Forecasting #8

The offensive tackle spot is priority number one for the Raiders, and thankfully, this year's class is deep in elite talent. However, there are a number of teams picking ahead of the Raiders that are also targeting linemen, and the Raiders might be left to choose from the second tier of tackles when they pick at eight.

It's generally accepted that there are two schools of thought when drafting in the NFL: One, you draft for need, and two, you draft the best guy available. But even the best laid plans don't always hold up, and really, what is the case more often than not, teams alter their approach based on their situations, how the draft plays out, and where they are positioned.

Because it's never wise to draft based solely on one or the other—when teams pick only the best guys that are available, they leave themselves open to holes on the depth chart, and when they draft simply based on need, they cheat themselves out of some of the true impact players in this game.

It's a beautiful thing when need and want are one in the same, and this could be the case for the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders own the eighth overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, and if all goes according to plan and the team gets who they want and what they need, Tom Cable will finally have the offensive tackle he's pined for since taking the job.

What's working in the Raiders' favor is that this year's offensive tackle class is stacked: Russell Okung, Trent Williams, and Bryan Bulaga are all projected to go in the Top 10, while Bruce Campbell, Anthony Davis, and Charles Brown are considered first day picks as well.

However, what is working against the Raiders' favor is the fact that the Redskins at number four will almost certainly draft an offensive tackle to replace the retired Chris Samuels, and that the Lions (2), Chiefs (5), and Seahawks (6) are all considering offensive tackles as well. In other words, by the time the Raiders pick at eight, three or four of the top offensive tackles might already be off the board, and the Raiders might have to reach a bit for one of the second tier tackles, Campbell, Davis, or Brown.

Things rarely go as planned in the draft, but in forecasting the first seven picks, there are some things you can take to the bank.

The Rams will draft a quarterback (not Ndamukong Suh) and it's only a matter of when they'll do it. With the first overall pick, most pundits and their mock drafts have Sam Bradford-to-St. Louis as a lock. However, with the recent news that the Rams are choosing not to sign Bradford before their pick on Thursday, it's fueled some speculation that the team, with so many holes on the depth chart, would consider trading down to either Cleveland (7) or Buffalo (9) to take Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen instead, and also pick up a draft pick or two in the process.

However it goes down, Sam Bradford, Ndamukong Suh, and Gerald McCoy will be off the board before the Raiders select. Suh, and to a slightly lesser degree McCoy, are considered the best defensive tackle prospects to enter the draft since former Oregon Duck and current Baltimore Raven Haloti Ngata. The Detroit Lions sit pretty at number two to pick him up, but it's not necessarily a lock. Suh would be "the best available player" for the Lions to pick, but with so much invested in young quarterback Matthew Stafford, the team is taking a hard look at top offensive tackle prospect Russell Okung. The Lions have a good thing going on with Stafford and wide receiver Calvin Johnson, and with those two in place, picking up Okung to protect Stafford's blindside would be a huge investment in their young offense.

Still, these aren't the Lions of the Matt Millen era, and again, because this year's class for offensive tackles is so deep, the Lions might elect to pass up on Okung, pick up a different tackle in the second round, and choose Suh with the second overall pick.

The Buccaneers pick at number three and they are almost assured to pick up a defensive tackle. Oklahoma's Gerald McCoy is probably a better fit for their scheme, but the Bucs staff is smitten with Suh. Depending on what the Lions do, the Bucs will be picking up either Suh or McCoy.

The Redskins pick is a lot easier to predict now after the team acquired veteran quarterback Donovan McNabb from the Eagles. Before the trade, the fourth pick was either going to be Jimmy Clausen or an offensive tackle to replace the recently retired Chris Samuels, but now that McNabb is under center for new head coach Mike Shanahan, the Redskins will be looking at either Okung (if the Lions don't pick him up) or Oklahoma's Trent Williams. Bryan Bulaga is the other possibility, but Okung and Williams are first and second on most teams' draft boards with Bulaga running a close third.

The Chiefs are also looking at an offensive tackle, despite needs in the secondary. Tennessee safety Eric Berry, by some accounts the best overall prospect in the draft, is in play here, but the thing that works against Berry's favor is that the safety position is of low positional value, and Chiefs General Manager Scott Pioli favors taking high positional value guys with earlier picks. Furthermore, the Chiefs suffered in pass protection last season and as a result, quarterback Matt Cassel took a beating. The Chiefs want to protect Cassel's blindside and picking up an offensive tackle would definitely help the cause. Also, current left tackle Brandon Albert has struggled in that role, and despite Albert's teammates' public support of him, the team would like to move him to right tackle. The Chiefs really like Bryan Bulaga, but if Trent Williams is available, Pioli has a decision to make.

Number six with the Seahawks is where it gets interesting, and it's also the pick that might really hurt the Raiders' cause. The Seahawks are easily the most difficult pick to predict among the top seven because they have so many needs to address and they have a new head coach in Pete Carroll. So much has changed for Carroll since his earlier stint in the NFL so it's hard to draw from his brief tenures in New England and New York. He's a defensive coach at heart and as such, Eric Berry and even Derrick Morgan might be in play here. However, there is also a big need at offensive line, and assuming one of either Trent Williams or Bryan Bulaga are available, that could spell trouble for the Raiders.

The Browns pick at seven before the Raiders and this pick is also a troublesome one to figure out. Based on the combination of best available player and immediate team need, Eric Berry figures to be the smart choice here. Berry is a playmaker on defense and an absolute stud in the defensive backfield. He's been compared to the Ravens' Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed in his ball-hawking ability and is an instant impact kind of guy. The Browns need a corner more than a safety, but Berry is talented enough in coverage to play the deep zone at free safety but also to move down and play in the man-to-man. Florida cornerback Joe Haden would also fit the Browns' needs in the secondary.

Jimmy Clausen is also a possibility for the Browns. There are a lot of people who say Browns Team President Mike Holmgren does not take quarterbacks in the first round, but would rather find one in the later rounds and develop him slowly. However, while Holmgren was the head coach at Green Bay and Seattle, he had Brett Favre and Matt Hasselbeck under center, so he was never really in a serious need for a first round quarterback. And despite the recent acquisition of Jake Delhomme, and whatever ill feelings the Browns organization might have about Notre Dame quarterbacks after Brady Quinn, Clausen is a potential franchise quarterback that the of Cleveland has sorely lacked for some time.

And at last, we have the Oakland Raiders at number eight. In the best case scenario for the Raiders, neither Ndamukong Suh nor Gerald McCoy are available for them, and it's highly unlikely Russell Okung will be as well.

Really, the Lions will be the team that sets the tone for picks 3-7, before the Raiders, depending on whether they choose Suh or Okung. The best outcome would be for the Lions to go with and have Okung fall to the Redskins at four. After that, the Chiefs would select either Williams or Bulaga, and if Pioli really likes Bulaga, then the Raiders would have to hope Williams falls to them at eight.

Again, Seattle is the team that could really mess things up for the Raiders. Regardless of which offensive tackle the Chiefs select, if the Seahawks choose the other, the Raiders are left without one of the upper tier tackles to choose from.

Many people have Bruce Campbell pegged as the Raiders' pick, but recent comments by Tom Cable on wanting a lineman with extensive experience being a must might rule out Campbell, who was essentially started one and a half years at Maryland. Of course, Campbell did also run the fastest 40-yard dash for an offensive lineman in the history of the NFL Combine and is arguably the most impressive physical specimen in this year's draft—something that's not lost on owner Al Davis who will ultimately make the call.

Campbell would be a reach at eight as he's seen as a guy who needs some development. Anthony Davis might be a safer pick as far as NFL readiness goes, but he showed poorly at the Combine and there are serious questions of his work ethic and motivation—something the Raiders might want to avoid this time around after JaMarcus Russell.

As stated in the previous piece, wild cards are always in play for the Raiders, and if Jimmy Clausen falls, he's definitely a possibility. If Eric Berry falls, the Raiders would be getting great value for him at eight, but safety is nowhere near the top of the team's needs.

The Raiders do not usually make draft day trades with their first round picks, but depending on how things go down with the first seven selections, it's possible the Raiders might elect to trade down to select one of Campbell, Davis, or Brown, and pick up an extra pick or two in the process.

The Raiders are stuck in somewhat of a difficult position considering the Seahawks pick. There's really no need to trade up for an offensive tackle, considering the depth of the class, and since there are other holes to fill on the defensive line, middle linebacker, cornerback, and quarterback, the Raiders need all the picks they can get.

With the first round of the draft moving to primetime, the pace of the draft might move slower than usual. Should the Seahawks select an offensive tackle, Al Davis and company will have some time to determine a proper course of action—whether to reach a bit for Campbell or Davis or possibly trade down to pick them up later.

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