Saturday, April 28, 2007

It's Getting Drafty

As expected, the Raiders picked LSU QB Jamarcus Russell #1. There was some idle speculation about them possibly taking WR Calvin Johnson instead, and considering Johnson's phenomenal athletic stats (6'5", ran a 4.35 40 in borrowed shoes), it would have been understandable.

But without someone to throw to him, Johnson would have simply been a high-priced band-aid on a hopelessly floundering team. And Oakland has to serious about getting their o-line together in a major, major way, or they'll just be paying Russell $30 million to serve as a tackling dummy, and wreck yet another quarterback's career. There is no reason Oakland shouldn't have won at least eight or nine games with Aaron Brooks, or even Kerry Collins, except their chronic o-line problems.

It's easy to dump on the #2 pick from a few years ago, Robert Gallery, who has been little more than a turnstile on this line, after never surrendering a single sack in his entire collegiate career at Iowa. Having four line coaches in three seasons, and being shuttled back and forth from right to left tackle will do that. And clearly last season showed that Art Shell and Jackie Slater thought they were still dealing with Deacon Jones or something, and were totally unprepared for the array of zone blitzes and line stunts that are standard repertoire for NFL defenses these days.

This year, they are incorporating a variant of the leveraged zone-blocking scheme used by Denver's o-line, one of the league's dirtiest. Anything's gotta be better than what they had last year, an ineffectual, demoralized sack of crap.

Two big draft surprises so far -- that Detroit had the balls to step up and take Johnson, after their notorious WR flameouts the last few years, and that Brady Quinn has already fallen this far. (As of this post, Houston has picked at #10, Quinn is still available, and San Francisco is not going to pick him. So best-case scenario as of now is that Buffalo might take him at #12, which is surprising considering that Quinn is probably as ready as anyone in this draft to start in a pro offense. In fact, if neither the Bills nor Rams (#13) take Quinn, he would probably fall to either Kansas City (#23) or Baltimore (#29), and then out of the first round altogether. Weird, wild stuff.)

[Update 4/29 10:15 AM PDT: Well, I was close on Quinn; Cleveland traded next year's 1st-round pick for Dallas' pick, swept in and got Quinn at #22, saving themselves millions from what they would have paid for him at #3. Nicely done.

As for the Raiders, when I saw that their 2nd-round pick was a tight end, a guy whose CV touts him as the next Todd Heap, I wondered what the hell they were smoking. After all, they picked up two free-agent TEs in the off-season, and they have respectable players in that position as it is. And their redesigned offense is going to be more of a 3WR set, meaning that the TE will mostly be used in jumbo formations, and primarily for blocking rather than pass-catching. And they passed on USC star WR Dwayne Jarrett (who new Raider coach Lane Kiffin worked with in college) to get this guy. So what the hell?

The Raiders dealt their second 4th-round pick to Detroit for backup QB Josh McCown (whom they briefly courted last year in the FA market) and WR Mike Williams, another USC product of Kiffin's who has underachieved thus far, but whom Kiffin apparently feels can be rehabilitated. Hopefully; Williams has great size and good hands, but is not terribly fast and has the rep of being a bad route-runner.

And they got rid of Randy Moss, to the Pats, for a measly 4th-round pick. It's a testament to just how much Kiffin felt he would not be able to work with Moss, who never balked from insistence on being traded. The Raiders held out as long as they could for a 2nd-round pick for Moss, but no one was ever going kick that down for a malcontent, albeit a tremendously talented one, who plays when he feels like it. Ah well, he's Belichick's headache now.]

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