If you first glance at the complete 2011 NFL Draft haul of the Oakland Raiders, you'll probably be a little bit underwhelmed. Don't forget though, that the Raiders didn't have a first round draft pick, though that didn't stop them from allegedly trying to get back into the first round. The word on draft day was that they were trying to move up into the late first, and then the early second, to acquire Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who eventually went to the San Francisco 49ers across the bay. When that trade didn't happen, the Raiders stayed at their original pick and drafted Stefen Wisniewski, the center out of Penn St.
When looking at their draft as a whole, Wisniewski at the top makes it at least appear as though they had a first round pick, because Wisniewski is clearly a first-round talent and he'll be an immediate starter and impact player in Oakland. But after that, it all just gets a littler underwhelming. They had a great 2010 draft, landing guys they targeted in each of the first four rounds. It's true that they went with picks based on athleticism, but they at least waited until round three and later to do so, drafting Rolando McClain in the first round was a very smart pick, especially when you also get Lamarr Houston in the second. They got their "measurable" guys in round four, which is where you generally should do that.
This year, they got their measurable guy with their second pick, which is never what you want to do. Drafting Demarcus Van Dyke in round three doesn't make sense in really any way, he probably would have been around for another two round. They took him solely because he ran a 4.28, which is odd because it's not the intensely speedy corners who are the biggest threat in the NFL today, something that the Raiders should know about, as free agent Nnamdi Asomugha isn't going to be breaking any track records.
Still, it was not a bad draft by any means, it's just that there were better picks on the board almost every time the Raiders picked, and they once again reached for athleticism. Let's run through taking a look at the best and worst picks, shall we? But first, listing of all of their picks.
Oakland Raiders 2011 NFL Draft Selections
Round 2: Stefen Wisniewski, C, Penn St. (48th overall)
Round 3: Demarcus Van Dyke, DB, Miami (81st overall)
Round 3: Joseph Barksdale, OL, LSU (92nd overall)
Round 4: Chimdi Chekwa, CB, Ohio St. (113th overall)
Round 4: Taiwan Jones, RB, Eastern Washington (125th overall)
Round 5: Denarius Moore, WR, Tennessee (148th overall)
Round 6: Richard Gordon, TE, Miami (181st overall)
Round 7: David Ausberry, WR, USC (241st overall)
As stated, at face value there's not a lot here. There's only a couple of names that jump out at you, when there probably should be a couple, considering the players on the board in almost every round when the Raiders picked. Still, if you were to take away the first round pick of other teams, and grade the draft that way, would this draft qualify as something other than the norm? Perhaps not.
Best Pick: Stefen Wisniewski
This is a no-brainer at this point, their best pick was their highest pick, because Wisniewski has Pro Bowl potential. Samson Satele is departing as a free agent (by all indications) and Wiz can step up into his role. If Satele stays with the team for some reason, Wiz can play either guard position and excel there. This is a safe, smart pick that will pay off.
Head Scratcher: Demarcus Van Dyke
It's not that he'll turn out to be a bad player or anything like that, it's just the fact that you don't go solely on 40-time in the third round. It's been their draft strategy for years now, and they've sucked for years now ... do they not see the trend? At the NFL level, nobody is going to get by on speed alone, at any position. For corner, it's even more puzzling because things like backpedal and hip rotation are vastly more important than speed. How fast can he run backwards? I'll give you a hint: it's not 4.28.
Sleeper Pick: Chimdi Chekwa
Chekwa has a ton of potential, his ceiling is up there, and he already has a lot going for his game. He will, in this writer's mind, be a better corner than Van Dyke from the get-go, and will work his way into the starting lineup. Here's a bit about Chekwa from a CB ranking post from your's truly.
13. Chimdi Chekwa - Dowling Lite, here. Chekwa has great speed and a very solid jumpball, he's the kind of guy who can be a playmaker, but will be seen celebrating a pass knocked out of bounds more so than an interception. Chekwa is still really raw, but has higher potential than anybody else in this range. He's very good in zone coverage and is at his best when he has everything developing in front of him. He will surprise many quarterbacks with his deceptive closing ability, he sits back in the zone and reacts to what the signal caller does faster than most in the draft and can thus get in front of passes, but it does at times lead to him getting lost if he doesn't identify something fast enough.
Boom Or Bust: Taiwan Jones
Jones was very under-the-radar in his college career, but he blew up at his Pro Day and private workouts. Everybody knew that there would be teams who would take him for his athleticism alone ... so look at that, the Raiders took him. Jones has great speed, acceleration, strength ... basically everything you want from that point of view. But he's just so very raw, he needs coaching and he needs somebody to get in there and make him change up his running style. Jones is playing with a chip on his shoulder, which could mean he'll be willing to do anything to learn, or maybe he'll be stubborn and not change, relying on his own abilities, like he's done thus far. Taiwan Jones can come in and be a playmaker from day one, or he could become somebody who proves to be largely ineffective when it all comes down to it. Flip a coin.
Quick 2011 Projections
Wisniewski: He will start from day one, likely at center.
Demarcus Van Dyke: He'll compete with Chekwa for the nickel spot, and he might get it ... or he might fall short. Flip a coin.
Joseph Barksdale: This is a solid pick, he will compete for a starting job on the interior of the line and likely get it.
Chimdi Chekwa: Will compete for a nickel spot, and be a solid special teamer.
Taiwan Jones: He'll see the field early on, maybe getting five carries a game.
Denarius Moore: Is fighting an uphill battle to make the roster, but he is a lot more sure-handed and has comparable speed in relation to the other receivers on the roster. 50/50.
Richard Gordon: Likely will get a roster spot and see the field, but his production will not be much in 2011.
David Ausberry: Practice squadder.
Value: D+, Need: B+, Overall: C