One story in a series looking ahead to the 2003 NFL Draft, held April 26-27, and how it pertains to the Oakland Raiders needs. Today – a look at outside linebacker:
This position is a need more so for preparing to infuse more youth as opposed to needing an upgrade.
Eric Barton, a fifth-year player, enjoyed an outstanding season in which he performed like a Pro Bowl player. Barton, who starts as the weakside linebacker, showed promise in his previous three seasons but injury and inconsistency hampered his progress. Barton appeared to apply what he learned from the veterans that came before him.
Bill Romanowski, who starts on the strongside, will turn 37 this season. The problem is not his performance but the fact that the Raiders do not have a viable replacement on the roster. Romanowski may never be mentioned among the all-time great linebackers but the swagger and attitude he brings are an asset.
Backup Travian Smith, a sixth-year player, excels as a special teams coverage ace and made an impact as a combination 4-3 defensive end/3-4 outside linebacker. While Smith made an impact in those creative roles, he has not shown the consistency to be an every-down player.
Vince D'Adamo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org