2009 draft wrap

Some post draft observations before shutting it down for the night:

— Throwing speedsters Darrius Heyward Bey and Louis Murphy into the mix at wide receiver makes Javon Walker’s situation precarious.

Walker’s name has been conspicuously avoided by Tom Cable when he launches into rhetoric regarding his veteran players, and Heyward-Bey and Murphy join Chaz Schilens, Johnnie Lee Higgins, Arman Shields, Jonathan Holland and Todd Watkins, with the latter two hanging by their fingernails.

Here’s the rub _ Walker is guaranteed $4.6 million over the next two seasons, and Al Davis hates paying money to players not on the roster. Plus the Raiders have been loyal in the past to players who have restructured their contracts.

But if Walker shows up either overweight or disinterested, given the circumstances, the Raiders may have no other choice. The $4.6 million will be a buyout for a mistake, to be tacked on to the $8 million for eight games spent on DeAngelo Hall and the $8.4 million given to safety Gibril Wilson.

Interesting to note that during the owner’s meetings and during Cable’s pre-draft press conference with the media, he said Walker was healthy. On Sunday, made reference to “seeing if we can get Javon Walker healthy.”

Walker ending up on injured reserve would be a way to pay him without the indignity of having to cut him when he’s due all that money.

— Defensive end/linebacker Stryker Sulak, the sixth-round pick and No. 199 overall, finished second in Missouri history with 22 1/2 sacks, but the stat that might intrigue the Raiders even more are his 14 forced fumbles, including six as a senior.

“It was hammered into us — get the ball, get the ball,” Sulak said at the NFL scouting combine.“Every time I got around the edge that was my first thought. The quarterback is sitting back there — where’s the ball? Does he have it up? Down? Where is it and can I get it?

“You try for the sack with one hand and you try to bring the other hand down as hard as you can. He’s not in the best position and not holding the ball as tight as he can. So you try to can-opener it out, get the ball out and try to get your offense on the field. If you get the ball out, it’s a sack and forced fumble. That looks really good on paper.”

— Cable wasn’t kidding when he said he was fine with his offensive line, as the Raiders didn’t pick a lineman for the second consecutive season. When he talked about how nice it would be to have one of the four “Cadillacs” (Jason Smith, Andre Smith, Eugene Monroe, Michael Oher), Cable was either blowing smoke to the media or giving smoke signals to Al Davis.

Monroe was there for the taking. Only time will tell if the Raiders passed on a great one in favor of Heyward-Bey.

For now, Cable is bravely going forward with the utmost confidence in Khalif Barnes, Mario Henderson, Erik Pears and Cornell Green as the chief protectors of the future of the franchise, JaMarcus Russell.

Marcus Johnson, the former Minnesota second-round pick signed as a free agent, will play guard for the Raiders. Cable never mentioned him when going over his line, saying Robert Gallery, Cooper Carlisle and Paul McQuistan were the top three guards, plus “some other guys that we’ve put in there. I’m trying to think of their names right now.”

Either Cable’s mind was numb from a day of listening to endless names, schools and 40-yard dash times (I know mine was), or Johnson hasn’t made much of an impression.

— The Raiders are also fine with the triumverate of Gerard Warren, Tommy Kelly and Terdell Sands in the middle, adding no tackles in the draft and Ryan Boschetti in free agency.

Defensive end will be more hotly contested, with Matt Shaughnessy and Sulak to compete with Jay Richardson, Trevor Scott, Greyson Gunheim, Derrick Gray, and presumably Derrick Burgess.

— Two years, no cornerbacks. The last cornerback selected was John Bowie, selected in the fourth round with the Randy Moss pick and inactive in 2007 and on injured reserve in 2008.

Nnamdi Asomugha and Chris Johnson (assuming the Raiders ever officially acknowledge he’s been signed) are solid as the starters. Stanford Routt found himself bypassed by Johnson and didn’t appear to be all that into the Cable program. Maybe Lionel Washington can get him on board. Bowie will be the “Randy Moss” punch line until proven otherwise.

— Zach Miller may be getting hitched.

Cable has said on on a few occasions the key to seeing Miller’s already decent receiving numbers improve would be “marrying him up” with another tight end who complements his skills.

Enter Brandon Myers out of Iowa. Myers had a predraft visit to Oakland and is a two-time All-Big Ten tight end.

“We had to have the tight end that really had some physicalness to him so we could take some of that away from Zach Miller and use him in the passing game a little bit more,” Cable said.

— Not noted on NFL Network (or at least not that I heard) _ the Raiders are the first team in NFL history to draft players named “Slade” and Stryker” on on consecutive picks.

— The Raiders got their “apology” from Mike Mayock, and Mike Mitchell got himself a biography as a prospect.

Mitchell was also debated on ESPN, and asked to respond to Mel Kiper Jr.’s criticism of his selection in the second round.

“Mel Kiper has his opinion and I respect it. But what does it mean?,” Mitchell said. “My 9-year-old nephew can watch film and make an opinion. I think I value the opinion fo scouts who get paid to make their opinions. It will carry me through my career. It will serve as motivation for me.”

While I have no idea how Mitchell can handle a play-fake or LaDainian Tomlison coming at him on the goal line, he’s got the media game figured out already.

Kiper’s response?

“He’s entitled to say that. He’s a player. You want him to defend his position. He’s a second-round pick. I’m happy for him. I had him between 40 and 73 at safety, with a seventh-round grade,” Kiper said. “So this is a kid that had a chance to into camp and make a team as a late-round pick. He went in the second round.

“I thought there were a lot of safeties in the fourth that were better. Todd McShay had him at 123. So teams I’ve talked to in the NFL _ who get paid to scout _ thought he was a free agent. It wasn’t only Oakland. One team told me this morning they were going to take him in the third round. They think he has future Pro Bowl ability. That’s the wide range of opinion on Michael Mitchell.”

— Not surprisingly, ESPN analysts Cris Carter and Trent Dilfer were critical of Oakland’s draft. Dilfer didn’t buy into the “winners and losers” line of questioning but said, “The one that does not make sense to me, doesn’t make them a loser, but it does not make a lot of sense to me, I can’t wrap my brain around the Oakland Raiders.”

Carter didn’t hesitate in declaring a loser.

“Oakland,” he said.

— The things you learn walking hallways at the facility _ Shane Lechler is the Raiders 2008 Eric Turner award as the defensive Most Valuable Player. His name was etched on the trophy. It’s an award the Raiders, to my knowledge, have never publicized for reasons unknown.

I guess it’s not horribly out of line to make Lechler the defensive MVP based on field position, but he is in fact a special teams player and they did agree to pay Nnamdi Asomugha _ who actually plays defense _ $28.5 million in guaranteed money and a potential $45.3 million over three years.

Meanwhile, Lechler stands to make $16 million over the next four years.

I’m guessing Asomugha, given the choice, will take the monetary validation over his name on a trophy.

— The Heyward-Bey vs. Crabtree competition isn’t the only one worth watching for the Raiders and 49ers. Cable said the Raiders traded with Carolina to acquire a sixth-round pick to acquire one of two tight ends _ Bear Pascoe of Fresno State or Myers, intimating he would have been happy with either one.

The 49ers got to Pascoe at No. 184, and the Raiders took Myers at No. 202.

The bottom line

The Raiders got bad draft grades primarily because they’ve been a bad team for six years and have made a lot of questionable personnel decisions (duh) during that span.

If Bill Belichick or the Ozzie Newsome had made the same picks, they’d be viewed in an entirely different light because of their recent track records.

Cable sold the Raiders choices with confidence and resolve. He doesn’t care what the media thinks, and it always amazes me more experienced coaches don’t adopt the same philosophy.

If the Raiders go 10-6, next year’s draft stories will recount how they proved everyone wrong and give them some credibility for 2010. Cable will be declared a genius, the man who “changed” Al Davis.

If the Raiders go 6-10, Heyward-Bey is a non-factor and Michael Crabtree catches 70 passes for 1,000 yards in San Francisco, while Mike Mitchell is a special teams gunner and nothing more, Cable will probably be labeled as Al’s puppet even if it was a joint effort.

It’s not that complicated.

Either way, it will serve Cable well to keep his public approach as steady as he has since Davis went to the overhead projector.

I’m scheduled to write a column for Tuesday grading each team, but don’t put too much stock in it, because I don’t.

You do what you’re assigned to do, even if you know judging a draft immediately _ as opposed to four or years down the road _ is one of the most ridiculous exercises in your profession.


Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer