It has become a bit of an annual tradition for so-called draft pundits to completely bash the Oakland Raiders draft classes. Raiders fans hear the jokes about only picking speed guys and reaching for other talent. However, following the 2011 NFL Draft, ESPN's own draft pundits managed to avoid completely dogging the Raiders draft picks. They did not give them glowing praise, but all things considered it was positive.
I think Mel Kiper has resigned himself to the fact that the Raiders like guys of whom he isn't necessarily fond. He pointed to the Stefen Wisniewski pick as one people could see coming a mile away in part because when the Raiders find a guy they like, it doesn't really matter what other folks think of him. Consider it a sort of back-handed compliment. He was most positive about the offensive line as he views their choices there as a chance to fully implement the kind of offensive line Hue Jackson wants on his team.
You could see the pick of Wisniewski coming if you know Oakland's history. Stefen's uncle, Steve, was a great Raiders offensive lineman for 13 seasons. The pick itself came out as a slight reach on my board, but I know better than to say it was a bad reach, because Oakland consistently pick guys I have rated a little lower, but they often work out. Bottom line: it's not always about value with the Raiders, it's about getting their guy. Van Dyke makes sense as a Round 3 pick -- the Raiders need a corner with the likely departure of Nnamdi Asomugha and Van Dyke is, of course, perhaps the fastest guy in the draft. The Raiders then again went offensive line and cornerback in repeat order. They upgraded their offensive line last year and had great results with Hue Jackson calling the plays, and it appears they wanted to finish the job in 2011. I was a little surprised they didn't address a clear need at outside linebacker a little earlier. They also waited until Round 5 to get a wideout, a spot I thought they might get to earlier. Another pretty good draft for the Raiders, who like their guys but don't worry as much about value.
Todd McShay was most intrigued by their selection of wide receiver Denarius Moore. Given their potential 2010 draft day steal in Jacoby Ford, Moore could be a nice addition to the receiving corp. On the other hand, McShay panned the Raiders for their deal with the Patriots:
Best move: The surprising wideout
Denarius Moore has deceptive speed and is an underrated playmaker. He doesn't have great timed speed, which goes against the Raiders' usual MO, but he is slippery and tracks the vertical pass very well. Moore grew on me and the more tape I watched, the more I liked him.
Most questionable: Getting exploited by the Patriots
The Raiders traded pick No. 219 and a second-round pick in 2012 to the Patriots for picks No. 92 (OT Joe Barksdale) and No. 125 (RB Taiwan Jones). This is typical Raiders, not having a feel for where players are coming off the board and then getting impatient and making bad deals. The Patriots have a habit of exploiting teams like this and there's a reason New England keeps making deals with Oakland. Basically, this became Barksdale for a second-round pick, and that is not appropriate draft behavior.