Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Oakland Raiders' Are getting help from the 2004 NFL Draft

Leading up to the 2004 NFL Draft the Oakland Raiders, like every other teams had several needs.

Possessing the number two overall pick in the draft the team’s biggest needs were Quarterback, Defensive End, Running Back, Wide Receiver, Outside Linebacker and Middle Linebacker.

The Raiders had nine draft picks in the draft and were thought to be targeting QB’s Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger or Philip Rivers. It was also reported that the Raiders were looking to improve the offensive line and eyeing LT Robert Gallery.

Several others had the Raiders targeting WR’s Larry Fitzgerald, Roy Williams or Mike Williams.

The Raiders chose to improve the offensive line and selected LT Robert Gallery, who at the time was one of the highest-rated offensive tackles leaving college in years. The second round brought Center Jake Grove who was rated the best center in the draft.

The other seven selections from that draft are no longer on the team and several are no longer in the NFL. The exceptions being; TE Courtney Anderson, who is on the Buffalo Bills roster and OLB Cody Spencer who is on the NY Jets roster.

Fast-forward four years later the two offensive linemen who were believed to be fixtures on the offensive line for the next ten years, Robert Gallery and Jake Grove remain.

The 2004 draft was yet another Raider draft class where the team several choices and a few years later only two guys remain with the team.

Free agency has helped to improve several teams and the Raiders seeking improvement traded a second round draft choice this year for CB DeAngelo Hall who was drafted number eight overall by the Falcons.

The team also signed SS Gibril Wilson and WR Drew Carter who were fifth round selections by the Giants and the Panthers. The team also signed Adimchinobe Echemandu who was a seventh round draft choice of the Cleveland Browns.

This gives the Raiders, four years removed, six solid draft choices from the 2004 NFL Draft that will help them improve in 2008.

LG Robert Gallery was labeled a ‘bust’ by many people but he had a solid 2007 campaign which will go a long way in shedding that label. He will continue to improve in the Tom Cable led zone blocking scheme.

C Jake Grove is noticeably bigger and stronger and locked into a heated battle for the starting center position with veteran Center Tom Wade.

CB DeAngelo Hall in set for a huge year as a starting cornerback opposite Nnamdi Asomugha. He should be the beneficiary of several interceptions due to teams not wanting to go after Nnamdi on a consistent basis.

Both Wilson and Carter are talented second day draft choices that took a little bit longer to develop which is why both fell to the fifth round.

SS Gibril Wilson is set for a huge year at Strong Safety following a solid 2007 championship year with the NY Giants.

He is an aggressive and tough safety who will come up and pop a running back. He can play in the box on eight man fronts and will help improve the teams run defense.

His acquisition solidifies the secondary and allows Michael Huff to play Free Safety which should free him up to use his athleticism to make plays.

WR Drew Carter is a talented player with good combination size and speed and tremendous upside.

Teams are always after receivers who have the quickness and strength to beat press coverage, the tenacity and hands to make catches in traffic and the size and leaping ability to be threats downfield and in the red zone.

Drew Carter has all of the above mentioned skills. He is locked in a positional battle with Ronald Curry for the number two or ‘Z’ receiver spot.

Todd Watkins, Drew Carter, Ronald Curry and Chaz Schilens have all made several plays in practice and in the first two pre-season games. The one missing link has been Javon Walker who needs to really step up.

Coach Kiffin has put him on notice stating that he needs to step his game up and start earning his paycheck. He was basically blasted for having too many dropped passes, lack of intensity and spending too much time in the trainer’s office. He has yet to play like a number one or go to receiver.

He knows that Saturday’s upcoming game against the Cardinals, despite being a pre-season game is a big one for him. Coach Kiffin has put together a game plan that will see several passes coming his way and he needs to come up big.

The wide receiver group as a whole needs to improve and show more consistency for the Raiders to have a complete offense. It is a work in progress and improving on a daily basis.
Let's not forget that 2004 was the same year the Raiders acquired starting DT Tommy Kelly as an undrafted free agent from Mississippi State.

The Oakland Raiders are a young team that will go through growing pains but they’re vastly improved and prepared to make noise in 2008 with the help of the selections from the 2004 draft.

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