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.