One story in a series looking ahead to the 2003 NFL Draft and how it pertains to the Oakland Raiders' needs. Today – a look at wide receiver:
At first glance, this position may appear to be the least of the Raiders' needs with future Hall-of-Famers Jerry Rice (40) and Tim Brown (36) along with Jerry Porter combining for 364 catches for 2,829 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Rice, a Pro Bowler, continued to amaze with 92 catches for 1,211 yards and seven touchdowns. Brown's numbers, however, declined in catching 81 passes for 930 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Last season marked the first time since 1992 that he did not surpass 1,000 yards receiving.
Porter enjoyed a breakout season in his third-year in catching 51 passes for 688 yards and a team-high nine touchdown receptions.
While this is a position of strength, it might be wise to begin preparing for the days that Rice and Brown retire, even though that day might be later and not sooner. Plus, Oakland could use someone who can evidentially complement Porter's vertical speed. Marcus Knight is the only receiver the club has with any experience but he has played mostly special teams.
The Raiders are not likely to address this position until the middle rounds at the earliest. Nevada's Nate Burleson, Missouri's Justin Gage and Virginia's Billy McMullen are likely to be available in the middle rounds.
The 6-foot-1, 188-pound Burleson is an above-average athlete with good speed. Gage also played power forward for Missouri's basketball team. He is not a speed-burner but has the hands and route-running skills to be an effective receiver. McMullen is one of the bigger receivers in the draft at 6-3 but is still a fluid receiver.
Vince D'Adamo can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org