Draft chatter

Heading into the final hours before the draft it appears the Raiders' three biggest needs are at offensive tackle, wide receiver and defensive tackle. SBI's Michael Wagaman takes a look at the prospects at each position who are likely to be available when Oakland goes on the clock. Find out what he thinks and see what other Raider fans are thinking.

The Raiders have a chance to fill some big holes on both sides of the ball if they play their cards right in this weekend's draft. There's a lot of debate as to which issue is the most glaring and therefore should be the target when Oakland makes its first-round pick. My call continues to be for a wide receiver, specifically Missouri's Jeremy Maclin, though I won't find fault if the team goes with Michael Crabtree or, if he's there, defensive tackle B.J. Raji.

Here's a look at some of the top players who should still be available when the Raiders make their picks, in no particular order of importance:

OFFENSIVE TACKLE

Andre Smith, Alabama: Three of the top six picks could easily be offensive tackles but Smith isn't likely to be one of them, meaning Oakland should have a free shot if Al Davis wants to grab an offensive lineman.

Smith has all the tools to be a dominant left tackle, as evidenced by his 88 pancake blocks as a senior when he also won the Outland Trophy, given annually to the nation's top interior lineman. But his work ethic is a question mark and he left the Scouting Combine without working out, which didn't sit well with some teams.

He's got great size but his attitude and desire seem to be the biggest question marks.

Wagaman's take: Smith is a high-risk, high-reward player, one that will either be a dominant tackle in the pros or one who could wind up a bust. He has had issues with his weight, which he was able to get away with but won't in the NFL when he's facing speed rushers ever third down. With their recent lack of success drafting offensive linemen in the first round, specifically with tackles, I'd stay away from Smith.

Michael Oher, Ole Miss: Oher has been on the Raiders radar for the past year and would be an intriguing pick if that's the path they decide to go and if he's still out there. Some mock drafts have Oher going to the Cincinnati Bengals with the No. 6 overall pick.

Oher is naturally big but doesn't move as well as one would expect from a left tackle and his raw techniques are flawed but the upside is that he's managed to be pretty successful despite having three different line coaches over a four-year period.

Oher might not be a guy who could step in right away but with some good coaching -- which you'd have to think he'd get under Tom Cable -- he could be a powerful player in the future.

Wagaman's take: Oher's stock has risen steadily over the past year or so, and while it might have looked like the Raiders would be able to get him in the second round, it's now evident Oher is going to be a first-round pick. If the Bengals don't pick him and he's still on the clock, Oakland is faced with an interesting decision. Again., I'd pass with the seventh pick but Oher seems to have that certain something that makes me think he's going to be a stud in the pros some day.

Phil Loadholt, Oklahoma: The Raiders took an active interest in the former Sooner standout, who most likely will be around when Oakland picks in the second round and could even drop into the third. If the Raiders haven't taken a lineman by then, look for them to take a long look at Loadholt.

Loadholt visited the team's facilities in Alameda and was told by the coaching staff that they believed he could play either side of the line and saw him as a player who could come in and have a real impact, according to Scout.com's Ed Thompson.

"The Oakland visit was a bit unique in that I got to watch some OTA practice and got the opportunity to watch the O-line go through some drills," Loadholt told Thompson recently. "I got on the board, watched some film. It was a really fun visit."

Wagaman's take: At 6-foot-7, 332 pounds, Loadholt is, well, a load of a tackle who is probably best suited for the right side in the NFL. The question is whether Oakland wants to take him in the second round or take the risk that he'll still be there in the third round. The Raiders were impressed with Loadholt when he visited their facilities earlier this month and at his size and with his reach, he's got the potential to be a good one. But he also is heavy on his feet, which causes him to be late to blocks, and he also has an issue with finishing blocks. A good call in the third round but not before that.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

B.J. Raji, Boston College: While the rumors about him failing a drug test proved false, Raji's name has fallen in some mock drafts and it seems more likely now than ever that the former BC terror will be out there waiting when the Raiders make their pick.

Raji was a beast in college and is the clear-cut top defensive tackle coming out for the draft. Some would argue he's the top player overall coming out.

The Raiders problems stopping the run have been well documented and adding Raji would be a major step forward in correcting that issue, but the question for Oakland's brass is whether or not the need to stop the run is more important than giving quarterback JaMarcus Russell a top receiver to grow with.

Wagaman's take: I love everything about Raji and see his game translating well to the NFL level. He is strong at the point of attack, moves well for a man his size and has the potential to be the centerpiece of the Raiders line for years to come. If he's there, the brass has a tough call to make. I'd pass to get to Jeremy Maclin myself but I couldn't argue if they moved for Raji.

Evander Hood, Missouri: Hood had a pretty solid senior season but helped his chances with an outstanding performance at the Scouting Combine where he put up good times and benched press 225 pounds 35 times.

Hood has a good first step which helps him get the advantage on opposing offensive linemen and he's shown the ability to shoot the gaps very well. He has a variety of moves that helped him dominate one-on-one matchups in college and he backed that up with his showing at the Combine.

The problem is that Hood's motor tends to run hot and cold. He also plays more upright than you want your defensive tackles to and as a result tends to get caught up in traffic rather than making the play. Some scouts wonder if he's just a pure numbers guy rather than a football player.

Wagaman's take: I think too much is made of what a guy does at the Combine because there is so much more to playing the game than just 40-times and bench pressing. That being said, Hood still strikes me as a player who can have an immediate impact but he has to be coached with tight reigns and there can't be a lot of margin for error with the kid. If Oakland takes him -- and there's a good chance he'll be around when they go on the clock in the second round -- it's has to be with the understanding that someone needs to stay on top of Hood to keep him motivated.

WIDE RECEIVER

Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech: The marquee name among wide receivers coming out for the draft, Crabtree is the one player who seems to have that certain star quality to him. He's fast, has great hands and can be a play-maker capable of turning a game on its ear by himself.

Because he hasn't worked out since the end of college due to his fractured foot -- which has apparently healed just fine according to most reports -- there's questions about Crabtree that have scared off some teams. Others simply don't think he has the type of game to translate into the NFL, though that group seems to be in the minority.

The Raiders haven't often used their first-round draft pick on a wide receiver but Crabtree is a guy who could convince Al Davis to change his ways.

Wagaman's take: Count me in that minority group who wonders whether Crabtree can succeed in the NFL. It has nothing to do with his foot or the fact that he hasn't worked out for scouts this offseason. My question is whether or not he has the attitude and persona to succeed in the NFL. Reports are that Crabtree has already developed the typical diva attitude associated with many NFL wide receivers and it's an attitude that has soured many people, who are otherwise very impressed with his skills and talent. The Raiders had a guy just like Crabtree a few years ago. Jerry Porter. Great athletic talent but thought too much of himself to let that talent surface and develop. I hope Crabtree has different results.

Jeremy Maclin, Missouri: Many mock drafts have Maclin lasting until the latter half of the first round and some question his toughness and overall football skills. Others believe Maclin can be a better pro than Crabtree and may be the best receiver in the draft.

Whichever side of the fence you fall on, it's clear that Maclin has skills both as a receiver and kick returner. He scored 33 touchdowns over the past two seasons at Missouri and would appear to be the perfect fit for the Raiders, who want to grind the ball on the ground and take their shots deep in the passing game.

Maclin has the speed to get deep and can line up all over the field, which will give whatever team drafts him the versatility to exploit matchup advantages. He's also great on special teams, where he seems to have star potential.

Wagaman's take: Maclin's the guy I've tabbed from Day One as the player the Raiders should take. With apologies to Crabtree, who has won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation's top collegiate receiver the past two years, Maclin changes gears very quickly and gets great separation from defenders once he gets his speed going. He also has soft hands, which is key with a hard-throwing QB like Russell. Unlike Crabtree, Maclin doesn't have any issues regarding his work ethic and seems to be a bring-your-lunch pail-to-work type of player. To me, he's the obvious call with the No. 7 pick.


Below is a random survey of other draft experts and who they think Oakland will choose with the seventh overall pick in the draft:

Peter King, Sports Illustrated: Jeremy Maclin, Wide receiver, Missouri Oakland will be tempted by the quality tackles still available here, but when in doubt, longball-loving Al Davis usually looks for speed at the wideout position.

Mel Kiper Jr., ESPN.com: Jeremy Maclin, WR Missouri. Maclin will have to adjust to an NFL offense, but I really like his big-play capability and the fact that he's much more explosive with the pads on than his 4.46-second clocking in the 40-yard dash at the combine would lead you to believe.

Todd McShay, Scouts Inc./ESPN.com: Jeremy Maclin, WR, Missouri. -- Speed will rule in the Oakland draft room as long as owner Al Davis is calling the shots.

Russ Lande, Sportingnews.com: Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech. Compares to Calvin Johnson, the wide receiver from the Lions. Crabtree doesn't match Johnson's size and speed, but he has the same elite ball skills, great hands and natural feel for getting open in coverage.

Mike Mayock, NFL.com: Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland. He's a height-weight-speed specialist. The fastest guy at the Combine. This is an Al Davis special – he loves big guys who can run. He'll pair him with JaMarcus Russell and Darren McFadden.

Charles Davis, NFL Network: Jeremy Maclin WR Missouri. Could a faster receiver be a surprise pick here? Maryland's Darrius Heyward-Bey is that fast.

Pat Kirwin, NFL Network: Michael Crabtree WR Texas Tech. A wide receiver who caught 231 passes in two college seasons is too hard to pass up.

Don Banks, SportsIllustrated.com: Brian Orakpo, DE/LB, Texas: The Raiders could use a defensive tackle like Raji, but their need for more pass rush trumps all. Oakland's sack co-leaders were tied with five last season, and one of those players, Kalimba Edwards, was released. Orakpo would give the Raiders pressure off the edge at defensive end.

Walter Cherepinksy, WalterFootball.com: Michael Johnson, DE, Georgia Tech. Surprise! I've had B.J. Raji going here for a number of updates, but in the wake of Michael Johnson's Pro Day, I'm penciling in the athletic Georgia Tech defensive end into the No. 7 slot.

Look, it's no secret that Al Davis loves 40 times. Johnson ran an unofficial 4.49 at his Pro Day. A giddy Davis probably had him at 3.39; he's obsessed with athleticism, and that's one of the reasons I've changed this selection, despite Johnson's work ethic.

The other reason? Al Davis' draft history. I reviewed all the selections he has made in the past 30 years. In that span, Davis has taken a defensive tackle in the first round only twice - Darrell Russell in 1997, and he ran a 4.8 at 320 pounds. Meanwhile, he has chosen defensive ends four times in the opening round, the most recent being Tyler Brayton, who had the third-fastest 40 time among the players at his position in 2003. Going even further, Davis has taken just four defensive tackles in the top three rounds in the past 30 years!

That's nothing compared to the 13 defensive ends he selected in the top three rounds in that span. With Michael Crabtree off the board and right tackle addressed (Khalif Barnes), this pick will probably come down to Raji and Johnson. And based on Davis' draft history and Johnson's 40, the Raiders may select their next "great player." If Raji happened to be an athletic defensive tackle like Darrell Russell (at 320 pounds, Russell ran a 4.8 40), I'd mock him to Oakland. But Raji lacks the elite athleticism that Crazy Al loves.


Think the experts are off target with their picks? Here's what some Raider fans had to say about the upcoming draft:

"I would like to see both lines shored up. I like the Satele pickup. Tough, durable and coachable. We will see if it works out. Our D line needs fixing. Unless the new D coaches know something we don't, we need need help here. You have to fix this, or it will be the same old problem with the run defense. Then go to WR, LB and S. Not necessarily in that order. We can also use another starting DE. Burgess is in a contract year and has been hurt. Richardson is a good end and getting better. Scott and Gunheim are more for pass rushing. Scott has proved he can do that well."

-- Thankaveteran2day

"I'm new here, but without a doubt a run stuffing Dtackle is the most glaring need. I think that offensive line needs some work, but with the way Mario Henderson ended the year, the signing of Barnes, Pears, and now Johnson at least we have some competition and our offensive line really wasn't that bad last year. From everything I've read Raji has got to be the choice. Is it just me or when it's 3rd and 1 and we are on defense you know they are going to run it down our throats and we know it's coming and we can't stop it. Raji as a player all by himself instantly helps with that problem and also adds depth so in crunch time in the 4th quarter hopefully Sands, Kelly, and Warren still have some gas left in the tank, which I also thought was a problem. Go with Raji in the 1st, and either Robiskie or Barden in the 2nd. Safety in the 3rd, Patrick Chung or the other guy the Raiders brought in for a visit (Chip Vaughn)."

-- Hawkeye raider

"It`s gotta be DT. We have been for at least six years one of the worst vs. the run. We haven't had a DT who can play the run since players like Grady Jackson, Russell Maryland, Darrell Russell then just a lot of misses. We could use a WR in the 2nd or 3rd. Chaz, Higgins, Miller, DMAC and hopefully Walker can make a comeback and justify the money Al paid him. Mike I hear what your saying ,but how are we gonna score any points if we can't get off the field?"

-- 37crossbones

"I say we need to grab Raji if he is on the board as this is the biggest need yet to be addressed for quite sometime in my opinion. We have applied band-aids but never really tried to fix the issue. Raji at least will give Kelly a chance to get the one on one opportunity and can demand the double teams that may help Kirk Morrison get into the backfield more instead of having the ballcarrier greeting him 5 yards past the LOS for a change. I would still love to see us draft a MLB (Jasper Brinkley or Dannell Ellerbe) would be a nice and move Kirk to the Strongside where he is better suited for. I really like the improvements I saw in Higgins and Chaz and hope to see them continue to improve this season while hoping Shields can show he was a steal last season. Walker might just be the dark horse for us. I would not mind seeing us go for Casey and using some 2 TE sets more this season."

-- Nascarford0688

Discuss this story and more in the Legends Lodge.

SB Report Top Stories