It was well-documented that Al Davis coveted world-class speed. In fact, it was probably the most well-known fact about him. Every season when the combine rolled around, you could count on the fastest guy being high on the Raiders draft board.
With the passing of Al Davis and the placement of new General Manager, Reggie McKenzie, no one was really sure whether the speed factor was high on his list of priorities. But according to McKenzie, the speed of a player is still a quality the Raiders will value under his watch.
"As far as building a team positionally, any time I can add a player, that's going to help this Raider team, he's going to be added." Said McKenzie at his announcement press conference in January."I like big and strong, always will. I like speed, that's not gonna change, we want good football players."
He is on hand at the combine this week as is head coach Dennis Allen. It is unclear where speed and athleticism land on Dennis Allen's list of priorities. Both he and McKenzie have said there is more to a player than talent and that "will to win" is above all else. But will to win is a difficult thing to measure at the scouting combine.
No, the combine is all almost entirely about talent and athleticism. It is like going to a car show but there are no safety ratings, crash test results or miles per gallon on display. All you see are sports cars and monster trucks with top speeds, torque, hauling capabilities, and raw horsepower.
The tape should always be the more important deciding factor in whether a team drafts a player. Events like the combine should not significantly raise or lower a player's value-even though they always do. You can pinpoint the times in which a combine workout shot a player up a draft board and then watch that player disappoint at the next level.
The way these players perform at the combine will go on their permanent records and we will mention their 40 times alongside their names for years to come. But for every freak combine athlete that shoots up the draft board after a great combine, there are those like Matt Shaughnessy and Terrel Suggs who had disappointing combines and fall.
McKenzie may say that the Raiders' value of speed will not change, but one has to believe it will. If only in the level at which it affects their drafting judgment. Speed is a plus for sure, but I can't see McKenzie being blinded by it. His track record in Green Bay suggests otherwise.
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