It was no surprise, however, that five of the seven Oakland Raiders draft choices were on the defensive side of the ball since they ranked 30th, out of 32 teams, in total defense. Conventional football wisdom suggests that defensive schemes revolve around the pass rush, yet the Raiders waited until the sixth round to select a defensive end, California's Ryan Riddle.
It's worth noting that seven of the Raiders 25 sacks last season came against the statue-like mobility of Drew Bledsoe. Instead, Oakland took two cornerbacks (Nebraska's Fabian Washington and Houston's Stanford Routt) who clocked sub 4.3-second, 40-yard dash times.
Oakland's other defensive picks came at inside linebacker (San Diego State's Kirk Morrison) in the third round and defensive tackle (Wisconsin's Anttaj Hawthorne) in the sixth round. The Raiders added two offensive picks as well with Arizona State quarterback Andrew Walter (third round) and Iowa offensive tackle Pete McMahon (sixth round).
Some people might bemoan the fact that the Raiders waited until the sixth round to take a defensive end. To be fair, however, Oakland needed so much help defensively that one draft was not going to solve all of its problems. After all, Oakland was not rated 30th in total defense for no reason. One thing is worth noting about pass rushers. While no one will deny their importance, for every Dwight Freeney there have been two Courtney Browns in recent years.
Keep in mind, the Raiders have drafted five defensive ends in the first and second round in the last 15 years (Anthony Smith, James Folston, Lance Johnstone, Tony Bryant and Tyler Brayton). Johnstone had double-digit sacks seasons in 1998-1999 and Brayton had a decent rookie year in 2003 but other than that, pretty slim pickings on defensive ends that have made a big splash.
What the Raiders need more than anything are players who can contribute immediately, and frankly, a defensive end in the first round might not have been that player. With Phillip Buchanon having been traded, Washington figures to get a chance to play right away. Washington probably should have stayed in school one more year but his speed is tremendous. On the surface, however, Washington and Routt have Buchanon like size and speed but not the ridiculously pompous attitude.
What does this mean for Charles Woodson and Nnamdi Asomugha? The Raiders have not found any takers for Woodson and his $10-plus million dollar salary. The Raiders need safety help so why not move Woodson there? Asomugha, whom Oakland drafted in the first round in 2003, appears ready to challenge for a starting job but has not been consistent enough in his performance.
Does Oakland's selection of Walter mean the end of Marques Tuiasosopo after this season? Tuiasosopo is scheduled to become a free agent after the season but is no closer to becoming the Raiders starting quarterback now than he was in 2001 when they drafted him. Walter also has the downfield arm-strength that coach Norv Turner covets. Nonetheless, Tuiasosopo wants his chance but it does not appear likely that he'll get it in Oakland.
Hawthorne is somewhat the opposite of Washington, who was projected as a third round pick but his great combine vaulted him to first round status. Hawthorne was viewed as a second round possibility until he tested positive for marijuana at the combine. That definitely brings his share of concerns but taking him in the sixth round is hardly a risk.
Plus, the Raiders are not the Raiders without taking a chance on somewhat with one issue or another.
Vince D'Adamo can be reached at email@example.com