Fifth in a series analyzing potential draft picks for the Raiders, who select No. 8 in the first round on April 22:
Position: Inside linebacker
Height, weight: 6-4, 249
Why it’s McClain: In a recent L.A. Times mock draft, I took Maryland tackle Bruce Campbell because I believe there’s a 50-50 chance that’s who the Raiders will take if Russell Okung and Trent Williams are off the board _ as was the case in that draft. On an upcoming Comcast Bay Area draft show, selecting who I think the Raiders should draft, the pick was McClain. The Butkus Award winner, McClain was the best defender on the nation’s top defensive team and a big reason why Alabama gave up only 68.2 yards per game on the ground. Not only can McClain tackle, but he’s a first-to-the-ball defender in part because of instinct, and also because he has been described by some as having the top football IQ of any player in the entire draft. The Raiders need a talented film junkie planted right in the middle of their defense _ and pay no mind to the fact that he played in a 3-4 and not a 4-3. McClain is smart enough to learn the angles and responsibility quickly. If there’s a chance McClain is a Ray Lewis-Kevin Willis type defender, they’ll kick themselves for passing him up.
Correction: It’s Patrick Willis, of course, not Kevin Willis. For those of you keeping track, that’s at least the third time I’ve made that mistake since Willis joined the 49ers).
Why it’s not McClain: Detractors think McClain cleaned up at Alabama in part because he had mountainous 350-plus pound Terrance Cody in front of him at nose tackle. While not slow by any stretch, McClain doesn’t exactly have “Raider speed” either. When it comes to taking linebackers, the Raiders have a longstanding tradition of waiting until after the first round. Al Davis has picked linebackers in the first round only twice _ Napoleon Harris at No. 23 overall in 2002 (Phillip Buchanon was the No. 17 pick earlier in that round) and Rob Fredrickson was the No. 22 selection in the first round in 1994. The Raiders philosophy on paying linebackers is that they’d rather spend money on corners since linebackers are often off the field after one or two downs anyway. The No. 8 pick would be far more than the Raiders usually pay for the position. Medically, McClain has battled Crohn’s Disease, although it has had no discernible effect on his ability to practice and play.
Quotable: I love Ray Lewis. I like the way he plays the game. He’s one of the best to ever play linebacker. Not just his play, but the way he’s able to get the guys up. He’s inspirational and he’s a real leader. That’s why I pride myself after him.”