Looking at scouting reports for the Oakland Raiders 2009 draft picks shows a common theme among them: High motor, leadership qualities, and hard working. Tom Cable went into this draft with a plan, and probably came away pretty happy with the overall product. There are a lot of “blue collar” players in this group with something to prove. Let’s analyze them by round:
Round 1: Darrius Heyward-Bey – WR – Maryland
Mike Lombardi, Mike Mayock, and others can pat themselves on the back for having this one right, but their analysis may have been incomplete. While they relied solely on the fact DHB was the fastest receiver available, Tom Cable also stressed the fact that DHB came from a pro-style offense, which makes him more NFL ready than Michael Crabtree or Jeremy Maclin. The talking heads are criticizing the “long ball” attitude of the Raiders, but speed kills anyway you use it, so DHB should get plenty of opportunities to use those wheels for some serious YAC on shorter routes as well. I understand he may not be the most popular pick here, but for now I trust Cable and the rest of the scouting department that he’s what the Raiders needed. I do believe Cable when he says DHB makes the guys around him better – he’s going to open spaces in defenses simply because someone is going to have to try and keep up with him, and if they don’t JRuss will absolutely bomb it over their heads for 6. I’m guessing the Raiders were hoping Mark Sanchez fell to them so they could trade down and still get DHB, but once the trade occurred in front of them there wasn’t really any hope of doing that. Risky pick, but what else would you expect from the Raiders?
Round 2: Mike Mitchell – S – Ohio
Coming into this weekend I thought the Raiders had Chip Vaughn as the #1 safety on their board and targeted him in the 3rd round. I also believed that Mike Mitchell was “plan B” in case Vaughn was gone. Turns out I had it backwards. Mitchell shot up draft boards in the 3 weeks leading up to this weekend, showing off his versatility with his ability to cover as well as lay the wood in the box. The talking heads ate some serious crow after panning us only to later find out both the Bears and Cowboys were also targeting Mitchell late in the 2nd round. Mitchell will immediately push for starting time in the Raiders’ secondary, and will likely just be called “safety” rather than SS or FS, simply because he can do both. The Raiders are stockpiling such players with Mitchell, Branch, and Huff (who hopefully can get things turned around this season). Awesome pick as far as I’m concerned.
Round 3: Matt Shaughnessy – DE – Wisconsin
I’ll admit this one may have been a bit more of a “reach” than Mitchell, but an OK pick nonetheless. He’s very athletic, has a high motor, and is a very hard worker. On top of that, he was fairly productive despite dealing with injuries during his college career. In his Day 2 Q&A Coach Cable described him as a mid-point between Trevor Scott and Jay Richardson. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that if he doesn’t fall flat on his face in training camp he’ll be the Raiders’ base RDE. You’ll remember the Raiders drafted Richardson in the 5th round in ’07 to be a base LDE who could be stout against the run and provide some pass rush. While the Raiders run defense has struggled in general, Richardson has held up his part of the bargain. The Raiders may now have their base RDE to pair with Richardson in Shaughnessy to try to help out the run defense while not sacrificing too much on the pass rush.
Round 4: Louis Murphy – WR – Florida
Cue the “Happy Trails” PTI segment for Todd Watkins and Jonathan Holland. Part of Tom Cable’s draft plan was to upgrade the receiving corp of the Raiders. According to him, adding DHB and Louis Murphy did so “dramatically”. Cable defies his own logic on DHB to take a receiver out of a spread offense, then justifies it by saying Murphy was always an outside receiver for the Gators, making the transition easier. Murphy graded higher than a 4th round pick for a lot of people, so a value pick here, even if it did mean passing on guys like Lawrence Sidbury and Jasper Brinkley (tear). Look for a WR corp. of Walker, DHB, JLH, Schilens, Murphy and Shields for the 2009 Raiders.
Round 4: Slade Norris – OLB – Oregon State
Another blue collar, hard working, non-stop motor pick from Tom Cable and Al Davis. Norris was a walk on at Oregon State and started his career as a safety. He bulked up and became a LB, before finally moving to a pass rushing DE for the Beavers’ defense. Cable has already stated that Norris will compete for the SAM linebacker position, and certainly has the speed and tenacity required for the job. His pass rushing abilities greatly exceed those of Ricky Brown, so John Marshall may have some tricks up his sleeve for Norris. Picking outside linebackers rather than inside linebackers means our idea of pushing Morrison to this spot isn’t happening.
Round 5: Pick Traded to Atlanta (Who Trades it to Dallas)
The Cowboys selected Cincinnati CB DeAngelo Smith with our 5th round pick. I only mention this because Jasper Brinkley was still on the board (another tear).
Round 6: Stryker Sulak – LB/DE – Missouri
Another non-stop motor pick by the Raiders. Sulak played all 3 LB positions and as a pass rushing DE for Iowa’s defense, racking up 22.5 sacks and 38 TFL in 53 games. Cable said he was going to try him out at LB first, but he may end up being Trevor Scott v. 2.0 for the Raiders, providing a nickel specialist to tandem with the larger base DEs.
Round 6: Brandon Myers – TE – Iowa
The Raiders actually traded up to get Myers in the 6th round, and Cable said it was because they rated him as the 2nd best blocking TE in the draft. Cable said Myers will take some of the pressure off Miller to be an inline blocker, allowing him to be a bigger offensive weapon. Hard to argue with that kind of logic. I like the fact the Raiders went out and got a guy who can contribute to a specific role rather than taking a flyer on a guy with big talent but with flaws. Myers will know exactly what his purpose is and should be able to fulfill it.
- Upgrading the WR corp: Even if it wasn’t inline with the talking heads’ idea of how to do it, the Raiders made significant upgrades to their receiver corp. The Raiders’ track record makes it hard to do, but based on the last two drafts the stigma of “bad drafters” is starting to come off.
- Upgrading S position: Mike Mitchell will be a starter for the Raiders in 2009.
- Shoring up the DE spots: The Raiders added both a base DE and probably another nickel rushing DE.
- Not shoring up DT: Cable said he thinks we have good tackles, but they’ve been on the field an awful lot the past few years due to offensive ineptitude, leading to fatigue and ineffectiveness. The Raiders did nothing to bolster this position.
- Standing pat on OL: This is Cable’s realm, so I give him a lot of deference here. If he thinks he’s rounded out the OL roster by adding Barnes, Pears, and Johnson then so be it.
Overall, it certainly doesn’t look like the draft as most of us saw it coming out, but those identified positions of need have still been filled for the most part. Coach Cable implemented his “identify need positions – get players best suited to fill need” draft plan and is very happy with the result (like he’s say anything else). Now we just need to hope these rookies can come in and contribute to help the Raiders win in 2009.