Let the Guessing Game Begin…

Can Raiders owner Al Davis, find a way to mismanage the seemingly ideal situation that his franchise currently finds itself in? Granted, this year’s NFL Draft does not have two blue-chip prospects like Reggie Bush and Vince Young, who were the best players available in the 2006 Draft class. However, former Georgia Tech wide receiver Calvin Johnson and LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell are not far behind Bush and Young talent-wise. Hopefully for Raider fans, Davis took note of the Houston’s mistake of taking Mario Williams last year. If the embattled Raiders’ owner drafts anyone but Russell or Johnson, he would be making a big mistake.

Johnson is, without much question, the most talented player in this year’s draft. At 6’5″ and 239 pounds, he has been described as having a combination of Randy Moss’s speed, Terrell Owens’s physical ability and Marvin Harrison’s dedication. Johnson’s incredible talent has not led to an inflated ego, as is the case with many players in the NFL. He has proven to be a humble and focused player despite his immense talent, which is a coach’s and quarterback’s dream.

JaMarcus Russell is the second most talented player in this draft. Although he does not have the great potential that Vince Young possesses, Russell appears to be a better prospect than Philip Rivers was and a better quarterback than Eli Manning will ever be. Russell not only has the most powerful arm in college football, but he might have a stronger arm than any other quarterback in the NFL. He will also be the most physically imposing pro quarterback, as he enters the draft at 6’5″ and 265 pounds. To put this in perspective, Michael Strahan, the best defensive lineman in football, weighs ten pounds less than JaMarcus Russell. He has great poise, stays calm in the pocket and has demonstrated the ability to deliver in big games, as he did against Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl.

The Raiders appear to have a win-win situation on their hands, very similar to the Texans’ last year. Oakland is in desperate need of a quarterback and JaMarcus Russell would fit in perfectly to Al Davis’s pass-oriented offense. Furthermore, Russell might inspire Randy Moss into playing like he did in Minnesota, where Moss had another quarterback with a huge arm named Daunte Culpepper. Russell would also open the door for LaMont Jordan, as teams would no longer be able to stack the line due to the deep passing threat.

Although there are many positives to Russell’s game, he is not a prototypical quarterback and is somewhat inconsistent. Ask any Giants fan: it is a big mistake to try and force a rookie quarterback into a franchise player role when he is simply not capable of doing so. That is why picking Calvin Johnson is not as ludicrous as some people might originally think. Johnson seems to be a surefire perennial Pro Bowler. There is virtually no risk and an extremely high reward in Johnson. If the Raiders pick Johnson, they could then sign or trade for a veteran quarterback who is capable of providing leadership to young players such as Johnson.

Besides Johnson and Russell, the two most notable players projected to be picked in the top 10 are Adrian Peterson and Brady Quinn. Peterson, an All-American running back at Oklahoma, is an extremely talented and powerful running back, who was hampered by injuries towards the end of his college career. He is an explosive, aggressive runner and has the strength to break the tackles of undersized linebackers and cornerbacks.

Brady Quinn is an intriguing quarterback prospect from Notre Dame. He played under the brilliant offensive mind of Charlie Weis and learned plenty from the former Patriots offensive coordinator. Quinn is extremely athletic, has a powerful arm, and throws the ball accurately on shorter passes. One major downside, however, was his inability to step up in big games. The Sugar Bowl loss to JaMarcus Russell’s LSU Tigers immediately comes to mind.

Joe Thomas, an offensive tackle from Wisconsin, has consistently appeared in the top five of mock drafts from various experts. Thomas plays left tackle, a position that is responsible for protecting a right-handed quarterback’s blind side. However, unless there is a desperate need for offensive line help, it is somewhat of a waste to spend a top-five pick on an offensive lineman. The Raiders did this in 2004 when they selected Robert Gallery with the second overall pick and passed up on Larry Fitzgerald, Philip Rivers, Sean Taylor, Roy Williams, DeAngelo Hall, and Jonathan Vilma. Good offensive linemen can often be found late in the draft. Even if Joe Thomas turns out to be an Orlando Pace-esque pro bowler rather than a Robert Gallery-esque bust, the possibility for getting an immensely talented skill position player is too much to give up.

The Giants could go several different ways with their pick, as New York desperately needs an offensive lineman, linebacker, and wide receiver. The Giants will be tempted if former USC wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett is available. However, the Giants have more pressing needs. There are several talented tackles that will be available to the Giants, such as Tony Ugoh from Arkansas. It is also possible that former Penn State linebacker Paul Posluzsny will be around at pick number 20. If he is, the Giants should not pass him up, as Posluszny is an extremely hard worker who is very talented, versatile, and unselfish. As for the Jets, the secondary is clearly a pressing need. But if Greg Olsen, a tight end from Miami, is still on the board, the Jets would be foolish to pass on him. He would give the Jets an added dimension to their offense, one that has been sorely missed for the past decade.