Walcoff: 49ers, Raiders can turn things around with draft 

Forget the rhetoric of taking “the best player available.” It’s time for the Raiders to draft for need, not speed. And it’s a time for the 49ers to use their two first-round picks to pump up an inconsistent offense and shore up a shaky defensive secondary.

With the eighth overall selection, the Silver and Black can grab one of the half dozen elite offensive tackles likely to go in today’s first round or take Alabama sensational inside linebacker, and Butkus Award winner, Rolando McClain.

Considering the Raiders had the league’s second-worst offense and third worst run defense last season, either move makes sense. But let’s think dollars, as in the $143 million Al Davis invested in his last three underachieving top picks, JaMarcus Russell, Darren McFadden and Darrius Heyward-Bey.

A team executive told me they must restore the offensive line strength that launched those great Oakland teams of a generation ago. Maryland’s freakishly athletic, but raw Bruce Campbell is the sexy pick, but the more NFL-ready choice is Oklahoma’s Trent Williams or Oklahoma State’s Russell Okung.

When you’re scoring only 12.3 points per game and playing to a near half-empty Coliseum you better think touchdowns before tackles to excite the Raiders Nation.

49ers backfield upgrade

No doubt Alex Smith could also use more time to shine, but pass protection wouldn’t be as big an issue for the 49ers if they had another dynamic play-maker in the backfield. Nobody fits that bill better than Clemson’s C.J. Spiller, who should still be on the board when San Francisco picks 13th. The lightning-quick tailback and kick returner had 51 touchdowns in his college career, 21 of those scores were runs of 50 yards or longer.

Spiller, the 2009 ACC Player of the Year, is only 5-foot-11, 195 pounds, but he’s tough enough to handle blitzing linebackers and is also an excellent receiver. He would be a perfect tag-team partner for Frank Gore, who often wears down under the heavy load of a 16-game season. Last year, no defense feared Glen Coffee when he spelled Gore. Spiller changes all that in a flash. Then with the 17th overall selection, the 49ers could take Florida’s Joe Haden, the best pure cover cornerback in the draft.

Local love

Among the best local hopefuls, Stanford’s Toby Gerhart and Cal’s Jahvid Best are both fighting negative perceptions in their hopes of making a big splash in the pros.

For Gerhart, it’s the belief by some scouts that he runs too upright and isn’t fast enough. Mistake. Gerhart is a surprisingly shifty power back with 4.5 speed who will be a solid NFL running back, not fullback.

Best, while far more explosive is also much less durable. While the multiple concussions he suffered last November cut short his junior year with the Bears, you don’t average 7.3 yards a carry in three Pac-10 seasons without being a special talent.

The only other Bay Area prospect likely to be selected in the first two rounds is Cal pass-rush specialist Tyson Alualu. He’s so good, they named him twice.

KGO (810 AM) Sports Director Rich Walcoff can be heard weekdays from 5 to 9 a.m. on the KGO morning news. He can be reached at RichWalcoff@gmail.com.

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