Howard chimes in with his pick

Mock drafts are everywhere these days. Thomas Howard hasn't put one together but he knows who he'd pick with the Raiders first-round draft pick. Find out what Oakland's veteran linebacker had to say about the pick and which of the top prospects he'd like to see wearing the silver and black in 2009.

Wide receivers Michael Crabtree and Jeremy Maclin, along with defensive linemen B.J. Raji and Brian Okrapo, have all been mentioned as potential targets for the Raiders, who have the seventh overall selection in the first round.

There's also the possibility Al Davis could throw a curveball of sorts and go for an offensive tackle.

But Howard -- in the Bay Area to take part in the team's offseason workout program -- left no doubt as to which player he'd choose if he were the Raiders' general manager while appearing on a local television sports show.

"If Crabtree's there, then it's Crabtree," Howard said on the Chronicle Live show Monday. "He probably won't be there but we know he has good pedigree and we like him."

Howard believes the Raiders need a wide receiver more than a tackle, defensive lineman or any other position and it's hard to argue considering the state of Oakland's receiving corps in 2008.

But the Raiders also need to shore up their run defense and could use an infusion of young talent along the offensive line to build around.

Howard didn't get into logistics about why he favors Crabtree over Maclin or any of the other players tabbed to go to Oakland in the various mock drafts. But he sounded an awful lot like his boss, Davis, when he talked about the strategy behind the move.

"At seven, you take the best available person there," Howard said. "You take the best player that's there."

Howard was a second-round pick of the Raiders in 2006 and has been among Oakland's leading tacklers in the three years since. He also has seven career interceptions, three of which came against former Denver quarterback Jay Cutler. Cutler, who was recently traded by the Broncos to Chicago, was a favorite opponent of Howard, who jokingly said he tried to convince Cutler to stay in Denver.

"I tried to reach out to Jay and said, ‘Don't do it,'^" Howard said with a laugh.

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