiting acumen? Kiffin had been in the living rooms of the country’s top high school players, so in theory he had already done a great deal of background.

Ten USC players were drafted Saturday and Sunday. For the second straight year, none by the Raiders.

Chances are good there isn’t a single player drafted in the Class of ’08 that ever had Kiffin in his living room as a USC recruit. Kiffin said McFadden wasn’t recruited because they knew he wasn’t coming West.

None of the other four draftees _ Branch, Shields, Scott or Schilens, had the look of a USC recruit.


Raiders take Buffalo DE


Trevor Scott, a converted tight end from perennial Mid-American conference doormat Buffalo, was selected in the sixth round, No. 169 overall, by the Raiders.

Scott, 6-foot-5, 258 pounds, had 19 sacks in two seasons. He was not invited to the NFL scouting combine, but ran a 4.54 40-yard dash at a pro day workout.


Darren McFadden Q&A


Darren McFadden’s conference call with local media:

Q: Were you pretty sure this would be the team for you?

McFadden: For me, I really didn’t know what to expect. I heard a lot of talk about New York, I heard a lot of talk about Oakland too. For me, I was sitting back and I was going to be happy with my name being called.

Q: Lane Kiffin said he called you this morning, what was that conversation like?

McFadden: It’s just a great feeling, he told me if I’m there at No. 4 pick, we was going to call my name. And right before he got off the phone he said he hoped to be talking to me again soon. It was something I was very proud of. I’m very happy, to be able to go to Oakland.

Q: What do you know about Lane Kiffin’s offense and how it might be a fit for you?

McFadden: I like the way he uses his running backs. When he was at USC he moved his running backs around a lot. I just love the way he does that, I feel it’s something I can bring to Oakland, being a versatile player, that I can move around and give them a different style.

Q: He’s compared you to Reggie Bush and that he can use you in similar ways. Is that what you see?

McFadden: I feel like he can use me some of the same ways they use Reggie Bush. Those are real good things and I’m very versatile.

Q: Your thoughts on coming to a place with a lot of running backs?

McFadden: Me, I want to come in and just learn the offense. I’m going to sit back and let those veterans teach me. And when the coaches call upon on me to go out there and play I’m going to go out there and give it my all.

Q: Surprised the Raiders drafted you because they had so many RBs?

McFadden: Yeah, it surprised me, but I feel like after talking with the coaching staff, that they were missing the big-play ability and that was something I could help with.

Q: What did you assure the Raiders that any off-the-field issues, character issues, were not going to be a problem?

McFadden: You know, they did a lot of research on me. They talked to everyone, and asked questions about the type of guy Darren McFadden is. And the people they talked to, evenyone than knows me, told them Darren McFadden’s a great guy. That off the field I made mistakes and it was nothing they had to be concerned with.

Q: Your thoughts on Raider nation, the Black Hole, the history of the organization, an important thing for you to carry on a tradition?

McFadden: It’s going to be very important for me to carry on a tradition. You never want to ruin a tradition, you always want to carry it on. I love the Raider Nation, they’re very passionate about the Raiders so I’m looking forward to getting out and playing for them.

Q: When you were reading pre-draft analysis that question your character, what are some things people weren’t saying that you think they should know?

McFadden: The things they don’t say about Darren McFadden is the things I’ve done around the community. I’ve been doing community events since I was in high school, going to help out, Special Olympics in high school, being able to do things like that. Then two Christmas breaks ago, we were on Christmas break, there was a plane crash at the airport in Arkansas and I went and visited the kids at the airport, I mean in the hospital. Those are a lot of things people don’t talk about.

Q: Looking forward to getting away from home, moving out here?

McFadden: I feel like it’s gonna be a good thing for me, being able to be away
from home. It’s something I’m looking very forward to.

Q: Given thought to playing with JaMarcus?

McFadden: I know it’s gonna be great to be in the huddle with him. I played against him a couple times in college. I’d much rather be on the same side of the ball he’s on.

Q: Are your blocking skills underrated?

McFadden: A lot of people don’t look at those things. Going through the draft, people competing so much, they overlook the good things that you do. And that’s something Coach Rathman pointed out that he really enjoyed, my passion for the game. And possibly he can take me to the next level. With him coaching me, he’ll be able to take me to the next level.”

Q: Anyone gonna move out here with you? How many infant car seats do you own?

McFadden: I’m planning on having my sister move out with me, where she can help me out around the house. Maybe make me feel at home while I’m away.

Q: You mean, like, do women’s work?

McFadden: (Laughs) She’s a great help around the house, you know? She’s always keeping me positive. So she can help out, watch over me a little bit for me, it’ll help me out in a lot of ways.

Q: How have the last 24 hours been for you?

McFadden: It’s been a whirlwind. You don’t know where you’re gonna go, sitting back and just waiting, and then you finally hear your name called. And when you finally get the phone call to where you’re gonna go, you be so happy.

Q: What was your favorite NFL team growing up?

McFadden: Growing up I was a Broncos fan because I liked watching Terrell Davis and John Elway play, Ed McCaffrey, Shannon Sharpe, I loved to watch those guys play.”

Q: You mention that to Al Davis?

McFadden: No, sir, not at all.

Q: Did you know before Goodell took the podium with Raiders’ pick?

McFadden: I had already known, because they had called me a couple minutes before. They gave my agent a call and gave me a call, so we already knew before they announced it.

Q: You concerned about fumbles?

McFadden: No, it’s not a concern at all, cause I talked to Coach Rathman. We both sat there and watched game film together on me. He was showing some of the things I was doing. He was telling one of the main things, I was not locking my elbow down. And that’s something that’s easily corrected, so it won’t be a problem with fumbling at all.

Q: How are your skills as a receiver.

McFadden: That shows my versatility. I have great hands coming out of the backfield. It’s something we didn’t do much in college at all. We never really threw to the running back the ball. It’s something that I feel very confident doing.

Q: Maybe they’ll let you throw it, too?

McFadden: Heh. I don’t know if they’ll want me to do that. But if they try to put in a play for me to throw it, I’d love to do it.”

Q: How do you compete about the comparisons to Reggie Bush?

McFadden: For them to compare me to Reggie Bush, I feel like he’s a very shifty guy. I like to get downhill and get running.

Q: How ready are you to step in right away? What do you need to work on?

McFadden: I feel like I’m a very skilled guy. You know, I feel like I’m ready to step in there. I’m not the type of guy that’s gonna be happy to be in the NFL, and when I get there I want to be doing great things, I don’t want to just be out there. I want to play great and make big plays.


Kiffin talking trade


Lane Kiffin was floating the possibility Thursday of a trading the No. 4 overall pick, which could mean any number of things.

Perhaps the Raiders are seeking more and better offers to what they already have for the right to select what could be Arkansas running back Darren McFadden.

Maybe it was to disguise the fact that the Raiders will actually take McFadden themselves.

Or possibly Kiffin was just killing time, promoting the intrigue that goes with the last few days before a draft.

In a welcomed departure from recent years, the Raiders coach met with the media provide an update on club business and discuss the draft. The Raiders even trotted out two of their offseason acquisitions, cornerback DeAngelo Hall and left tackle Kwame Harris, for Q&A sessions.

(I’ll post something on those interviews later)

Kiffin started talking trade as part of opening statement.

“With the upcoming draft, obviously with the fourth pick overall, a number of great players will be sitting there for us to take,” Kiffin said. “More than ever, not in Raider fashion, we may trade back. It hasn’t happened before but it is something we’re seriously looking at. And that stems from the lack of picks and not having a fifth, a third or a second, it’s something we’re really looking at and having conversations about because of the lack of picks.”

Kiffin said there have been “a number of calls, and a few serious conversations” about trading the pick.

The trade partner would most likely be a team that covets McFadden, a player also happens to be the player most mock drafts have as the Raiders choice.

“There are going to be guys there that people are valuing, McFadden especially because he’s so unique and so dynamic, there are a number of teams that want him, and some teams right behind us, maybe not one pick behind us, but two picks behind us, that really want him,” Kiffin said. “When you’re going back there’s got to be something they really want to come up. That’s usually a quarterback or just a phenomenal touchdown maker.”

The team right behind the Raiders is the Chiefs, who already have Larry Johnson in the backfield and could be looking at quarterback Matt Ryan of Boston College, an offensive lineman such as Brendan Albert or a defensive tackle such as Sedrick Ellis. Two spots back are New York Jets, who would love to have McFadden drop to the No. 6 spot, but have the Raiders as a gatekeeper in their way.

After picking at No. 6, New York has a choice early in the second round (No. 36 overall), two picks in the fourth (Nos. 102 and 113) and picks in the sixth (171) and seventh (211).

The Dallas Cowboys, who have two first round picks (Nos. 22 and 28) have also been mentioned as a trade partner. Dallas also has a pick in every round from 2 through 7 (Nos. 61, 92, 126, 163, 167 and 235).

The Raiders have never had fewer than six picks in an NFL draft. When asked if he would be surprised if Oakland had just five draftees in its 2008 draft class, Kiffin said, “Yeah, I think I would. I think I would be surprised because that’s a long time to sit in the room without doing anything.”

Other topics addressed by Kiffin Thursday included:

–Assessing offensive line prospects for a zone blocking system.

“I think if you saw our board on offensive linemen you’d be shocked because it wouldn’t go anywhere near any of the mock drafts or any of the people that you see where you go,” Kiffin said. “We’d have people at the top of our offensive line board that you’d think are fourth or fifth round picks. It’s a different way to eveluate people.”

Albert, the Virginia Tech lineman who has been a climber on draft boards of late as a projected tackle, would be a guard in a zone blocking system, Kiffin said.

— A commitment to Tommy Kelly as the three-technique.

“We re-signed Tommy to play the three technique, so that’s where Tommy is going to be playing,” Kiffin said. “He’s moved around a lot here in the past. He’s played nose, he’s played three, he’s played open side end, closed side end.

That’s not going to happen any more. He’s here to be our three technique and dominate in there. I just imagine that’s going to help him so much, because he gets to focus on one thing instead of playing four different spots.”

Kiffin said LSU tackle Glenn Dorsey, who most figure will be gone by the time the Raiders pick to either St. Louis or Atlanta, is probably better suited to a three-technique but is capable of playing the nose.

— The appeal of Virginia end Chris Long, son of Howie Long.

“I think you see a phenomenal effort player, first of all – nonstop, relentless, a guy who’s played a number of spots,” Kiffin said. “He’s actually played in a 3-technique, he’s played in a 3-4 where he’s head-up and he’s bumped outside, and he’s stood up as a backer inside. So there’s no scenario you need to look at that you don’t have on film, of what he can do, and what he brings to the table. He’s so strong at the point of attack, and would be a guy that I think would help us tremendously in the run game.”

— The versatility of Ohio State rush end Vernon Gholston.

“He definitely can play in a 4-3 system. He’s perfect for a 3-4 system outside, probably, but he can definitely play in a 4-3,” Kiffin said.

— The 2007 slump of nose tackle Terdell Sands.

“Last offseason he went through a lot of tough things. Lost a number of very close people in his family, and as you look back, that affected him,” Kiffin said. “I know he’d be the first to tell you, he didn’t go through the offseason the way he should have, and he let that affect his football instead of dealing with it otherwise, and did not have a productive offseason, and ended up having to play catch up the whole time.

“Training camp isn’t the time here to catch up and to get in shape. Training camp, come in shape, and we’ll improve you and get you better. Instead, he came in to get in shape in training camp and never caught up.”

— The absence of defensive end Derrick Burgess from the offseason program.

Derrick has not been in here (in the offseason) since he’s been here,” Kiffin said.“You like everybody here. You want 100 percent, but there are some guys that you feel more comfortable not being here because you know how they work, you know what they do.

“One of the best stories about Derrick is he plays in the Pro Bowl a couple of years ago, and the people at Ole Miss are telling me, it’s two days after the Pro Bowl and he’s up there working out two days after the Pro Bowl. So, that’s what you got there. So, if there’s anybody you don’t worry about being in shape and working out, Derrick’s one of them.”

— The offseason of JaMarcus Russell.
“He’s having a phenominal offseason. He came back 10, 11 days before we even started,” Kiffin said. “So he was with our coaches and with our strength staff before everybody else got back here five weeks ago and he hasn’t missed a thing since. Most the guys are really here three, four hours a day. He’s here about five-and-a-half, six hours a day.

“He’s here first thing in the morning, he has position meetings in the morning, he goes in and lifts and he goes in and runs. He comes in and changes and goes back out and throws with the guys. By far he’s in the best shape since I’ve seen him, even if you go back to his pro day at college. So I know he’s real excited about the upcoming season as well.”

The status of running back LaMont Jordan.

“LaMont does have a very high contract, and a big number coming into this,” Kiffin said. “So we have to look at what happens in the draft, look at what else is going on and make a decision.”

— Health updates.

Kiffin said Kelly should be ready to go 100 percent by training camp. Free agent wide receiver Javon Walker (knee) should be good to go at the first minicamp following the draft, and safety Jarrod Cooper “is nearly 100 percent) following ACL surgery.


Allen’s exit a plus


Less than a week after receiving one of the most favorable schedules in the NFL, the Raiders received even more good news Wednesday when defensive end Jared Allen was traded out of the division to the Minnesota Vikings.

That means when the Raiders visit Arrowhead Stadium in Week 2, Allen won’t be on hand to terrorize the Raiders as he has in virtually every game except last season’s game in Kansas City.

That game, in which Barry Sims effectively controlled Allen, was the exception rather than the rule.

At present, Kwame Harris is penciled in as the Raiders left tackle. Harris was considered a poor pass blocker but a solid run blocker with the 49ers. The hope is the zone blocking system employed by the Raiders will enable Harris to reach the potential which made him a first-round draft pick out of Stanford.

Allen has six sacks in eight career games against Oakland and has applied near constant pressure.


Why McFadden isn’t the pick


Al Davis has a reputation of wanting the best available athlete. Give him the biggest, the fastest, the most explosive talent and he is happy, regardless of whether the position is settled.

It is said he won’t be able to bypass Darren McFadden for that reason. He simply won’t be able to resist putting an instant touchdown into an already crowded backfield, joining Justin Fargas, Michael Bush and Dominic Rhodes.

While there is some truth to Davis’ criteria in terms of talent, he is not all that mysterious.

Take place kicker Sebastian Janikowski, for instance.

True, Janikowski was a long-distance marvel and a spectacular talent, but the bottom line is the Raiders desperately needed a kicker. Michael Husted’s troubles had cost the Raiders a chance at a 10-win season the previous year, and Jano was thought to be the final piece of the puzzle.

How about Michael Huff in 2006?

A smallish playmaker for a strong safety, but a safety is exactly what the Raiders needed. Despite the presence of USC quarterback Matt Leinart still on the board, Davis went with Huff. He already had Andrew Walter on the roster, a quarterback who was thought to be the future of the franchise.

When it turned out Walter perhaps wasn’t the franchise after all, JaMarcus Russell was the choice at No. 1 the following season despite the presence of Calvin Johnson. Johnson was only the most remarkable size-speed combination in the history of the draft at his position.

Robert Gallery’s selection in 2004 came at the expense of Roy Williams, a receiver Davis absolutely loved and thought was superior to Larry Fitzgerald, who went higher to Arizona. Gallery was a practical solution to a Raiders line which needed someone to install at left tackle for a decade.

Needs weren’t as clearly defined when the Raiders were winning three straight division titles, and with the Raiders drafting late, it was more of a “best athlete” scenario.

Considering the roster the Raiders already have, and the decisions to re-sign Fargas and coax Dominic Rhodes to take less money to remain on the roster, I don’t see Oakland taking McFadden on Saturday.

There is also the presence of Michael Bush, who hasn’t played in two years but who is seen as a potential difference maker. Or at least that’s the company line. If McFadden is the pick, it means the real thoughts on Bush are that he is too slow and not the long-term answer.

The Raiders were sixth in the NFL in rushing and gave up 100-yard games to 10 different backs. The practical thing to do is work on the defense, not add another back.

I’ll admit I’ve talked to some people who really know Davis who think McFadden will be irresistable. But the bottom line is I think Davis is more practical than you think.

Holding the key to McFadden could have as much value as McFadden himself. The Raiders will use the No. 4 pick to get additional picks or take a defensive player who can make a difference.


McFadden on the Raiders


The following is a blog entry posted by Arkansas running back Darren McFadden talking about his visit to the Raiders last week posted on a Web site called “Yardbarker,” which specializes in “sports news, rumors, photos and videos”:

I have been making a lot of trips to the NFL teams the last two weeks and wanted to catch the Yard up with my visits.

I had a great visit with the Raiders last week. It was my first trip and I had a great time. I got in Monday night and went to dinner with the offensive coordinator, Greg Knapp, and the running backs coach, Tom Rathman. Coach Rathman picked me up the next morning for breakfast. He gave me a tour of the facility and then we watched some film. We watched two of my games – one against Alabama and the Arkansas-LSU game. Coach Rathman seemed to like what he was watching. He said he likes tough running backs. In the LSU game we ran a dash right, a sprint out pass to the right. When the defensive end came charging in I hit him real good and knocked him backwards. Coach Rathman liked that play a whole lot. He is a coach I would love to play for. He is the type of coach who can take me to the next level, and I’m a player who is looking and willing to work to get to that next level. I think we’d be a great combination.

I also got a chance to meet Al Davis. I was really excited about that. I’m just a guy from little ol’ Arkansas meeting a legend like him. That was great. He had a lot of energy and he knows so much about the game and all the players in the draft. We spent about 10 minutes together and I enjoyed it very much.

I’ll fill you in on my New England trip next.



McFadden Q&A


Since it seems in this forum at least that Darren McFadden is the biggest topic of conversation regarding the Raiders and the No. 4 overall pick in the draft on April 26, here is a transcript of McFadden’s media session at the NFL scouting combine?

Q: Are you the best player in the draft?

McFadden: I feel like I am the best player in the draft. I can do a lot of different things. I feel like I’m a very versatile player. I can go out there and line up at receiver, I can line up in the backfield and block, line up back there and run, I can throw a pass if you need me to. But like if I had to, I could play defense.

Q: Why did you decide to enter the draft early?

McFadden: I feel like it was kind of tough on me, but with my coaches leaving, it made it easier for me. But I felt like it was time, too.

Q: What kind of questions do you expect from NFL teams?

McFadden: I know I’m going to hear a lot of different questions. I’m going to hear things from the reason why I get up early, or the different incidents I’ve had outside of nightclubs, just different questions.

Q: How will you answer the nightclub questions?

McFadden: Just answer them and tell them what happened. I know I put myself in a bad situation I shouldn’t have been in, and I take full responsibility for it.

Q: Was the report out of proportion to what actually happened?

McFadden: I guess they had people telling them something, different things were happening, and I guess people’s words got misconstrued.

Q: Will all the off-the-field issues affect your draft stock?

McFadden: That’s something I haven’t been worried about at all.

Q: Was football an escape for you growing up in a tough environment?

McFadden: A lot of bad things were laid out in front of me, and at any point in time in life I could have took the wrong road. But I felt like I always stayed on the right road and did the positive things.

Q: How do you compare to Adrian Peterson?

McFadden: I admire Adrian Peterson. He’s a great running back and I feel like if I go in do all the work that I should do and put in the right work necessary, I could have the type of season he did.

Q: Is it important to be the first back drafted?

McFadden: Whether I am or if I’m not, I’m just going to go wherever I go and try and play my best.

Q: Is it important to be the first player drafted?

McFadden: Like I said, whether I am or I’m not, I’m just going to go play my best wherever I go.

Q: Are you eager to see what Felix Jones, your Arkansas teammate, can do as a feature back?

McFadden: I feel like I know what Felix can do. If he was the feature back at Arkansas, I feel like he’d have been the same. I feel like he could have started anywhere in the country if he wasn’t playing behind me.

Q: What do you need to improve on?

McFadden: I’ve just got to get adapted to the game speed and things like that, get in there and learn the different plays, things like that.

Q: How are your receiving skills?

McFadden: I feel like I have great hands because I played a lot of different positions growing up. I’ve caught a lot of balls through high school and things, so I feel like I have great hands.

Q: Do you think a team will utilize the “Wildcat formation” in the NFL?

McFadden: I don’t know if it could, but if it did, it’d be a great thing.

Note: In the “Wildcat” formation at Arkansas, McFadden took snaps from center as a quarterback and could either run or pass.

Q: Would you like to play in Dallas?

McFadden: For me, it doesn’t matter. I’m just going to go and do my best.

Q: Have you thought about playing with JaMarcus Russell?

McFadden: No sir, I haven’t. I haven’t thought anything about it.

Q: What do you like about Lining up at quarterback?

McFadden: It’s something I love to do, line up behind the center and take those direct snaps. Growing up, I played quarterback a lot, and it’s just something I love to do, be back there and be able to call the plays.

Q: Is there room for playing some QB at the next level?

McFadden: Well, I don’t know if there’d be any room for it in the NFL, but if a coach wanted me to do it, I’m going to do it.

Q: LaDainian Tomlinson has completed some passes for San Diego . . .

McFadden: He’s a great player, going back there and throwing touchdown passes like he’s a quarterback. It’s just a great thing to see a running back do that.

Q: Who is the second best RB in the draft?

McFadden: Well, everybody probably would have a different opinion, but mine would be Felix Jones.

Q: How would you explain your assets to a general manager?

McFadden: I feel like I’m a tough guy. You could have me in on first down or you could have me in on fourth-and-1. I can get long yards for you or I can get short yards for you.

Q: Thought about taking your place among legendary SEC backs?

McFadden: For me, it’s something I haven’t really thought about

Q: Your favorite running back?

McFadden: Growing up, I was a Terrell Davis guy. I used to watch Terrell Davis run.

Q: Why Terrell Davis?

McFadden: I don’t know, just Terrell Davis, Denver Broncos, John Elway, I just liked ’em.

Q: Is there a lot of anxiety here at the combine?

McFadden: It’s very nerve-wracking. It’s something you go through for the first time, so it’s going to be nerve-wracking to you, but it’s something you have to deal with.

Q: Have you been asked a lot about Adrian Peterson, considering his success as a rookie?

McFadden: A lot of people try to compare me to Adrian Peterson and say we have similar running styles. He went in as a rookie and did great things, and that’s something I feel like I’m going to try in and do as a rookie also. It’s going to be tough, but I feel like I’m a hard worker and I feel like I’m going to do my best.

Q: Did you run the spread offense in college and would it suit you in the NFL?

McFadden: For me, I feel like I can adjust to any type of offense there is. I’m just a natural ballplayer, so whatever offense I’m put in, I feel like I’m going to be able to perform in it.


Join a live Raiders chat with Jerry at noon


Raider fans,

We’re testing out some new software as we try to make things a bit more interactive for you folks. We’re going to have a live Raiders chat with Jerry McDonald and we welcome all of you to join in if you wish. Just click here to join the discussion. It’s just a quick signup process. Feel free to fire off Raider-related questions to Jerry and he’ll do his best to answer as many as we can in an hour.


Jon Becker
Online sports editor