If Darren McFadden is there when the Raiders’ turn comes up in the first round of the NFL draft Saturday, bet that Al Davis will grab him.
Certainly, there are players who would be better fits for the Raiders’ specific needs. If LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey is there, he could be the run stopper the Raiders desperately need. Raiders fans must salivate at the thought of Michigan offensive tackle Jake Long, who gave up just one sack and was flagged for only two penalties in his collegiate career, though the thought of the high rating for Robert Gallery out of college should give pause. Possibly, Virginia’s Chris Long will be available and he has a double positive — a pass-rushing defensive end and the son of Howie Long, the former Raider who is now in the Hall of Fame. Some also like Ohio State defensive end Vernon Gholston.
The Raiders don’t have a big need for a running back, because they have Justin Fargas, LaMont Jordan, Dominic Rhodes and Michael Bush.
But McFadden is a special talent, a threat to go all the way on almost every play. And he had a time of 4.27 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the combine. His talent makes him very appealing; his speed makes him irresistible to Davis. When Davis looks at McFadden, he probably thinks of Bo Jackson.
It will definitely be Davis’ decision, of course. After years of blaming others for the decisions he made, Davis has come out from behind the curtain. As Lane Kiffin noted at the owners meetings, Davis is the general manager, the personnel director and, sometimes, the defensive coordinator for the Raiders.
Kiffin won’t be involved in the process, but then, he wasn’t last year, either, despite the cover story. Kiffin wanted the Raiders to draft wide receiver Calvin Johnson with their No. 1 overall pick. Davis wanted quarterback JaMarcus Russell. End of discussion.
It’s too early to make a prediction on Russell’s future, but Davis made the right choice. It all starts with the quarterback. If one with Russell’s potential is there, it’s a no-brainer.
Because the Raiders don’t have another pick until the fourth round, there’s tremendous pressure to make the right pick in the first round. That’s not good news. The Raiders haven’t had much success in the last 10 years with their first-round picks, which is one important reason they have won only 19games in the last five years.
In three of those years, they had extra picks, so they’ve drafted 13 players in the first round in that span. Only two — cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha and kicker Sebastian Janikowski — have been unqualified successes. Their record with offensive linemen has been especially dismal as they’ve picked Mo Collins, Matt Stinchcomb and Gallery.
Those results and his age, 79 in July, led Davis to a different path this offseason as he went on a spending spree in free agency, with one trade — for cornerback DeAngelo Hall — thrown in.
Most NFL observers think Davis overpaid for his free-agent additions, but when you look at what high first-round draft picks get, you have to ask: What’s overpaying in the NFL these days? Davis will have to pay a high price for his first-round pick, too. I think he’d rather pay that to someone who gets his heart racing, as McFadden would.