“In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death, taxes and the Raiders drafting for speed,” wrote American founding father Benjamin Franklin back in 1789.
OK, the brilliant inventor and philosopher didn’t actually include the line about the Raiders, but if he were still alive today, I don’t think he’d object to its inclusion.
Indeed, few things are as predictable each April as the federal government stealing more of our money, and the Silver and Black scribbling the words “40 time” at the beginning, middle and end of the scouting report on virtually every prospect they consider in the NFL draft.
In fact, this weekend marked the third consecutive season in which Al Davis and his talent evaluators selected the fastest player available, regardless of position.
In Oakland’s defense, at least they waited until their second selection to make the big reach this time around, unlike the ill-advised selection of Darrius Heyward-Bey with the seventh overall selection in 2009.
This year, their first pick came in the second round and was spent on solid Penn State lineman Stefan Wisniewski. It was their next selection, however, that just screamed “Raiders!” long before the name of Miami cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke, who clocked in at a ridiculous 4.25 in the 40 at the NFL scouting combine, was even called.
Certainly, the cornerback spot is a position of need for new coach Hue Jackson, so it’s tough to find fault with the decision to draft a defensive back. The potential departure of perennial All-Pro Nnamdi Asomugha via free agency means the Raiders must shore up the secondary, but the question is whether they got the best defender available at that position, or merely the fastest.
Van Dyke wasn’t even good enough to start for the Hurricanes in his final season at Miami, playing mostly in nickel defense situations.
His straight-ahead speed is obviously an asset, but his potential as an every-down player, out on the island against the best receivers on the planet, seems severely limited.
Perhaps the Raiders will have better luck with Ohio State product Chimdi Chekwa, another burner at the cornerback position taken in the fourth round. Chekwa, who runs the 40 in 4.38 seconds, at least started for the Buckeyes and was named to the All-Big Ten Conference first team, but is said to have struggled covering receivers on the outside.
Eastern Washington running back Taiwan Jones, who ran a 4.27 at his pro day workout, was another fourth-round pick. The Antioch native posted tremendous rushing totals and scored a boatload of touchdowns at Eastern Washington, but he also fumbled 17 times in two years carrying the ball.
More importantly, how does any running back, even one with his speed, immediately help a team that already has over 1,800 yards of rushing returning in Darren McFadden and Michael Bush?
Look, each year following the NFL draft, I caution against putting “grades” on players and teams due to the unpredictable nature of the transition from the college game to the professional one — so I won’t do that here.
What I will do, however, is continue to have fun marveling at the Raiders’ annual obsession with one single measurable trait among all prospective draftees, and hope for the best.
Bob Frantz is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to The Examiner. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.