By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Wednesday, April 15th, 2009 at 9:42 am in Oakland Raiders.
Asked Tuesday if the Raiders had narrowed their focus regarding the No. 7 pick in the draft, Raiders coach Tom Cable said, “Four spots. I’m not going to share them with you, either. But I know we need one of four guys.”
Someone posed the question to me on the on-line chat who the four players might be, and I replied I’d give it some more thought and post it today.
So here it is.
First, if Cable was including Baylor tackle Jason Smith, Virginia tackle Eugene Monroe and Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry on his list, then he’s out of luck unless the Raiders trade up. Good luck finding a mock draft that has any of those players falling to No. 7.
I’m going on the assumption the Raiders realize those three players will be gone and will adjust accordingly if one of them falls into their lap, and also assuming Cable’s four might not necessarily be the same four identified by Al Davis.
He’s going to have to sell the boss on the player he wants, and it that happens more often than you might think.
WR Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech: I know, I know, it seems the consensus wideout for the Raiders is Missouri’s Jeremy Maclin, plus Mike Mayock’s pick on the NFL Network of Maryland’s Darrius Heyward-Bey.
I think Cable would prefer Crabtree’s leaping and playmaking skills, which make him the ideal complement for JaMarcus Russell.
Great question in yesterday’s chat _ would the Raiders trade the No. 7 pick for Anquan Boldin?
My response? Boldin is a run-after-catch receiver and Russell needs someone to get downfield and make plays. Crabtree is a poor man’s Larry Fitzgerald.
Alabama T Andre Smith: Maybe it was a smokescreen, or perhaps wishful thinking that Davis will gift-wrap a blue chip tackle for his new coach, but Cable was unsparing in his praise for Smith.
The initial brushfire over Smith’s combine mishaps have already been snuffed out, and it appears he’s a lock for a top 10 pick. Southeastern Conference offensive lineman are better prepared for the NFL than any other based on the level of competition. Smith excelled in a Nick Saban program that is run more like an NFL team than any other college institution.
Mississippi T Michael Oher: Another SEC lineman who didn’t give up a sack and was the lead force for a powerful running game in a resurgent program. Oher was one of 13 children, his father a murder victim and his mother a crack addict. He was adopted by a white family and sent to Briarcrest Christian High School after spending much of his youth running the streets.
Oher is the subject of “The Blind Side,” a book by Michael Lewis on the evolution of the position of left tackle and how it is interwoven with his life. He’s the most compelling individual story in the draft, but maybe a bit behind Smith in that he’s had three line coaches in four years.
But he has all the tools, has shown a capacity for learning and responding to adversity, and could excel under Cable.
DT B.J. Raji, Boston College: If this is indeed the premiere run-stopper in the draft, Raji is receiving consideration on that skill alone.
A positive marijuana test at the combine was never confirmed, and chances are it wouldn’t have mattered to the Raiders anyway unless their research indicated it was a constant problem.
More of a concern would be that Raji already weighs 337 pounds and the Raiders have resisted the urge to sign huge defensive tackles in free agency (hello, Grady Jackson) because of that issue alone.
That’s my “four.” Your own interpretations are welcomed and encouraged.
When we spoke with Cable Tuesday, he didn’t know the Raiders schedule other than the opener and the Thanksgiving Day date with Dallas. Or at least he said he didn’t.
But he spoke with enthusiasm again about the chance to get San Diego in Week 1, with the Raiders getting to test themselves against an division foe right away, particularly one that has beaten Oakland 11 consecutive times.
So he was no doubt ecstatic later when Weeks 2 and 3 contained a road game at Kansas City, where the Raiders have won two straight years, and a home game against Denver. The Raiders have wins over the Broncos in each of the past two seasons, at home in 2007 and in Denver in 2008.
The Broncos and Chiefs are both transitioning with new coaches and quarterbacks. This is a huge opportunity for some momentum _ a chance to win more division games in the first three weeks than they’ve won over an entire season since 2002.
As difficult as the end of the schedule is with four road games in six weeks, it’s all about a fast start for the Raiders. The more early wins, the more latitude the coach receives from Davis. An 0-3 start would be as crippling as a 3-0 start would be liberating, particularly with Houston on the road in Week 4.
There’s a brutal stretch of four road games over the last six weeks (although that comes off back-to-back home games against the Chiefs and Bengals) but that adversity is outweighed by the opportunity for a fast start.