Grading the Raiders draft

Rather than rush to judgment, I let the Oakland Raiders version of the NFL Draft flow through my veins. One thing I find funny is that the first thing draft graders talk about when assessing the Oakland Raiders has to do with Matt Leinart.

Yet, no one talks about Norm Chow passing up on Leinart to take Vince Young. You think he knew something? The Raiders likely wouldn't have passed up on Young either.

Ironically, the biggest need in Oakland? Help with their defense. The Raiders knew this. Perhaps it is time everyone else did to. That is why you have me.

First round – Michael Huff

There is a reason that Huff did not need to go the Senior Bowl. He knew his talent level and the rest of the NFL did too. His versatility and aggressiveness on the football field led to him being the Thorpe Award winner as a senior.

Huff combines leadership and poise along with impressive closing speed. He gives the Raiders options in the secondary that they didn't have just last week.

With the Raiders lacking an identity on defense over the last few years, a hard-hitting safety that can play the pass was needed. Huff will make teams fear throwing the ball his way and his ability in pass coverage will close down the opposition's ability to exploit what was a previous hole.

He could be a fit at free safety, giving him control over the field as both a helper in run support and over the top help.

Grade: A

Second round – Thomas Howard

DeMeco Ryans would have been the best fit but he was off the board. Howard is one of the top three coverage linebackers coming out of this draft and as many will attest to, tight ends had their way with Oakland over the last few years.

An agile defender that has a great first step and pursues sideline-to-sideline are the plusses while his ability to shed blocks has often drawn criticism. The same traits have been said for Donnie Edwards when he was with Kansas City and now San Diego.

If Howard comes close to that, the Raiders got a steal. It was a need pick with little depth at linebacker and Howard can immediately step in and make an impact.

Grade: B+

Third round – Paul McQuistan

This pick had Art Shell all over it. McQuistan is a fiery offensive lineman that plays until the whistle blows and even after it does.

The question is where will he play?

He was a tackle in college but the belief is he will slide inside to guard. If not, the Raiders had opportunities to take a number of tackles that project better than McQuistan.

At guard, however, McQuistan has potential to become a road grader as he enhances his technique and better utilizes his strength. He should be able to keep defenders at bay given his size and lengthy arms but needs to work on his push in the running game.

This looks like a developmental pick and in the third round you should be looking for more starters.

Grade: C

Day two grades – on the way.

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