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Measuring heart as well as speed, size

By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Sunday, May 1st, 2011 at 10:47 am in Oakland Raiders.

After letting the three-day draft marinate for several hours, here’s what I come up with concerning the Raiders’ Class of 2011:

The most important adjustment Al Davis has made the past two years is in heeding information about a player’s desire and level of commitment to go along with the physical attributes that will always be a big part of the way he selects players.

Davis still wants the Raiders to look good coming off the bus. It’s just that now he wants them to look good while carrying their playbooks.

The Raiders will still miss on occasion, something that happens to every team in the NFL. But at least they’ll miss on someone who appears to care. Say what you want about 2009 first-round pick Darrius Heyward-Bey and second-round selection Mike Mitchell, but any failure to become a frontline NFL player won’t be because they were lacking in desire.

It seemed to be a common theme among this year’s class, from center Stefen Wisniewski right on through receiver David Ausberry _ the talent to contribute and a willingness to work for it. Cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke, tackle Joe Barksdale and running back Taiwan Jones, as well as Wiz II, all had an appealing humbleness about them that indicated they were taking their team and their sport very seriously. The same goes for cornerback Chimdi Chekwa, available by conference call.

It was a trait that ran through last year’s celebrated draft class as well. Middle linebacker Rolando McClain could be a bit quirky, but there seemed to be no doubting his willingness to learn and grow in the mental part of the game. Lemarr Houston, Jared Veldheer, Jacoby Ford, Bruce Campbell, Walter McFadden, Travis Goethel, Jeremy Ware, Stevie Brown . . . all appeared to have a grasp on the challenge ahead as it pertained to work ethic and attitude.

That hasn’t always been the case. Maybe it was the legendary indifference of JaMarcus Russell that caused this shift in philosophy, but there were plenty of examples preceding Russell.

Fabian Washington, the first-round pick in 2005, admitted after being traded to Baltimore he was immature and didn’t grasp the concept of being a professional in Oakland.

Going back to 2002 and 2003, I can think of three players who weren’t bad guys but came to the Raiders and conducted themselves as if they had everything figured out _ tight end Teyo Johnson (2003), cornerback Phillip Buchanon (2002) and linebacker Napoleon Harris (2002), the latter two first-round draft picks.

Second-overall pick Darrell Russell arrived in 1997 with a reputation of taking plays off and not being entirely serious about his profession. They got a couple of Pro Bowl years out of Russell, but if a Russell-like player came out now, you wonder if the Raiders would take a pass.

The Raiders traded up twice in 1996 to take tight end Rickey Dudley, who caught 29 touchdown passes in five seasons but never achieved the stardom his skill set seemed to warrant. Dudley wasn’t a head case or a slacker. But after doing a profile on him dating back to his days in high school, it was clear Dudley’s first love was basketball and he admitted as much.

Dudley liked football and appreciated the opportunity, but he loved basketball. It was his passion.

I asked Hue Jackson if there were players taken off the board regardless of their skill set based on red flags gathered through an interview or research.

“There’s no question,” Jackson said. “Obviously the measureables are important. We want the guy to be as big as he can be, as agile as he can be, as fast as he can be. But at the end of the day, he’s got to want to play football. And that’s what it comes down to.

“You’ve got to like the toughness, the physical nature of this sport, and if you don’t do that, you can’t be successful in this league.”

Is combine flash Van Dyke a reach in the third round? Perhaps. He’s alarmingly thin as well, with legs that look like pencils. Rod Woodson signed off on him, however, and that should count for something.

Taiwan Jones, the fourth-round pick, also comes off as earnest and sincere. He’ll be fine about his role and isn’t going to be demanding the ball any time soon. Considering Darren McFadden’s injury history and Jackson’s love for running the ball, Jones could come along sooner than expected.

As for physical “freaks” such as tight end Richard Gordon and Ausberry, taking a calculated risk on a superior athlete is simply the Raider way. The difference is now they’re taking a closer look at the heart to go along with the body.

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  • http://0 Bob Marley

    neilb Says:
    May 2nd, 2011 at 6:30 am

    Bob…

    I can’t help but think that the influence of Rod Woodson is going to make every rating before the draft irrelevant.
    ——————————————-

    Hey Neil..

    Yeah, those kids better pay attention to what Rod has to say and Kevin Ross too, he used to be a nice player himself.

  • http://www.safc.com/page/StadiumofLightDetail/0,,10281~1706060,00.html neilb

    2006 draft…..

    Huff
    Howard
    McQuistan
    Bing
    Boothe
    Moore
    McMahan

    Wonder what was said about this bunch.

  • http://0 Bob Marley

    I read yesterday that some people have compared the 6’1 176 Van Dyke to Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who goes 6’2 180 with 4.29 speed, but they did said it was an optimistic view, he obviously has some work to do before he reaches DRC’s level.

  • DIRT-LOT FOOTBALL

    PROBABLY SAME AS THE OTHERS NEILB,1/2 LOVED THE 2006 DRAFT , OTHER 1/2 HATED IT..

  • hwnrdr

    neilb Says:
    May 2nd, 2011 at 6:43 am
    2006 draft…..

    Huff
    Howard
    McQuistan
    Bing
    Boothe
    Moore
    McMahan

    Wonder what was said about this bunch.

    Or what we have said…If Huffy goes, that leaves Howard left on that team from this draft!

  • http://0 Bob Marley

    2006..

    Huff, took some time but he developed, a logical pick, praised at the time by pundits.
    Howard, rookie starter played well for 3 years, phased out, can still be fine cover LB for nickel-dime packages, probably for other team.
    McQ, played early, no impact.
    Bing, sucked.
    Boothe, key backup for NYG, too bad he didn’t fit Cable’s scheme, we could use him now for depth and maybe he’d start here at RG.

  • Carl Weathers

    Good morning,

    This should put a smile on your face! Here’s a quote after the Broncos started 6-0 in 2009:

    Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but you have to be crazy not to buy in to McDaniels’ system. This is one head coach who you can bet will be spending a very long time coaching in the NFL.

    Posted by Daniel Whittle @ 30 October 2009

    Mwahahahahahhahahahahahahahaahaha!!!

  • Bauce Rules

    It is amazing some of the football takes i read on this site but even worse is people celebrating this phony Bin Laden thing. Guys the US never killed Osama. How dumb can you guys be? More embarrassing was the idiots in philly last nite. People in the USA fell for the lie AGAIN lol. Ten years guys….ten fkin years and yall just dont see it. sad day

  • http://www.actionext.com/playlist_57486.html La Milicia Negra

    Many here said Bing was the best thing since whipped cream on a can…

    he, clearly was a wasted pick..

  • Carl Weathers

    Bauce Rules Says:
    May 2nd, 2011 at 7:20 am
    It is amazing some of the football takes i read on this site but even worse is people celebrating this phony Bin Laden thing. Guys the US never killed Osama. How dumb can you guys be? More embarrassing was the idiots in philly last nite. People in the USA fell for the lie AGAIN lol. Ten years guys….ten fkin years and yall just dont see it. sad day

    ***********

    Can you think of a better way to take peoples focus off the sinking dollar/ economy?

  • Bauce Rules

    For heaven’s sake…..you were lied to about the reason for each war, JFK,Malcolm,MLKJr, RFK, 9/11, Phony Video of Osama’s confession, 2000 fraud election and now this. Sad US citizens like to be played

  • Bauce Rules

    Apollo Creed, yeah exactly its called slight of hand and the US has done this before. People dont read nor do they see thru this jaded world

  • Bauce Rules

    We have lost many American lives in pursuit of this ghost. We have lost billions of dollars and risked our children’s future to go murder innocent people in a war they dont plan to end. Yet morons are celebrating. How does the so called death of an old man change our situation here at home?

  • Bauce Rules

    Yeah hope and change now has something to hang his hat on and can have a grace period for his failed administration

  • Bauce Rules

    Anyways enough of poliTRICKS…..on to Raider football

  • YoungAmerican

    I’ll give DVD credit for one thing, he’s a very smooth athlete. Not just straight-line speed, but moves with fluidity. Can change direction quickly. That definitely isn’t a characteristic many of Al’s project DBs have had.

    Now, let’s see if DVD has the football instincts necessary to be a starter, or even a solid role player in the NFL.

  • Bauce Rules

    YA……possibly. He will get many snaps on defense this year

  • Silverandblack666

    did you just quote a Rocky movie?

  • Silverandblack666

    Bauce Rules

    Why the bitter attitude this morning?

    New players in our roster and maybe we will have football this year after all.

  • phatcable

    Bauce Rules Says:
    May 2nd, 2011 at 7:20 am
    It is amazing some of the football takes i read on this site but even worse is people celebrating this phony Bin Laden thing. Guys the US never killed Osama. How dumb can you guys be? More embarrassing was the idiots in philly last nite. People in the USA fell for the lie AGAIN lol. Ten years guys….ten fkin years and yall just dont see it. sad day

    …………..then who is the guy bobbin up and down in the ocean wearing a turbin?

  • YoungAmerican

    Cat Stevens.

  • hwnrdr

    YoungAmerican Says:
    May 2nd, 2011 at 7:54 am
    Cat Stevens.

    LMAO!

  • http://www.pro-football-reference.com/ KoolKell

    Mission Accomplished!

  • Silverandblack666

    Mission Accomplished!

    This is how Al Davis feels after drafting the top three 40 yard dash times at the combine.

  • http://www.pro-football-reference.com/ KoolKell

    O-Bama got O-Sama.

  • CJ Legend 34

    ********Chimdi is NOT just a speed guy!*********
    I keep hearing Oakland only drats for speed and that is only half the picture with this guy. Chimdi Chekwa was one of my favorite players at OSU. He has upside and is not just another speedster he will put his nose in there and make a hit. He really does a good job of playing the deep ball. He broke his wrist making a big break up to help win the Arkansas game.

    He also works hard and stays out of trouble. This is NOT another speedster only. This is a good prospect who I could see playing in our system.

  • YoungAmerican

    I think if you switched the Chekwa and VanDyke picks, the draft would have made a lot more sense from a value standpoint.

    Still would have liked to see Curtis Marsh, Curtis Brown, or Davon House in place of both those picks, but that’s just me. I’m not going to complain too much because in this draft there wasn’t much separation between the mid/late-round DBs anyway, and DVD and Chekwa appear to be hard working kids with considerable upside.

    I’m just glad Rod Woodson is around to coach up these guys. It’ll be interesting to see if either is capable of making an immediate impact.

  • CJ Legend 34

    In addition, if you are a corner playing in our system you have to be fast. Safety can be a step slow but a corner? Come on man, get real!

    This was a weak draft and I am glad we did not move up in the draft.

    Mostly I don’t get our drafts but it made since to me taking the picks that were available when they did. Not to sure about the TE from Miami pick.

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  • ohioraider

    261.Bauce Rules Says:
    May 2nd, 2011 at 7:24 am
    For heaven’s sake…..you were lied to about the reason for each war, JFK,Malcolm,MLKJr, RFK, 9/11, Phony Video of Osama’s confession, 2000 fraud election and now this. Sad US citizens like to be played
    ———————————-
    Dude, why don’t you climb back into whatever bunker you got brainwashed in idiot. FU.

  • Bauce Rules

    OhioRaider you are another typical idiot who believes any lie they throw to you. Quite obvious you dont think for yourself. You take things at face value and the powers that be love it

  • Bauce Rules

    PhatCable you dummy….you know how many people wear turbins? Damn sure wasnt bin laden

  • Bauce Rules

    KoolKell now its mission accomplished? LOL you are sad

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