Today, CSN Bay Area released an article by Paul Gutierrez in which he discusses some of the biggest hits and biggest busts of the last 12 years of Raider draft picks. The usual suspects are on the list, including JaMarcus Russell, Robert Gallery. Sebastian Janikowski, and Nnamdi Asomugha.
His lists were limited to three great picks and three busts. Who was left off the lists? Who didn't deserve to be on the lists at all? Read my thoughts after the jump.
Gutierrez's lists didn't really require a lot of thought, because the topic of Raider draft busts is really low-hanging fruit. That being said, the subject has been so thoroughly discussed and debated, and the conclusions have such a consensus, that his lists do not broach much argument. However, argue with him I will.
He lists Rolando McClain as a "bust". This is really unfair and too soon for that label. McClain is, naturally, a 3-4 MLB. He's been playing in a bland 4-3 with very little blitzing (a strength of his in college). Also, when he is not on the field the defense is noticeably worse. Both of these points are mentioned by Gutierrez in the article, but he still lists McClain as a bust while simultaneously defending him. This seems intellectually dishonest to me. McClain's spot on the Bust list would have been more aptly taken by someone who was both a flop and unimportant to the defense, such as Tyler Brayton.
Furthermore, he lists Robert Gallery as a bust. If you look only at what was expected of Gallery, which was something akin to Orlando Pace, he was a bust because he could not stick at left tackle. If you look at what was actually achieved by Robert Gallery, which was something akin to Steve Hutchinson, he seems less of a bust. What's the difference between a Pace and a Hutchinson? 14 spots in the draft? Gallery at left guard was a stalwart and consistently the best lineman the Raiders had. That to me is not a bust, just a minor disappointment.
It's difficult to say how much better tha Raiders would have been with Gallery at left tackle anyway, because he was blocking for the worst draft bust of all time, Jamarcus Russell, who is a disgrace to humanity and warrants no further discussion here.
Gutierrez's Best Picks list is much more palatable. Janikowski, Lechler, and Asomugha are the three players named, and I cannot argue with any of them. All three were, at least in 2010, the best players in football at their respective positions. If the 2003 NFL Draft were re-done today, Asomugha would likely be the third player drafted overall. That's pretty good value at pick #31.
I remember people freaking out and losing their minds over the selection of Janikowski in the first round in 2000. I also remember watching many Raider games prior to his selection in which the Raiders trotted out some deer-in-the-headlight kicker they'd signed off the street, only to lose a close game because the kicker sucked. It happened a lot, and cost the Raiders several wins. How many wins as Janikowski cost the Raiders in his twelve-year tenure with the team? I can count them in one hand. I'm not saying the Raiders ought to have used a first-round selection on a kicker, but I am saying it was a clear area of need, one that has not been an area of need since then. If that is not the goal for a first-round pick, I don't know what is.
My only disagreement with Gutierrez on his Best list is the exclusion of Jared Veldheer. He is a standout left tackle and to get one of those in the third round is a major victory for the Raider war room. Every team has its busts and its successes in the draft, and hopefully Reggie McKenzie's picks will fall more frequently under the Successes label in the future.