By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Tuesday, July 14th, 2009 at 9:43 am in Oakland Raiders.
It’s a little disconcerting to have used a sixth-round draft pick on someone who you quickly deem to be incapable of making your football team, but that’s all it is.
A little disconcerting.
Stryker Sulak, or safety Keith Davis, for that matter, weren’t going to make or break the 2009 Raiders.
Regarding Sulak, let’s go back to Day 2 of the draft, when Tom Cable was doing what all coaches do _ talking about the great draft his team just completed. He was already growing tired of the questions surrounding Day 1 picks Darrius Heyward-Bey and Mike Mitchell and lecturing the media on the amount of “due diligence” the Raiders perform with every selection.
“We really connected this year and everything worked,” Cable said. “We had a plan, stuck to the plan and we got the players we wanted.”
His summary of Sulak, the sixth-round hybrid end/linebcker from Missouri?
“Stryker Sulak was an end but also a linebacker in their system. Depending on who they played, in certain situations he was an inside linebacker, an outside linebacker, or he he had his hand on the ground as a defensive end as a pass rusher.”
Cable said he would start out as a linebacker.
When asked if he had a any problems with Sulak’s reputation for getting a few too many penalties, Cable said, “The Raiders need that again. We need more of that, with some discipline. You can’t bee too crazy, but you need that attitude.”
And that was the last we heard from Cable about Sulak. Well, almost. At the mandatory minicamp, Sulak wasn’t lining up as a linebacker, but as an end. I reminded Cable that he’d said Sulak was going to play linebacker, and if the plan was to give him some reps there as well to see where he’d best fit in.
“Yes,” Cable said.
One-word answers are no big deal, but they’re rare in the offseason. Coaches normally go out of their way to elaborate with something along the lines of, “We just wanted to see where he was at as an end, but we really like his motor and think he has the capability to do both.”
Since only one of every three OTA sessions are open to the media, it’s impossible to know if Sulak got in much time as a linebacker. He was strictly an end on media days, and a virtually invisible one at that.
Assuming there is no story behind the story, like the time a Raiders draft pick never made it to camp after he got pulled over with a bundle of weed in his trunk, it’s pretty clear all the team’s due diligence and their plan failed with regard to Stryker Sulak.
They saw he wouldn’t be a factor at linebacker and was a slender rush end. They signed Greg Ellis, weren’t going to be able to trade Derrick Burgess and made a sixth-round score the previous year in Trevor Scott. Sulak would make four ends on the 53-man roster who have issues defending the run on a team which desperately needs to shore up in that area.
They looked at third-round pick Matt Shaughnessy, Derrick Gray, Greyson Gunheim and even undrafted rookie free agent Desmond Bryant and couldn’t see Sulak making the roster.
So they simply wrote off Sulak rather than pay him a bonus in the $80,000 to $90,000 range just to sign a contract when they knew he probably wouldn’t make the practice squad.
Better to admit the mistake now than write a check just to defend the honor of a draft pick. If Sulak becomes a player somewhere else, then the the person who pushed for the Sulak selection can feel pretty good and the one who decided he couldn’t play (unless it’s Al Davis) can start preparing his resume.
But when you take a look at the history of sixth-round draft picks over the years, that’s not the way to bet.
They nailed the Scott pick in 2008, whiffed on Sulak in 2009. Going 1-for-2 on sixth-round ends is still above average.
The most troublesome aspect of the Keith Davis move is that the veteran couldn’t move aside Michael Huff in the pecking order. They’re putting a lot on the shoulders of Tyvon Branch and Mike Mitchell, two explosive but inexperienced talents with injury issues in their admittedly short histories.
REPORTING DATE MOVED UP
The Raiders are scheduled to report to camp on July 28, and not the 29th, as previously reported. Their first practice is still scheduled for July 30, however. July 29 will be entirely made up of meetings with no practice.