Mum Raiders have draft options 

click to enlarge Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper is on the Raiders' radar, but USC defensive tackle Leonard Williams may be a suitable alternative in Round 1 of the NFL Draft. - DAVID J. PHILLIP/AP
  • David J. Phillip/AP
  • Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper is on the Raiders' radar, but USC defensive tackle Leonard Williams may be a suitable alternative in Round 1 of the NFL Draft.
The two men in charge of the Oakland Raiders threw shadows at a few media types on Friday. To no surprise. The subject was the upcoming NFL draft, and the team’s possible selection in the first round. Which will be a surprise until made.

Teams are built from the draft, we’re told. And from patience. Construction of the Great Wall of China seemingly was completed before construction of the Raiders, who for seasons have been putting things together brick by brick. And taking them apart in much the same manner.

Thirty years ago, 1985, has as much significance for the future or the Raiders as any at the moment. That was the year both general manager Reggie McKenzie (10th round by the Raiders) and new head coach Jack Del Rio (third round by New Orleans) started their NFL careers, which through fate and fable have brought them together at Oakland.

And Friday, that was literally, Del Rio sitting next to McKenzie as questions were fired forthright — and ignored as forthrightly — about who the Raiders might select with their first pick, fourth overall.

Since it is presumed the quarterbacks who won the last two Heisman Trophies, Jameis Winston of Florida State and Marcus Mariota of Oregon, will go 1-2 or 2-1 to Tampa Bay and Tennessee, the Raiders won’t get either. Hey, they have a quarterback, Derek Carr, who while showing rookie imperfections in 2014 also showed considerable talent.

What they lack is enough defense (last year’s fifth overall pick, linebacker Khalil Mack was excellent at season’s close) and a brilliant receiver (even though a few days ago they signed Michael Crabtree, a first-round pick by the 49ers in 2009).

Jacksonville picks third and very well could go for Alabama receiver Amari Cooper — if it doesn’t opt for USC defensive tackle Leonard Williams. Any accolade fits each of them: Wonderful, great, probable All-Pro. You name it. The question is which one Jacksonville thinks is the best fit.

And, whether the Raiders will be satisfied with the player who’s not chosen, Cooper, the receiver, Williams, the DT. Both McKenzie and Del Rio played defense, as a reference.

John Madden, a one-time Raiders coach, NFL Hall of Famer if you don’t know, more famous for his TV commentary and EA Sports video football game, has long insisted you don’t know about the success or failure of a draft pick for a couple years at least, depending upon the player’s position.

Madden’s other observation of draft picks: “Of course a team says it’s happy with the people it took or it wouldn’t have taken them. You don’t hear teams say, ‘We don’t like the players we drafted,’ do you?” Not at all. It’s also true New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, once of San Mateo’s Serra High, was a sixth-rounder — and has won four Super Bowls. You never know? Or do you?

“The draft is deep at whatever position,” said McKenzie. “It really doesn’t matter. We just kind of focus on the players in relation to our team. You’re not going to get a whole lot of information from me as who I like or where do we think a lot of players are.”

A whole lot? How about nothing, zilch.

“You guys want all the information,” McKenzie said to the assembled scribes and electronic types, “and it’s not our job to prepare other people around the league for the draft. I know you’d like to hear the specifics. We’re collecting information and making judgments and opinions and keeping that very much in house.”

Which, certainly, is why there are so many people on TV (ESPN’s Mel Kiper, for a start) and the Internet holding mock drafts.

“My favorite memory of the draft,” said Del Rio, referring to when he and Bills head coach Rex Ryan were assistants with the Baltimore Ravens. “I would act as Kiper and he act as Joel Buschbaum (of Pro Football Weekly). We would do our own draft predictions. Rex, you know, came in second that day. We’d have fun with it that way.”

Now it’s serious. Now the picks might determine the Raiders’ future and the future of Del Rio and McKenzie. Select away, gentlemen.

Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on www.artspander.com. Email him at typoes@aol.com.

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Art Spander

Art Spander

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Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on www.artspander.com and www.bleacherreport.com. Email him at typoes@aol.com.
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Sunday, Feb 18, 2018

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