The draft is coming fast, and the Oakland Raiders hold the eighth overall pick. This is the time of year where every wanna-be Mel Kiper, Jr puts on their helmet hair and mocks the draft with their own picks.
Of course, when it comes to mocking the Raiders first round draft choice, there are a multitude of ‘truisms’ as to how Davis picks that appear year after year. Some of these truisms are but urban legends, or indicative of one move. So, in the spirit of the Discovery Channel show Mythbusters (With which he have zero affiliation, please don’t sue us) I am going to put the urban legends surrounding the Raiders drafting to the test.
So, as Adam and Jamie would say, “This is extremely dangerous, under no circumstances should you try this at home.” (This warning had to be affixed after the near breakdown I suffered when looking back at the past drafting. The doc had never seen someone randomly screaming “BUST” before.)
So, now that the legalese is out of the way, here are the myths of the Raiders drafts put to the test.
The first one “Al will just draft a kicker in the first round” is thrown around quite a bit as a pejorative. Twice, Davis has drafted a kicker in the first round. The first was in 1973 when the Raiders used the 23rd pick (out of 26 selections) on punter Ray Guy out of SMU. Guy would go on to have a Hall of Fame caliber career. In 2000 Davis selected kicker Sebastian Janikowski out of Florida State with the 17th pick. Whilst Janikowski hasn’t been singularly dominant as Guy was, in the context of the time, his pick made perfect sense. The Raiders had lost multiple games the previous year due to missed field goals and Janikowski was expected to be the best kicker to come out of college in years.
Everyone from Mel himself down to would-be draftniks on every message board repeat the sentence “Al Davis covets speed” like they had received the word on stone tablets handed down from the mountain. Davis has updated from the chisel and stone of his youth to a quill, but that is beside the point. Davis does like speed, and in positions like corner and receiver he overvalues the 40 time. He has overvalued speed going back to his time as a line coach at The Citadel. It was there he adopted the philosophy of “Racehorse football” where the team would run to the line and start the next play before the other team had a chance to snap the ball. His love of speed only blossomed whilst he was working under Sid Gillman in San Diego and became an adherent of Gillman’s “Horizontal offense” which Davis converted into his famed “Vertical game.” Davis drafted Darrius Heyward-Bey with the seventh over all pick over more polished receivers due to his speed.
The Raiders will always go for a reach. Looking back at the last five years the Raiders have selected 7th, 4th, 1st, 7th, and 7th (traded) 23 (selected). With those picks the Raiders selected Darrius Heyward-Bey, Darren McFadden, JaMarcus Russell, Michael Huff, (Randy Moss in the trade), and Fabian Washington. Thus far, none of the players selected came close to their expectations. However, at the time of their selection, only Darrius Heyward-Bey was considered a reach. DHB was considered at best a last first round selection, but the Raiders took him at number seven. Darren McFadden was expected to be a top five pick and the best running back of his draft class. JaMarcus Russell was slightly overvalued because it was a weak quarterback class in 2007, but he was at the top of everybody’s draft boards. The biggest knock on the selection of Huff was that Matt Leinart and Jay Cutler were both on the board. Huff was expected to be the first DB taken. Washington was selected with the 23rd pick after the Raiders traded back into the first round. Sports Illustrated had him pegged as a late first round pick, so he went right around where he was expected to go. The picks may not have worked out, but four out of five of them were picked right where they were expected to go.
Out of three of the urban legends regarding the Raiders, two of them turn up false under the light of truth. This doesn’t mean that people won’t be throwing around the idea that Davis will draft the kicker with the best 40 time. The Raiders will select players from the same pool of NCAA talent as the other 31 teams come draft weekend, how they play out from there will be the question.