The Oakland Raiders addressed an area of need in the first round of the 2001 NFL draft. But they failed with the selection, as Derrick Gibson never materialized into the dominating safety they envisioned.
In 2000, the Silver & Black finished first in the AFC West with a 12-4 record and made it to the championship game. The Baltimore Ravens manhandled Oakland during that contest and one of the memorable moments of that afternoon was Shannon Sharpe racing across the field 96-yards for a score on a 3rd and 18.
Marquez Pope was victimized and a priority that off-season was to acquire better talent for the back end of the secondary.
Oakland quickly fell in love with Gibson’s physical attributes during workouts. He was clocked at an impressive 4.40 to 4.45 range in his forty runs and with his 6-foot-1 and 210 pound frame, it almost became inevitable that the workout warrior would be donning the Silver & Black.
His ability to bench press over 400-pounds and flashes at Florida State even had Mel Kiper stating that Gibson could be a late-first or early-second round talent.
Gibson landed in Oakland with the 28th pick, ahead of Reggie Wayne and Todd Heap. Oakland could’ve upgraded their offense with either player selected right after, but then head coach Jon Gruden wanted the help in the defensive backfield.
The safety never developed the instincts or coverage ability needed to keep a job at the pro level.
“If you’re going against the best every day, it can’t help but make you better,” said Gibson on July of 2001 when asked about facing Jerry Rice and Tim Brown in practice daily.
In 2005, after a season ending shoulder injury the prior campaign, Norv Turner gave Gibson a nod confidence by making him the starting strong safety.
By then, Gibson already had a reputation for having troubles playing in space and spotty tackling. That continued.
Gibson stated: “I feel like they have a lot of confidence in me. I came in focused, ready to compete, and that’s what I did. I love the competition, it makes me play better. But I’ve made plays out here. I came to work every day.”
Again, he did not distinguish himself and Oakland eventually declined a $10 million option in 2006 after he played with a restructured deal in 2005 for the veteran minimum of $455,000.
Gibson makes the list of workout warriors Oakland fell in love with that look good in a uniform, but that present very little football ability in action on Sunday’s.
He was a bust. And one of the reasons why Rod Woodson’s presence was vital during their Super Bowl run in 2002. Oakland never really had stability at strong safety those days, rotating Anthony Dorsett in trying to find the right mix.
“We think he’s a strong safety,” Gruden stated in 2001. “That’s the position he functions the most naturally at. But at Florida State you do see him as a free safety. As we all know, safeties do rotate based on backfield formations. He has the versatility to play both positions.”
One of the few times Gruden was wrong in his days with the Raiders.