Alternately, and accurately, called a crapshoot and football's version of Christmas in April, the NFL draft is fast approaching for new Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie.
In a media conference on Wednesday, McKenzie acknowledged he still has access to the late Al Davis' scouting reports. Davis lived for the draft and McKenzie is preparing for his first as a GM.
What could McKenzie potentially glean from said reports? More than you could imagine. The highs, the lows, the hits and the misses. Personally, I'd love to see the notes from 1982, when the Raiders' draft war room was split over who to take with the 10th overall pick -- Barry Redden from Richmond or the reigning Heisman Trophy winner from USC. Thankfully for the Raiders, cooler heads prevailed and Marcus Allen was selected. Looking at more recent history, though, it's easy to see where Oakland knocked it out of the park in the draft and where it struck outswinging and looking.One Insider's opinion, then, on the Raiders' Top 3 draft picks since 2000, and the Raiders' Bottom 3 draft picks since the turn of the century...Raiders Top 3 draft picks since 20001. PK Sebastian Janikowski (First-round pick, selected No. 17 overall in 2000 out of Florida State)
Raiders' Bottom 3 draft picks since 20001. QB JaMarcus Russell (First-round pick, selected No. 1 overall in 2007 out of LSU)No question, is there? Based on pure draft position, Russell is the biggest bust in NFL draft historyliterally and figuratively. But I always have a hard time criticizing the Raiders for taking him. Yeah, I know Lane Kiffin's "master plan" at the time was to take Calvin Johnson No. 1 and then draft Trent Edwards in the second or third round and implement his version of the West Coast offense, but Russell was the consensus No. 1 pick. The Raiders would have been derided had they not taken Russell. But the warning flags were there from the start, even before Russell held out as a rookie and missed all of camp and the season opener. He did not play until December. It was hard to tell which was worse early on -- his attitude or his work ethic. Turned out to be accountability, or lack thereof. He lost 18 of the 25 games he started, completed just 52.1 of his passes, threw 23 interceptions and 18 touchdowns, lost 15 fumbles and had a career passer rating of 65.2 after three seasons. It's been nearly two years since Davis released him and Russell and his six-year, 61-million contract, with 32 million guaranteed, still is fading into a bad dream. His name is synonymous with Purple Drank and blown opportunity. Even Ryan Leaf shakes his head at Russell's plight.2. MLB Rolando McClain (First-round pick, selected No. 8 overall in 2009 out of Alabama)Too soon? You'd rather see someone like Derrick Gibson or Phillip Buchanon occupying this space? Fine, but neither were expected to be franchise cornerstones, as wasis McClain at middle linebacker. True, he's only two years into his career and he doesn't turn 23 until July 14 so he has time on his side to turn it around. But he's shown a disturbing inability to shed blocks and he's easily re-directed and often takes bad angles to ball carriers. And yet, it's obvious when he's not on the field, that's how much pure talent he has. But is he playing out of position in the middle of a 4-3 defense, as opposed to simply being on the inside of Alabama's 3-4, as he was when he was college football's best linebacker? His in-season arrest for allegedly firing a gun next to a man's ear was another red flag. New coach Dennis Allen is a defensive-minded coach so McClain should get a chance to reverse course and get off this list in the seemingly always-telling third season as a pro. Otherwise, McClain, taken ahead of already-Pro Bowl defensive players like Earl Thomas, Jason Pierre-Paul and Devin McCourty, promises to go down in Silver and Blackdom infamy.3. LT Robert Gallery (First round pick, selected No. 2 overall in 2004 out of Iowa)Sure, the guy known in certain circles as The Undertaker for his physical resemblance to the WWE star of the same moniker, has carved out a decent, almost Pro Bowl niche for himself as a left guard. But he was drafted as the Raiders' left tackle of the future, a can't-miss prospect who had a perfect 9.0 Draft Prospect Rating. "Whoever drafts him is going to get a 15-year Pro Bowl player," then-Washington offensive line coach Joe Bugel told Sports Illustrated the week before the Raiders drafted Gallery. "I can't find anything wrong with him." Gauging Bugel's short tenure as the Raiders head coach, maybe we should have known better. Beset by injuries, somewhat short-for-his-frame arms and numerous position changes, Gallery is still looking for that elusive first Pro Bowl bid and, now with New England, he will be playing for his third different team in as many years. Harsh? Maybe. Especially since expectations were so high so early. But 11 of the 16 players drafted immediately after Gallery have been named to at least one Pro Bowl, including the next six players in a row, a list including Larry Fitzgerald and Philip RIvers. You could say Gallery had nowhere to go but down after such heady predictions, even if he's been relatively solid as a position he was not supposed to play.Dishonorable mention: S Derrick Gibson, first round, 2001, Florida State; CB Phillip Buchanon, first round, 2002, Miami; QB Andrew Walter, third round, 2005, Arizona State.