>\n\nWorst to First: 7. Oakland Raiders \n\n\n\n

Worst to First: 7. Oakland Raiders

Written by Ben Morgan on 04/14/2009

There's a couple of teams in Football where the Owner doubles up as the GM. Both teams over the years have been very successful. Just not recently. All I know is if an employee made the decisions Al Davis makes, he'd get fired. It's high time for Davis to fire himself from the GM slot and take up that luxury box in the sky. The one at the top of the Oakland Colisseum I mean, damn, I'm not that cold! They have some of the most passionate (read bat s%^* crazy) fans in the league and they deserve better than this. Davis' best draft pick the last few years has probably been Nnamdi Asomugha, I'd say he's arguably the best CB in the league but I don't think there's even an argument and it was great to see him finally get his dues, in Hawaii and in his bank account. There's precious few other Pro Bowl calibre players on the Raiders squad right now though. They Zone Block on the OL and in 2007 it worked pretty well. 2008 didn't go so well but when your passing game is as weak as theirs was, opposing teams have a tendency to stack the box against you, and they still finished 10th in rushing. There are a lot of things to fix in Oakland and it won't happen overnight. Hell it probably won't happen at all. Just for the fun of it though we can take a look at what they've done in the offseason  then pretend like we might have some inkling about who the Oakland Raiders pick in the draft. I don't know, Raiders fans don't know, hell Al Davis probably doesn't know. If by any chance Al reads this, Al, you own one of the greatest franchises in football. Be happy just to be it's owner and get yourself a fresh, talented pair of eyes to run the football side! The truly shocking thing is this team might not be far off the playoffs. Which is not to say they're any good, but have you seen the division they're in? Denver, San Diego, Kansas City... 7-9 probably wins that division next season. While most fans would take the playoffs, Raiders fans, with that legacy, demand something more than the playoffs by the backdoor.

2009 Free Agent Losses
2009 Free Agent additions
Rashad Baker DB (Eagles, UFA), Jake Grove C (Dolphins, UFA),  
Khalif Barnes OT (Jaguars), Jeff Garcia QB (Buccaneers), Erik Pears OT (Broncos), Marcus Johnson OL (Vikings), Samson Satele C (Dolphins via trade)
2009 Unsigned Free Agents
2010 Potential Free Agents
Drew Carter WR (UFA), Ronald Curry (cut), Justin Griffith FB (cut), Kwame Harris OT (cut), William Joseph DT (UFA), Ashley Lelie WR (UFA), Marques Tuisapopo QB (UFA), Sam Williams LB (UFA)
Jeff Garcia QB, Andrew Walter QB, Luke Lawton FB, Khalif Barnes OT, Derrick Burgess DE, Kirk Morrison LB, Thomas Howard LB, Sebastien Janikowski K, Hiram Eugene S (2009 RFA), Ricky Brown LB (2009 RFA), Jon Alston (2009 RFA)

Roster Breakdown
Quarterbacks Major Need
Well the Raiders may have finally found themselves an NFL QB. Sadly he's only a couple of years younger than Yoda. Worse still he might not get the starting gig. Bummer for Garcia. I expect he'll end up starting at some point this season. Probably at the point when the latest Head Coach (it's not even worth looking up his name, let's be honest) feels like his job is on the line. It's still possible JaMarcus Russell might have the light switch on but he's really shown absolutely no sign of it yet. Obviously poor WR play factors into that as well and Russell does have a big time arm but that appears to be the only thing that is big time so far. With Garcia only on a one year deal, Andrew Walter and Bruce Gradkowski under those 2 QB should be on the radar, playing under Garcia for a year would probably benefit Russell hugely but it seems more likely Crazy Al will insist on throwing Russell to the wolves again.

Runningbacks No Need
Darren McFadden was the latest Top 10 draft pick to not really show what people thought he would. Al Davis saw the next Adrian Peterson, I thought Reggie Bush was a better comparison. Reggie's definitely found a damn good niche in the NFL. McFadden hasn't found that yet but I think he can be really explosive in a complimentary role. The Raiders look pretty deep here, they have Michael Bush (the recent victim of trade rumours) and Justin Fargas. I've seen people refer to Fargas as the 3rd best back in Oakland and talentwise that may be true. What I see when I watch Fargas though is someone who's figured out how to run in a zone blocking scheme. Make a decision, cut and go straight. He's very effective and until the other 2 figure out the same thing Fargas should be the starter. This isn't a position they're going to look at in the draft unless the trade or cut Fargas (very unlikely) or trade Bush which also seems unlikely now. If they can improve the OL in front of them this looks like a good backfield though it's highly likely none of them finish with over 1000 yards this coming year .

Wide Receivers
Major Need
Most ranked College teams have better WRs than the Raiders do. OK maybe that's an exaggeration but it's not a huge one. Javon Walker is the number 1. The rate his career has gone backwards he's pretty much Walker by name and Walker by nature these days. He'll probably stick around this year, he'll probably even start but he shouldn't. On the plus side they have at least restructured his ridiculous $55m contract to something a bit closer to his talent level. Ronald Curry is gone which normally wouldn't be a huge loss but he'd probably still be the best WR for Oakland. Johnnie Lee Higgins rounded out the season really nicely, he's a genuine threat in multiple facets of the game but he's no Steve Smith. Chaz Schilens, like Higgins rounded out the season pretty well. He's a big guy with some deep ability. That could become a great mixture for big armed but not particularly accurate JaMarcus Russell but he was only a 7th round draft pick last year. Arman Shields was a 4th rounder last year too but he did nothing as a rookie. They're drafting in a good position for a shot at Michael Crabtree and he'd be an excellent guy to get. A lot of smart draft experts are tipping the Raiders to pick Mizzou's Jeremy Maclin. Maclin is crazy quick and has been a very productive guy in college but you may notice Curt compares him more to Reggie Bush. I'd argue they may already have that guy on their roster in Darren McFadden. I'd have to say Crabtree would be the better pick but Maclin is a great athlete and there'll probably be no shortage of big plays in Oakland regardless of which one they might pick.

Tight Ends
No Need
Zach Miller is the best receiver on the team. By a comfortable distance. In another situation he'd probably be putting up Top TE numbers. There's nothing to worry about here except how do you get him the ball in the redzone more often. Tony Stewart's the number 2. In line with most teams he's the blocker but he made almost as many catches as Javon Walker last year so he's not exactly a dead loss in the passing game either. This is not a situation to worry about.

Offensive Line
Minimal Need
Kwame Harris had a rough year at LT and he's been given the push. In comes Khalif Barnes, he's more the unfulfilled potential type at this point but he could still be very good. Right now he's equivalent to making a pick on a really promising OT in the draft so in effect I'd say the Raiders have saved themselves a pick in this draft. They lost Jake Grove to Miami but traded for the player Grove will replace Samson Satele. The knock on Satele in Miami was that he struggled to match up to the number of NTs on Miami's schedule. He did struggle some for sure. The bad news for Oakland is that thanks to Denver and KC switching to the 3-4, he'll face NTs at least 6 times just in the division, and I count 11 times overall. Ouch, might be a tough year for Satele. They've actually made what I'd say were some good moves in free agency on the OL. In addition to Barnes and Satele they've dragged in Erik Pears from Denver, he missed last season due to an emergency appendectomy but started 26 games his first 2 years in the league. Denver has always produced good zone blocking guys and you have to figure Pears could slot straight in. Marcus Johnson comes in from Minnesota. He was a 2005 second rounder, just like Khalif Barnes. The adjustment might be a little longer for those 2 but they certainly had talent coming out of college. With Pears being 26, Barnes 26, Satele 24, the returning Mario Henderson only 24 and Johnson 27 this has the makings of a good OL, especially as Guards Robert Gallery and Cooper Carlisle also return. They've brought in some players with question marks but every draft pick is a questoin mark as well. These guys are all young and I think the Raiders have done enough to warrant spending their early picks elsewhere until they've seen what these guys can actually offer.
Defensive Tackle
Major Need
Prior to the 2008 season the Raiders signed Tommy Kelly to a 7 year $50m deal. To put that in context, the Defensive Player of the year just signed a 6 year one for the same money. Tommy Kelly has never been close to being DPoY. He didn't even have a good year. In fairness he was coming off ACL surgery and had put on weight during the rehab. He should be back to full strength this year but he's never really done anything to justify that price tag. Yeah, another bad contract dished out by Al. Gerard Warren is another first round bust, at least Al didn't draft him, that was Cleveland's fault. There is a ton of talent somewhere deep inside those 2 but it's never really materialised and yet between them they're on nearly $90m. Terdell Sands hasn't been great, he's supposed to be something of a run stuffer but the Raiders were 31st against the run last year. When your job's going that badly, punching your punter in the face is not the smartest move. This makes B.J. Raji look a really sensible pick at #7. When do you ever hear the words sensible and Raiders in the same sentence? Nah never. Maybe Ron Brace in round 2 instead?


Defensive End
Major Need
Derrick Burgess has been a force in the past and played hurt for some games before missing a few more. They could sure use him being back to his best but rumours abound that he's being shopped for picks. Behind Burgess I'd describe Jay Richardson as "blah" but second year player Trevor Scott has some promise and I think could work his way into the starting lineup this year even if Burgess stays. There not much else to say here except they must improve their pass rush from somewhere. A healthy Burgess playing for a contract would be nice. I'd be looking for something in this draft as well though. Using the second rounder on Michael Johnson (an athletic freak) would be Davislike. Johnson has major boom or bust potential but he has some scary athletic talent and size coaches dream about.

Linebackers Major Need
It's tempting to look at the Raiders LBs and not see much of a problem. I mean they have 2 really good players in Thomas Howard and Kirk Morrison. Really good. Take a little deeper look though and they have 3 or 4 other guys, Ekubijah, Ricky Brown, Sam Williams and Jon Alston, all of whom are probably better suited as special teamers. Ok that's not so good then. It gets worse when you notice both Morrison, Brown and Howard, all 2 current starters, are about to hit free agency in 2010. Damn! 12 months from now this situation could look desperate. If both Howard and Morrison make it to free agency it's highly unlikely both of them will be back. Were it not for glaring needs elsewhere this would be a great time to grab Aaron Curry. Who probably won't fall to you. Second round? Maybe James Laurinaitus falls to you. That would be a nice pick. Picks are probably better spent on that chronically underachieving Defensive Line and that woeful as WR Corps though. I'll chuck in Scott McKillop of Pitt and Jasper Brinkley of S Carolina as later round options. Not that they'd necessarily be a great fit for Oakland, it's just that both test very highly for the triangle numbers and good triangle numbers work better on Al than Viagra.

Cornerback No Need
We've already mentioned Asomugha, the guy so good you never hear his name called for which commentators are thankful. QBs also rarely pass his way, for which his teammates may not be so thankful. If you're the #2 CB in Oakland, it doesn't matter how good you are, QBs are going to pick on you because your name isn't Asomuhagaghhaha. DeAngelo Hall fell victim to it and he wasn't the first. I think most people were surprised then, when a guy who was almost Mr Irrelevant back in 2003, Chris Johnson (the other one) took over the starting job and did as good a job (3INT 12PD) opposite Asomugha as anyone ever has. Score one for Al Davis. Nice find. With Stanford Routt and Justin Miller providing some good depth this is a position to forget about til next season.

Safety Major Need
Michael Huff has been a bust so far, I mean though, when a good player like Gibril Wilson can come in and look so poor in Oakland you probably need to look higher up the field for the issues. Or possibly on the sidelines. So it could be Huff still has something to offer. They tentatively have Ty Branch in at Strong Safety and seem very keen on him as a player, there's one wacky rumour about the Raiders drafting Malcolm Jenkins at #7 and putting him at FS. I said it's wacky, so it'll probably happen in Oakland but you'd figure the Raiders would have figured out that drafting a Safety at #7 is a poor idea after Huff. Safety is a clear need though, the other guy is Hiram Eugene, maybe in the second round? Sean Smith and Louis Delmas may be around by the 40th pick .

Specialists No Need

Lechler is Oakland's only other Pro Bowl calibre guy. He's, I think anyway, the best punter in the league. He gets plenty of practice. He was due for free agency but rather than franchise tag him he got a big time 4 year deal. And a punch in the face from Terdell Sands. You do have to worry about his speed if he can't avoid a punch from a 350lb guy though. Seabass still has a big time leg but I assume the new coach won't be asking him to try from 76 yards again. No need to upgrade anything here, this is arguably the strongest spot on the team.

Return Game
Minimal Need
Justin Miller and Johnnie Lee Higgins are 2 of the better returners in the game. Most teams out there will envy Oaklands special teams.

Dream Day One

1.7 Michael Crabtree WR Texas Tech
2.40 Ron Brace DT Boston College

Player Visits
Phil Loadholt OT Oklahoma
Darius Heyward-Bey WR Maryland
Chris O'Neill TE Boise State

Jamon Meredith OT S Carolina
 Zach Follett LB California
Jason Williams LB W Illinois

Chip Vaughn S Wake Forest
Michael Mitchell S Ohio


Last Edited: 04/14/2009

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