Raiders have Seymour instead of first-round pick

From JaMarcus Russell to Darrius Heyward-Bey to Derrick Gibson,
the Oakland Raiders have had a run of first-round picks who have
provided little production for the team.

They don’t have to worry about that this year, having traded
their top pick back in 2009 for New England defensive tackle
Richard Seymour, who already has given the Raiders a Pro Bowl
season.

Instead of picking 17th overall, the Raiders head into
Thursday’s draft with the 48th overall spot. Barring a trade, it
will be their first time without a first-rounder since 1989.

They have no regrets for what they did with that pick.

”Obviously, we don’t have a first-round draft pick,
quote-unquote, what the record books say, even though we think we
have one. We think we have a pretty good one,” coach Hue Jackson
said. ”He plays for us already, so we’re excited about him.”

The Raiders have gotten more production out of Seymour in two
years than they have gotten out of many recent first-round picks.
Since drafting Charles Woodson fourth overall in 1998, the Raiders
have made 14 first-round selections, with only cornerback Nnamdi
Asomugha making it to the Pro Bowl out of that group.

With Asomugha, Robert Gallery and Michael Huff all possible free
agent departures once the lockout is lifted, the Raiders could go
into next season with just four of those first-rounders on their
roster: Heyward-Bey, kicker Sebastian Janikowski, running back
Darren McFadden and linebacker Rolando McClain.

That’s despite having six top 10 picks in the past seven
years.

”That’s a lot of pressure, in my opinion, when you’re in the
top half of the draft,” Jackson said. ”Because you got to be
right. You take an opportunity, you make a decision on a player and
the expectation on that player goes through the roof.”

While the first round has not always been good to the Raiders,
they have done better in later rounds. They came out with a big
haul last year in the those rounds to go with McClain.

Second-round pick Lamarr Houston stepped in as a starter right
away at defensive end. Third-rounder Jared Veldheer showed signs of
being the effective left tackle Oakland has been lacking for years.
Fourth-rounder Jacoby Ford was a game-breaker on kick returns and
as a receiver. Seventh-rounder Stevie Brown played well in nickel
packages as a safety and on special teams.

Among the other good later-round picks in recent years are
starting defensive tackle Matt Shaughnessy (third round) and top
wide receiver Louis Murphy (fourth) in 2009; leading tackler Tyvon
Branch (fourth) and key pass rusher Trevor Scott (sixth) in 2008;
and Pro Bowl tight end Zach Miller (second) and running back
Michael Bush (fourth) in 2007.

While there can be many gems found in the later rounds, those
players often come with more questions than some of the polished
first-round picks. That puts an even bigger premium on
scouting.

”Is the guy fast enough, big enough, strong enough to play a
certain position? Do you take a chance on a player that maybe don’t
have as much skill, but has a little bit more of this, and then you
make that decision,” Jackson said. ”The key to it all still goes
back to preparation from the beginning so that when you get to that
pick, whether it’s the sixth, seventh round, that you’re making the
best pick that you can based on the information that you
have.”

Oakland’s biggest draft need is on the offensive line, where
Jackson is looking for more power blocking than the zone blocking
former coach Tom Cable preferred.

The Raiders also could use some help in the secondary,
especially if Asomugha and Huff leave as free agents, and possibly
a young quarterback to groom for the future.

”There’s some things to fix, but there’s not a ton,” Jackson
said. ”I feel very comfortable. We have a veteran quarterback, we
have a veteran defensive football team, we have a very young but
talented offensive team. We need to be much stronger in the
offensive line.”

Jackson has spent one draft with the Raiders as offensive
coordinator under Cable a year ago after being a part of drafts in
Baltimore, Cincinnati and Washington earlier in his career.

He said every team approaches the draft differently. In Oakland,
the room is run by owner Al Davis rather than a general manager or
coach.

”He makes the pick and he should. He’s the owner of the team,”
Jackson said. ”But the bottom line, he takes a lot of information
from us all. And he does take that information in, and he makes a
very calculated decision based on what we say and what we think. So
it’s not like it’s just him. He really and truly listens to what we
have to say, and I truly appreciate that. But at the end of the
day, he’s going to make that decision, and we all support
that.”

One thing Davis always covets is speed. He has drafted the
players who posted the fastest combine times in the 40-yard dash
the past two years (Ford and Heyward-Bey) and the second fastest in
2008 (Branch).

”We love fast guys. I don’t run from that,” Jackson said. ”I
want them as fast as I can get them, but we also want them to be
the best players when they get ready to play.”