The NFL Draft is a time where each NFL team starts over with a fresh slate and the anticipation of winning the Super Bowl. The Oakland Raiders caused most critics' jaws to drop to the floor when the team selected LB Rolando McClain and DL LaMarr Houston with its first two picks in the 2010 NFL Draft—two excellent, respectable choices. Along with the 3rd and 4th round picks, McClain and Houston had stellar rookie seasons.
But there are many questions that stem heading into this offseason with the CBA and undetermined direction that will be taken by the team under Hue Jackson. It couldn't hurt to blindfold Al Davis and tie him up in a chair like last year.
Like most of the league, Oakland has several needs to address in the coming months, but is currently the only franchise without a first-round-pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, having traded it away to New England for the versatile, experienced leader and star defender Richard Seymour. Seymour has been a tremendous asset the past two seasons with the Raiders and it was no surprise that he was given the franchise tag last week.
Barring trade, the team will sit idle until the 48th overall pick in the middle of the second round to choose its first prospect—most likely an offensive lineman or a replacement at cornerback for Nnamdi Asomugha if he goes elsewhere.
While it's all fun to consider a great speedster and hard-hitter in the secondary, let's take a break from Charlie The Unicorn's world and be realistic. A cornerback doesn't protect your quarterback or get you to the Super Bowl. It can be found in a mid-round to cover the need. Yes, Davis still searches the grounds of Charlie The Unicorn for the next Jack Tatum.
2nd Round: Stefen Wisniewski, C/G, Penn State
Oakland is still in pursuit of building the basic tools to take the next step forward. Selecting a versatile center that can start from Day 1 is exactly what the Raiders ordered.
Polished with stellar experience, Wisniewski has the ability to have an impact in the NFL. He's exactly what the team needs to protect Jason Campbell and the ball carriers.
3rd Round: Jalil Brown, CB, Colorado
Regardless of what happens to star Nnamdi Asomugha, the Raiders will use this pick to grab an aggressive speedster and a threat to the ball carrier.
Jalil Brown has the physical strength, tackling skills, success in lining up and reading the quarterback's eyes, and something Al Davis loves—the speed and ability to chase receivers well in the secondary. All of this makes Brown a solid-as-jello third-round-pick for the Oakland Raiders.
4th Round: Marcus Gilbert, OT, Florida
Finding a great talent in the fourth round shoudn't be difficult—the Raiders were able to last year, to the surprise of many, with Bruce Campbell. I expect the Raiders to add Marcus Gilbert here, an experienced blocker who went toe-to-toe with opposing defensive linemen from the SEC.
A big body with tools to become a decent lineman in the NFL, Gilbert will develop into a force on the O-Line for many years to come once he polishes some of his footwork and strengthens his attack.
5th Round: Doug Hongue, OLB, Syracuse
The Oakland Raiders must attain a solid backup at linebacker for Rolondo McClain and Kamerion Wimbley. Doug Hongue fits the description. He's a great athlete and was a major contributor to the Orange defense in 2010, racking up 89 tackles, 3 INTs and a forced fumble.
If Oakland wants to take a bit of a gamble, this is the spot in the 5th round and it might turn out to be one of those late round surprises. Hongue has tremendous upside and Oakland could always use more help on special teams.
6th Round: Edmond Gates, WR, Abilene Christian
By now, the draft is passing so fast the cards are moving at Formula-One rate and the commissioner has left his post. The "garbage time" of a game, if you will.
Al Davis takes off the blindfold, untangles himself from the tied-up chair and makes the call—reeling in one of the fastest prospects left on the board—Edmond Gates.
Gates accumulated over 1,000 receiving yards, 60 catches and 13 TDs in Division II in college. He's an asset on special teams and potentially a receiver down the road.
7th Round: Scott Tolzien, QB, Wisconsin
In this juncture, the team better have its next pick in mind, otherwise you might as well draw from a hat. Heck, that's how Tom Brady was picked. Okay, not really. But wouldn't that be something? I digress...Oakland turns up the final card and prepares for the quick announcement. In a flash, the Raiders make their final selection in the 2011 NFL Draft and "select quarterback Scott Tolzien, Wisconsin."
Another backup to provide more competition at QB. Scott Tolzien threw for 5,271 yards and 32 TDs in his college campaign. He's known for making good decisions on the field with accurate passing velocity and mobility. Tolzien also led the nation in with the top passer rating in 2010.
What keeps him from the ranks of Cam Newton, Pat Devlin, Jake Locker, Ryan Mallett, and Blaine Gabbert is his quickness and arm strength, making him more of a great backup in the NFL. But there's always a slight chance for greatness—like Tom Brady (6th round), Kurt Warner (undrafted) and Arian Foster (undrafted), just to name a few.
Through his willingness to grow and room for improvement, Tolzien will be the right choice for the Raiders.
It's always surprisingly riveting watching the Oakland Raiders draft choices unfold. With Al Davis probably pulling the strings, anything is bound to happen. We will all examine new head coach Hue Jackson continue to press on the gas and achieve great strides in improving this team and it will be eminent in making his first impression come April.