Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Seeds of change in Raiders front office are bearing some fruit

The 2008 season ended for the Oakland Raiders with a little bit of momentum heading into 2009 after two wins over the Texans and the Bucs. There is still a lot of work to do in Oakland to right the ship.

We’re 88 days away from the 2009 NFL draft as this article is being written, the Raiders are drafting in the top five, again, which isn’t surprising. Every year at this time, team needs as well as team priorities for every franchise are mentioned, in addition to the one million mock drafts that are everywhere.

What it surprising are the facts that if you were to look at these items for the Raiders for the last two seasons the needs are basically identical, with only one difference being the team has their franchise quarterback.

A quarterback is only as good his offensive line and wide receivers. The team needs for the Raiders prior to the 2008 NFL draft were Defensive Tackle, Safety, Offensive Tackle, Wide Receiver and Cornerback. One year later the team has the exact same needs.

This could be for a number of reasons in my book it is attributable to having several holes to fill on the team. These holes need to be filled through the draft and the Raiders need to resist the temptation of bringing in several free agents, which has been the plan in the past and develop their young players.

The Raiders possess one of the smallest scouting staffs in the league although that staff was bolstered in 2007 with the hiring of Rich Snead, the former Titans director of player personnel. This is his second stint with the organization, he worked for the Raiders 1990-1993. He now serves as Al Davis eyes and ears but as always Al will have the final say on anything Raiders.

There were two other additions to the Personnel department George Streeter & Keith Rowen. The moves added new blood to the scouting department and gave the Raiders five individuals with 20-plus seasons of experience. However, George Streeter was dismissed during the 2008 off-season.

This hire was huge because it not only helps the team draft better talent but it is also proof that Al Davis seems to realize that he needs help, especially when it comes to evaluating talent.

Snead’s contribution is evident with the last two drafts but make no mistake no one is going to tell Al what to do. He has the unenviable task of showing Al who will improve the team’s performance on the field from a talent standpoint.

There are several key things to note about draft success but the one that stands out to me is how a team views talent. The other three questions that must be asked are, about the player’s versatility? Is he the right fit for the team’s scheme? Is the player ready can he make the transition from college to the pro game?

It is known fact that a team's not going to hit on every pick, that just doesn’t happen but the additions mentioned have at least raised the Raiders batting average.

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