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.”