Wild Cards in Play for the Raiders

While all the talk has been about offensive tackles, it's never safe to assume that all will go as planned with the Raiders. After last year's surprise picks of Darrius Heyward-Bey and Mike Mitchell, draft experts are weary to predict any locks for the Raiders and their eighth overall pick.

Is it really a foregone conclusion that the Raiders will select Bruce Campbell eighth overall in Thursday's first round? After all, Campbell fills a big need at offensive tackle, and he is the type of athletic freak that owner Al Davis loves. Head Coach Tom Cable made it known last Thursday in his pre-draft talk with the media that the team is focusing in on a deep offensive line class and that addressing the needs on the line is the number one priority.

But despite all that, Cable said virtually the same things last year, and whenever the pick seems obvious or makes sense for the Raiders, Al Davis has a way of shaking things up in a big way. Last year, when there were more pressing needs than wide receiver, Davis took a serious reach in taking Darrius Heyward-Bey with the seventh overall pick.

Like any year, 2010 holds the good possibility of yet another surprise first round pick by the Oakland Raiders. While Campbell wouldn't be much of a surprise, he is definitely a reach at eighth overall, and there's some speculation that he might be available to the Raiders in the second round as well.

Here are a few "wild cards" in the mix for the Raiders. They're considered wild cards because picking them would be a reach at eight or would go against conventional wisdom, but mostly because they would be absolute shocks—something the Raiders are used to doing.

QB Jimmy Clausen – Notre Dame

Scenario: There are really only two teams (Seattle and Cleveland) that might consider drafting Clausen before the Raiders, but neither of them are sure bets to do so. Buffalo picks right after the Raiders, and they would really like a shot at Clausen. Ever since word broke out that the Rams weren't going to sign quarterback Sam Bradford before the draft, there has been some speculation that the Rams would consider trading down with Buffalo and take Clausen instead. However it happens, there's a good chance Clausen would be available to the Raiders at number eight. Positives: Depending on whom you ask, Clausen might actually project better than Bradford. While Bradford has the slight edge in size and poise in the pocket, Clausen is more mechanically sound and has the added benefit of having playing in a pro style offense. He's got good zip on his throws and is very proficient in the short to intermediate passing game. Clausen is a fiery competitor and last season, he showcased his ability to lead his team in late game situations. Although he isn't a primary need, right now the Raiders are looking for quarterbacks via the scrap heap, so Clausen would be an immediate talent upgrade at the position. Picking Clausen would obviously generate some excitement (and controversy), and that might be a selling point to Al Davis who is sure to have realized the Raiders are suffering a bit in ticket sales. Negatives: Clausen has a tendency to be too aggressive from time to time, and that has led to some errant throws, especially on his deep ball. Even though he's a fiery competitor on the field, his emotions and attitude may lend some to believe he is brash, immature, and arrogant. If the Raiders pick Clausen, he would be the second first round quarterback on the roster along with JaMarcus Russell—a very expensive scenario.

DE Jason Pierre-Paul – South Florida

Scenario: With the recent retirement of Patrick Kerney, Seattle might take a look at the athletic Pierre-Paul at defensive end. Derrick Morgan is a more likely pick, but it's hard to determine how new Head Coach Pete Carroll will use the sixth overall pick. The Giants and Titans at 15 and 16 are also possible destinations. Pierre-Paul will be available to the Raiders at eight. Positives: Pierre-Paul is a physical specimen at defensive end. At 6-6, 265-lbs., Pierre-Paul flies off the edge with great speed and athleticism. He is scheme versatile as he can play on the line or as an outside linebacker, and he has the potential to be a true game changer with his pass rushing ability. Pierre-Paul is raw, but he has a high ceiling and tremendous upside. Negatives: Pierre-Paul would be a serious reach at eight. Although there's a need on the defensive line, it's more so on the interior than on the outside. Also, with the acquisition of Kamerion Wimbley, the Raiders have already filled their quota of pass rushing-hybrid defenders. Pierre-Paul is raw and has a ways to go before he is fully developed. He might get away with some things because of his athletic ability, but he needs to address several mechanical issues in his game. He's a high risk-high reward type of guy that Al Davis seems to have a weakness for.

S Taylor Mays – USC

Scenario: Mays hurt himself a bit by staying at USC for his senior year. Last year, he might have been a top ten pick, but in 2010, he's projected to go anywhere between the mid to late first round. The Seahawks have some needs in the secondary, so if Eric Berry is gone by their sixth pick, Pete Carroll might be reunited with Mays with the 14th. The late 49ers pick (13), Bengals (21), and Patriots (22) are all possibilities as well. Positives: Mays fits the Davis mold for an NFL prospect to a T. At 6-3, 231-lbs, Mays has tremendous size as a safety, but still has 4.3/40 speed. There isn't a huge need at safety, but Tyvon Branch is the closest thing to a sure bet among the group, and there are some teams who might want to move Mays to free safety. Mays' size also has stirred some speculation that he could move down and play linebacker as well. Not only does Mays have the physical attributes Davis looks for in his players, he's also a big hitting, head hunter that Davis prefers in his safeties. Negatives: The extra year at USC hurt Mays because it revealed that he's more of an athlete than a football player. Mays got away with a lot of stuff in college because of his freakish size and speed, but teams still managed to exploit his lack of coverage skills. The comparison has been made a few times to Roy Williams, who has a punishing hitter, but was a serious liability in coverage. Mays' lack of production has turned off some teams, especially when he's compared to the draft's top safety prospect Eric Berry. Mays can be overly aggressive in pursuit, and as a result, takes bad angles and can take himself out of a play. Mays would be a big disappointment at eight because he's projected to go so much later in the first, and because he does not address any of the Raiders' top needs. DE Everson Griffen – USC

Scenario: Griffen, like Pierre-Paul, is projected to go anywhere as high as 16th to Tennessee. He's considered a mid first round pick. Positives: Like his former college teammate Taylor Mays, Griffen is an athletic freak and a combine warrior. At 6-4, 273-lbs., Griffen runs in the 4.5 range in the 40, but has been clocked in as low as in the 4.4's as well. With his great strength and speed, Griffen can play on the line or as a rush linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. He's a terror off the edge and still has plenty of room to grow and develop. Negatives: Griffen does not fill a big need at defensive end or outside linebacker. He's even more of a reach than Pierre-Paul, and comes with attitude and maturity issues as well. T Anthony Davis – Rutgers

Scenario: Davis was once considered a Top 10 or Top 15 pick, but has since fallen into the mid to late first round. Based on talent alone, he's definitely worth of a selection in the Top 10, and should be available to the Raiders at eight. Positives: His skills suggest that he is among the top two or three tackles in a very deep class. Although he tested poorly at the Combine, on film, Davis has great strength, is quick off the snap, and does a good job getting to the second level. He's versatile in a number of ways: he can play in both a zone or traditional blocking scheme and can be plugged in at both tackle spots or even at guard. Negatives: Davis really hurt himself with his poor showing at the Combine, and that only exacerbated the talk of his questionable work ethic and attitude. Essentially, Davis is this year's version of Andre Smith, but Smith was selected sixth to the Bengals in 2009, so it's not far-fetched to envision Davis going to the Raiders at eight.

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