Al Davis and the Raiders as a whole have long been labeled as falling in love with speed. Among the top fastest players in NFL history, there are several Raiders on the list. This list is topped (unofficially) by Bo Jackson who reportedly ran a sub 4.2 40 yard dash.
Every year when the draft gurus make their predictions, they take the easy guess and say that the Raiders will choose the fastest guy. And, unfortunately, they are often correct. This is especially unfortunate in the more recent speedburners such as Darrius Heyward-Bey (4.30), Fabian Washington (4.29), Stanford Routt (4.29) and Darren McFadden (4.33).
But you will notice that all of these players are at one of three positions-- corner, running back, and wide receiver. And the Raiders are not in desperate need at any of those positions. So, with this team looking to non-speedy positions early the draft, the 40 time won't play as big a role as it so often does. Quite to the contrary in fact.
The areas of which this Raider team is in the most need of upgrading come at three positions where speed in not the number one priority. Those positions are defensive tackle, offensive tackle and middle linebacker.
It has long been speculated that Al Davis grabs the he wants in the first two rounds and then lets his scouting department and coaches do their job in the remaining rounds. There is plenty of evidence to support that assertion. Not the least of which are those players I mentioned at the start of this article. In fact, there has been only one speedy player drafted in the first two rounds of this decade that has panned out-- LB Thomas Howard (4.42).
Having a draft where speed is not the priority for the Raiders is not unheard of. In facts, it happens just as often as the latter. Five of the last ten drafts, speed was not a factor of emphasis when the Raiders chose their early drafts picks. In most cases it was a year where the team needs were at positions where a lot of speed was not necessary like quarterback, offensive tackle, center and kicker. All told, of Al Davis' speed positions, there was only one player drafted in the first or second round that had a lackluster 40 time-- Nnamdi Asomugha (4.45). See what can happen when Al puts down the stop watch?
Corner back is the position Al Davis covets above all others. So it stands to reason that corner is the position at which he values speed the most. The Raiders could use some depth at the corner position but the team probably won't be thinking about drafting one until the third round. At which point the choices will be in the hands of the scouts and coaches that aren't so...let's say "out of touch."
For proof of their good judgment you need only look at this team whose starting lineup is made up almost entirely of players drafted in between rounds three and seven. To be exact, fourteen different players drafted in the third round or lower, started games for the Raiders last year.
Of that group there are some players with startling low 40 times by Al Davis standards. DE/LB Trevor Scott (4.59), WR Louis Murphy (4.43), DE Matt Shaughnessy (4.86) and RB Michael Bush (4.60) stand out as the most lacking in the speed department. Although on the field you would never know it with the way Murphy and Bush run away from their defenders and Shaughnessy and Scott chase down quarterbacks. With these guys making plays for the Raiders, there is good reason to trust the judgement of this team‘s scouting department.
The scouting combine is set to begin this Wednesday, February 24. The Raiders staff will be there en mass and no doubt they will have their stopwatches on hand. But they have different priorities this time around. And this team will be the better for it.