Despite not having a first round selection in the 2011 draft, the Oakland Raiders came away with quite a haul of talent. Of the rookie class only Stefen Wisniewski is a full-time starter at left guard, but the whole group has been getting playing time.
Before we get to the players actually drafted this year, we should note that the Raiders traded for Richard Seymour prior to the 2009 season using their 2011 first-round draft pick. That trade has paid off in spades, as Seymour has been one of the premier defensive tackles in football during his time as a Raider, performing admirably as the leader of the defense. He has spearheaded the defensive line into becoming one of the best defensive line units in all of football. Now let's take an individual look at each of the players selected by the Raiders in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Round 2: Stefen Wisniewski- The unquestioned starter at left guard. When the Raiders lost Robert Gallery, many feared for the health of the running game. However, Wiz has ably stepped in and the running game is even better than it was last year. He is a large part of the reason Jason Campbell was barely sacked for the first part of the year and why Darren McFadden was able to run wild. He should be one of the best linemen in the AFC West for years to come.
Round 3: DeMarcus Van Dyke: A speedster with promise, DVD was introduced to the Raider Nation by being repeatedly torched by Drew Brees in the preseason. However, Brees has torched everyone else too so we cannot hold that against young DeMarcus. He has been coming on strong of late, showing the speed to keep up with any receiver. His technique will need time to develop under the tutelage of Rod Woodson, but he has all the physical tools. He did step in front of an errant Matt Cassel pass to record an interception in the game against the Chiefs this past Sunday.
Round 3: Joseph Barksdale: Currently the backup right tackle, Barksdale has gotten plenty of playing time. He hasn't been overpowering in general, but Khalif Barnes is playing very well and currently there is no need to rush Barksdale into full-time action. Barksdale does possess very good size, and should develop into a road-grading run blocker in time.
Round 4: Chimdi Chekwa: Chekwa was showing promise as a cover corner (after being an excellent one at Ohio State) until he suffered an injury. He was listed as questionable for Week 7 but did not play. Hopefully he will be back after the bye week. Chris Johnson was not playing particularly well before his injury, and until his own injury Chekwa was filling in admirably. Chekwa will be needed to bolster the Raiders' injury-riddled secondary in the last half of the season.
Round 4: Taiwan Jones: Shows tremendous burst out of the backfield, elite speed and cutting ability. A luxury in the run game as a backup to Darren McFadden, Taiwan has also exhibited good kick-return skills in the absence of Jacoby Ford. With Ford back healthy those will be needed less often, but Jones is a strong backup option and a steal in the fourth round. No team can have too many fast, elusive running backs.
Round 5: Denarius Moore: The steal of the draft at this point. No player drafted anywhere near him has shown the type of ball skills, athleticism, and sheer speed as Denarius Moore. He was a game-breaker at Tennessee and the fact that he fell so far in the draft is truly baffling. Moore is not a starter, but the Raiders' top 5 or 6 wide receivers all get substantial playing time so his place on the depth chart isn't terribly important. So far this year he has 14 catches for 212 yards and two touchdowns. With Carson Palmer at the helm, Moore is certain to continue racking up yardage.
Round 6: Richard Gordon: Primarily a blocking tight end in college at the U. of Miami, that's what he has done for the Raiders. He only has one reception for two yards this year. I wouldn't expect much in the way of statistics from him, but we all know what good a blocking tight end can do for a rushing game.
Round 7: David Ausberry: His playing time has been slim and none so far. He displayed good skills during the preseason with an athletic TD catch vs. the Cardinals, but so far he only has one catch for four yards in the game against the Browns. He has good size and athleticism, and may become a larger part of the offense in the future; only time will tell.
Overall the Raiders' draft class has had an impact about what you might expect given their draft positions (except for Denarius Moore). I don't see any busts, but I do see several players who will be strong contributors and potential Pro Bowlers in the future. Even without a first round pick, this looks to be one of the Raiders' strongest classes in a long time.