They say that it takes at least two years before you can judge a draft class. Which means that it is time to take a look back at the Raiders 2007 draft class. The Raiders had a whopping eleven picks in this draft after they swung a few deals to get more selections. And while it is not about quantity but quality, having that many chances to get it right certainly ups the odds. Also upping the odds of getting the player they wanted was the fact that they were on the clock the moment the 06 season ended.
Football prognosticators love to give grades on how they think a team has faired in the drafts of the previous five years. So it stands to reason that with just weeks before the 2009 NFL draft, it is time to revisit the 2007 draft class. And I have to say, this is a draft class I am more than happy to revisit.
So without further ado, let’s take a look at who the Raiders grabbed that year and how they have turned out so far.
1. JaMarcus Russell, QB, LSU
2009 was his first full season and he made tremendous strides. His potential seemed to be through the roof and the way he finished the season, had his future was looking bright. This was the first time the Raiders chose a QB with their top pick since 1991 (when they selected Toke Marijuanovich out of USC). Raider fans had the entire offseason to contemplate what the Raiders may do with the pick. Russell was the consensus choice to go number one overall and he certainly did. I was excited when the commissioner took the podium and announced the Raiders selected Russell with the pick because he was, by all indications, the perfect QB for this team. He had all the tools–arm strength, elusiveness and accuracy– to go along with his tremendous size. I was extremely hard on him through the first half of the '09 season because of his inaccuracy and fumbling tendencies. But when week 12 rolled around and the Raiders rolled into Denver to play the rival Broncos, suddenly JaMarcus showed Raider fans and alike just what he was capable of doing when he gets in the zone. He was only given 11 passes but he completed 10 of them– one for a touchdown– with no interceptions and more importantly no fumbles. The Raiders beat the Broncos 31-10. Any Raider player who goes into Denver and beats the Broncos will have place in the hearts of the Raider Nation. Then Russell finished off the season with a great three game stretch that saw him complete a total of 49 passes for 626 yards and 6 touchdowns and a combined passer rating of 104.2. And these were not patty cake meaningless games either. The first game was against New England who was fighting for a playoff spot (and didn’t get one). The second game was against Houston of whom the Raiders had NEVER beaten. And the third and final game of the season was, of course, against John Gruden and the hated Buccaneers in a game the Bucs HAD TO win to make the playoffs (That game essentially ended Gruden’s career with the Buccaneers and perhaps his NFLcareer). So he was looking pretty good.
2. Zach Miller, TE, Arizona State
As much as I liked the JaMarcus Russell pick in this draft, I may have liked this pick even more. And I am not talking about my opinion after two seasons of watching this man terrorize NFL defenses. After the Raiders selected Miller in the second round, I immediately went to every Bears fan I could find and laughed right in their faces that their team chose the 2nd best TE in that draft (Greg Olsen) over the best TE prospect to come out of college since Tony Gonzalez. Afterall, he finished his career at Arizona State as ASU’s all-time leader in receptions by a tight end and touchdown catches by a tight end. This was over another pretty well known ASU tight end by the name of Todd Heap. His only knock that I heard coming out of college was that he was not a good blocker. That rumor proved to be quite a misconception as he has never shied away from contact and is an extremely smart blocker in the backfield and especially down field. If you were to go back and watch any sizable gain by a receiver, you will notice that the big block was made by Miller nearly every time. In his rookie season he led all rookie tight ends with 44 catches for 444 yards. Last season he improved on those numbers and was by far the leading receiver for the Raiders with 56 catches for 778 yards. He was fourth in the AFC among tight ends in receptions just behind Tony Gonzalez, Owen Daniels and Dallas Clark. But of the four of them, Zach had the highest yards per catch as well as the longest play from scrimmage with his 63 yard touchdown against San Diego in week four. He deserved pro bowl consideration last season but was snubbed for bigger names like Antonio Gates (despite Gates having worse numbers). I love it when my excitement over a player being drafted is vindicated. Consider this list: Casper, Christensen, Miller. I don’t think it is too soon to put him there. Do you?
3a. Quentin Moses, DE, Georgia
Unfortunately, I have to admit, I was also very happy with this pick. Afterall, the guy was a sure fire first rounder if he had come out after his junior year. He regressed slightly his senior season while his line mate was getting all of the sacks and he was getting double teams. So, many scouting services still projected him as a possible first rounder. Then he “fell” into the third round and into the Raiders’ lap. I was monitoring my draft board at the time and saying “Holy crap, Quentin Moses is still there for the taking and at a position the Raiders need” and then the Raiders took him. After the first two picks, then this one, I thought I must have been livin’ right to be blessed with three great picks like this. I know I wasn’t alone in my optimism regarding Moses either. The blogosphere was abuzz with Raider fans singing the praises of the steal the Raiders got in Moses. As if he was going to part the Red Sea (ehem). Then the first round of cuts were announced in camp and Quentin Moses’ name was among them. This news was a shocker to not just the Raider fans, the entire NFL. Then there was rumor that Moses’ name was not supposed to have been on the cut list but ended up on it because of some sort of clerical error. The Cardinals (after cutting their own third round pick in the same draft, oddly enough) quickly swiped up Moses thinking they had “found money”. But before the end of camp, the Cardinals released Quentin Moses as well. Eventually he caught on with the Dolphins and has a total of 11 tackles and 1.5 sacks over the past two season in Miami. The third round gets better though.
3b. Mario Henderson, OL, Florida State
Henderson didn’t really show up until his final season at Florida State. Up until that point he was considered an underachiever that was slow to pick up on schemes. In Henderson, the Raiders saw a guy that had the potential to be the stellar tackle that this team has lacked for some time. So they traded their 2008 third rounder to the Patriots for this pick so they could select him. The Pats probably took the deal thinking that the Raiders 2008 third rounder would be higher than their third rounder and they were very right. The Patriots made the Superbowl (AND LOST!) so they had the second to last pick in each round and the Raiders had the fourth pick in the third round. His first season, he looked like a tremendous waste of a pick (two picks in fact), even for a mid third rounder. And in last year’s preseason, he looked just as terrible. Especially when he let his man beat him around the corner which caused Andrew Walter to be hit so hard from behind, he had a nose bleed. The Raiders picked up Kwame Harris after he was released by the Niners in the offseason and handed him the starting left tackle job. Kwame was injured in week one and Mario came in for him and started the next two games in his stead. And he looked…well like someone else. He was an immovable force and it was astounding. After those two games, I was wondering why the team went right back to Kwame Harris despite Harris’ constant penalties and poor pass blocking. But, even so, as of week 10, Henderson started seeing more and more playing time until he was eventually given the started job for the remaining three games of the season. Not coincidentally, those were the three best games of Russell’s career (as I mentioned earlier). All told he played in 11 games with 5 starts and didn’t give up a SINGLE sack. In those five starts he blocked the likes of Tamba Hali, Aaron Schobel, Richard Seymour, Mario Williams, and Gaines Adams.
3c. Johnnie Lee Higgins, WR, UTEP
This was dubbed as one of Al Davis’ typical speed picks. And honestly I had to do some research on him after they got him. I expected to see a lot of reports about how raw he was and how he was all speed and not much else. But that is not what I found. Everything I read and studied in regards to Higgins had me wondering how he even slipped to the latter part of the third round. I saw one fan in a chat room once that typed “Russell to Higgins” followed by the little drooling emoticon. I thought to myself “that pretty much sums up my thinking as well.” Then he was injured much of his rookie season and combined with JaMarcus holding out for contract reasons meant all those visions of long passes and quick slants would have to wait another season. After an abysmal '08 preseason, he started off the '09 season so badly that I questioned why he was even still on this team. Then in week 3 against the Bills, he began the game with a 68 yard return to set up a score and later topped that return when he took a short pass 84 yards to the house. A few games later, in week 11, after the Raiders had not scored a touchdown in three weeks, he broke through for his first punt return touchdown. The very next week he improved on that effort by returning another punt for a touchdown as well as having an all-around great return game and added some offense as well. In week 15 against the Patriots he was given the start at receiver and he made the best of it by taking a short slant pass from Russell 56 yards to paydirt. Then in week 16 he had his best game of the season. He scored two touchdowns; One on a great leaping catch in traffic in the end zone and the other was an 80 yard punt return touchdown. Finally, in week 17 he had a team leading 6 receptions for 52 yards and a touchdown. He ended the season as the leading touchdown scorer and the leader in catches and yards among wide receivers.
4a. Michael Bush, RB, Louisville
I mentioned that there was talk about Quentin Moses being a steal in this draft for the Raiders. Well, there was no bigger steal in the entire draft, for any team, than getting Michael Bush in the fourth round. At this point I was so high (substance free), I thought I wouldn’t come back down. Bush was the frontrunner for the Heisman going into his senior season for the Louisville Cardinals. He was projected ahead of every other back in the country including one Adrian Peterson. Then he suffered a major compound fracture in his leg and was in for a long rehab process. Going into the 08 draft, nearly every NFL draft “expert” as well as most casual fans, were predicting the Raiders would choose Darren McFadden with the fourth pick. I completely disagreed because I could see no reason why the team that just a draft prior, stole the most powerful, versatile and fast runningback in the country would choose a running back that high just a year later. Not when players at positions of desperate need like DT Glenn Dorsey and OT Ryan Clady were still on the board. I felt like I was a ghost standing next to Al Davis in the war room screaming “You want versatility? We already have that in Michael Bush and it only cost a fourth round pick to get him!” but he couldn’t hear me. Well, after being misused and little used by the Raiders, Bush was finally given significant carries in the final game of the season because of injuries to Fargas and McFadden. All he did was go out and destroy the vaunted Buccaneer defense for 177 yards and two touchdowns which included an amazing 67 yard touchdown run. He made anyone watching the game wonder if Bo Jackson and Jerome Bettis had a love child that the Raiders had been hiding in their basement like Sloth (John Matuzack) from Goonies. Then he boarded that lame ass, orange creamsicle, Raider wannabe, Buccaneer pirate ship shouting, “Heeeyy Yoouu Guuuuyyyyyss!”
Wanna know what John Gruden’s nightmares look like? CLICK HERE
4b. John Bowie, CB, Cincinnati
Yet another 07 draft pick from a deal with the Patriots. Bowie will forever be tied to the unmentionable cancer receiver because this is the pick the Raiders received for him. This one is an utter disappointment so far because he has been injured nearly his entire two year career. He appeared very briefly in just 2 games in his rookie season and was placed on injured reserve in the preseason of 08. He will likely be given one more shot to perform and actually stay healthy this coming season. If he doesn’t wow the coaches or gets hurt again, he will be gone. When they announced this pick I said “John Bowie? Who the F–k is John Bowie?!” I was not pleased with this pick as the sole compensation for the aforementioned quitter of whom a rolling stone would not gather.
5a. Jay Richardson, DE, Ohio State
Initially, Richardson was quite a surprise as the team let Quentin Moses go in favor of him. And for a fifth round pick he has performed quite well. With a pick this low, a team only expects a quality depth player. But he has played well enough to hold down the position with 22 starts the past two seasons. He has never been a rush end, he is mainly there for help with the run. And while I have not lauded his work in that role, in competition with Kalimba Edwards at the position last season, Richardson actually had more tackles. Until this team can find a better option and someone can beat Richardson out for the starting left defensive end spot, he will continue to outplay his draft position. And even if he was beat out (which I honestly hope he is), he will provide quality depth which, as I said, is all we could really ask from him.
5b. Eric Frampton, S, Washington State
Another player who was projected to go higher (third round) and became a value pick here. He didn’t work out for whatever reason (damn clerical errors!) and was cut in camp. He was picked up by the Lions for whom he played five games before being cut and picked up by the Vikings. He appeared in all 16 games last season for the Vikings, playing sparingly. This is not a bad choice really because the low rounds are when you take flyers on guys that you think can perhaps stand out at another position and justify the selection. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
6. Oren O’Neal, FB, Arkansas State
He came in as a rookie sixth round pick that didn’t show up on a single draft board that I could find anywhere and he was nails. He took the starting fullback job from Justin Griffith and immediately began opening huge holes for the Raider runners which gave the Raiders one of the best running attacks in the NFL in 07. He was injured in the first game of the season in 08 and his absence may have done more to cement his value to this team than his presence did. The Raiders re-signed Luke Lawton, whom they cut in the preseason, to fill the void. The results were less than stellar. After the season ended Griffith was cut amid the salary cap purge and O’Neal is ready to step back into his starting role. Even for a fullback, a sixth round instant starter of his calibre, is a rare gem. Most of us may not have known him when he was chosen but we sure know him now.
7. Jonathan Holland, WR, Louisiana Tech
Anyone chosen in the seventh round whose name still shows up on the team’s roster is a bonus. He was a practice squad guy his rookie season and was on the practice squad last season until week 14 when he was signed to the active roster for the remainder of the season. He didn’t have any stats but he is obviously proving himself worthy and could very well be on the active roster to start next season. At this point, there is definitely room for him.
11 players were chosen by the Raiders in this draft. All are still in the league.
9 are still members of the Raiders
7 are starters
Seven starters from a single draft after two seasons is nearly unheard of. I would love to find how many times that has ever happened in the history of the NFL. We have all heard a thousand times “Championship teams are built throught the draft” and if that holds true here, the Raiders have some good days ahead of them. While I am not ready to judge last year’s draft quite yet, if this year’s draft can yield anything similar to the one in 2007, then the Raiders will be in good shape for years to come.