With little more than a week to go until the 2014 NFL Draft is upon us, it begs the question just what are the expectations when it comes to the picks that the Oakland Raiders have? Raider Nation has dissected the number five pick and had many a debate about what general manager Reggie McKenzie will do when the Raiders are on the clock. McKenzie has made it clear that his draft day strategy will be to take the best available player on the board. Some mock drafts show the Raiders trading back and some of the newest mock drafts show the Raiders trading up.
A lot of stock has been put into the draft. The draft is thought to be where stars are found. McKenzie has spent the bulk of free agency padding the roster with veterans with playoffs and Super Bowl experience. The hope is that he’ll use the seven draft picks to attain young stars who can learn from the veterans already in place and eventually get into leadership roles where they can excel as playmakers for the Raiders. So much anticipation has already built up for the first round of the draft especially since it is much later in the offseason than it has been previously.
With all this anticipation that has built up, it’s easy to forget that most first round picks actually haven’t panned out that well in the past. Past first rounds have left Raider Nation with a longer list of draft busts than of productive players drafted to the team. Since the Raiders have been a franchise, they have had approximately 50 first round draft picks at their disposal. Let’s take at look at the productive players that the Raiders have been able to draft in the first rounds of past drafts.
In 1967, guard Gene Upshaw was drafted in the first round, 17th overall out of Texas A&M, Kingsville. Upshaw went on to be inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame as part of the 1987 class. Defensive back Jack Tatum was then drafted to the Raiders out of Ohio State University in the 1971 draft. He was selected in the first round and was the 19th pick overall. Punter Ray Guy, member of the 2014 Hall of Fame class, was drafted by the Raiders in the first round of the 1973 as the 23rd overall pick. He came to the Raiders from Southern Mississippi.
Inducted to the Hall of Fame with the 2003 class, running back Marcus Allen was the Raiders’ first round draft pick in 1982. Allen was the tenth overall pick and came to Oakland out of University of Southern California. The 1988 draft saw the Raiders draft Tim “Mr. Raider” Brown from Notre Dame. He was the sixth overall pick in the first round and has been nominated to the Hall of Fame multiple times with Raider Nation being constantly disappointed that he has not yet been inducted. Out of Washington University, the Raiders drafted running back Napoleon Kaufman in the first round of the 1995 draft, making him the 18th pick overall.
The 1998 draft was when the Raiders selected defensive back Charles Woodson fourth overall in the first round. He recently re-signed with the Raiders in 2013 after Raider Nation gave him a compelling welcome at the Alameda facility. Kicker Sebastian Janikowski was drafted by the Raiders in the 2000. The Florida State University player was the 17th overall pick in the first round and to date, is the highest scoring Raider in franchise history. University of California, Berkeley produced defensive back Nnamdi Asomugha who was drafted by the Raiders in the 2003 draft. Asomugha was the 31st overall pick.
So over the years, over the approximately 50 first round draft picks, how many could we label as draft successes for the team? It would seem only about nine of these first round draft picks went on to be productive players with successful careers with the team. Fans tend to get of the mindset that drafts can really make or break a team’s season. This draft is especially important for the Raiders as the team is finally coming out from under a lot of past salary cap issues. McKenzie was able to make some serious moves in free agency and Raider Nation is waiting anxiously to see what will happen next week in the draft. Until then, Raider Nation will be content to speculate about what the fifth pick will be used for.