Can the Raiders improve on their poor record of first round picks?

Story posted March 27, 2013 in Sports, CommRadio, NFL Draft by Aaron Carr

Perhaps no fan base suffers on the day of the NFL Draft quite like fans of the Oakland Raiders. Since returning to Oakland in 1995, the franchise has selected 19 players in the first round of the draft. The list reads like a who's who of "Who is this?"

1995: Napoleon Kaufman, RB (18th overall)

That 1995 NFL Draft was supposed to be the beginning of a glorious homecoming for the Raiders. Instead, it was the beginning of NFL Draft mediocrity for the franchise. Oakland took running back Napoleon Kaufman out of Washington with the 18th overall pick in 1995.

Kaufman spent six season in Oakland before retiring from football to become an ordained minister, beginning an annual trend of Raiders fans asking "What could have been?" Aside from his early retirement, Kaufman was also selected before 22 future Pro Bowl players, including cornerback Ty Law (23rd overall to New England) and linebacker Derrick Brooks (28th overall to Tampa Bay). Even worse, five of those 22 Pro Bowlers were running backs and fullbacks, including Curtis Martin (74th overall to New England) and Terrell Davis (196th overall to Denver).

1996: Ricky Dudley, TE (9th overall)

After finishing 8-8 in 1995, the Raiders had the ninth overall pick in the 1996 NFL Draft. Oakland selected tight end Ricky Dudley from Ohio State. Dudley played nine years, amassing 221 catches, 3,024 yards and 33 touchdowns. But better impact pass catchers like Marvin Harrison (first round to Indianapolis), Muhsin Muhammad (second round to Carolina), Terrell Owens (third round to San Francisco) and even Joe Horn (fifth round to Kansas City) could have been found in practically every round of that draft.

The 1996 draft did display good late-round scouting, as the Raiders selected defensive tackle Le'Roi Glover in the fifth round. But Oakland released Glover at the end of his rookie season. After signing with New Orleans, Glover would go on to have a successful career with the Saints and the St. Louis Rams, making six Pro Bowls, being named to the NFL's 2000s All-Decade team and finishing with 83.5 career sacks. 

1997: Darrell Russell, DT (2nd overall)

The Raiders were finally able to turn their first round frustrations around in the 1997 NFL Draft, selecting USC defensive tackle Darrell Russell with the second overall pick. While Russell’s tenure with the Raiders was a brief one at five years, he was named an NFL All-Pro in both 1998 and 1999, averaging ten sacks per season.

1998: Charles Woodson, CB (4th overall) and Mo Collins, OT (23rd overall)

The 1998 season was a tale of two picks for the franchise as it had multiple picks in the first round for the first time since 1988. Oakland’s first selection in the opening round was arguably the Raiders best first round pick since relocating to Oakland in 1995 – Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson (4th overall) out of Michigan. Woodson played eight productive years for the Raiders and was named the AP NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1998, along with four Pro Bowl selections.

But as with many former Oakland draft picks, Woodson enjoyed perhaps even greater success after leaving the organization, as he was named to four more Pro Bowls and claimed the 2009 AP Defensive Player of the Year Award, all with the Green Bay Packers.

Oakland’s second first round draft pick in 1998 is the forgotten man of the two – Florida offensive tackle Damon “Mo” Collins (23rd overall). Collins proved to be a durable starter – he made 64 starts from 1998-2003 with the Raiders – but Oakland once again missed out on a superior talent as 9-time Pro Bowl guard Alan Faneca was selected by the Steelers just three picks later.

1999: Matt Stinchcomb, OT (18th overall)

The good fortune that surrounded the Raiders in the 1998 Draft quickly vanished in 1999 when Oakland made Georgia offensive tackle Matt Stinchcomb (18th overall) its first round selection. In what had become a recurring theme for the team at this point, Stinchcomb never lived up to expectations and failed to unseat incumbent Barry Sims at left tackle before being released by the Raiders in 2003.

2000: Sebastian Janikowski, K (17th overall)

The 2000 NFL Draft proved to contain the biggest head scratching draft day decision by the Raiders in franchise history. With the 17th overall pick in the 2000 NFL Draft, the Raiders made Florida State placekicker Sebastian Janikowski its first round pick, the first time a kicker had been drafted in round one in NFL history. Janikowski has been with the team ever since and is the team’s all-time leading scorer, so at least the Raiders got a good player. Regardless, the franchise’s decision could never be justified in the eyes of its rabid fan base, especially after it saw future NFL MVP Shaun Alexander get selected by the Seahawks just two picks later.

2001: Derrick Gibson, S (28th overall)

The Raiders once again made a Florida State Seminole their first round selection in 2001, drafting safety Derrick Gibson 28th overall. Gibson spent six seasons as a Raider but only logged three career interceptions during that time and never emerged as the impact defender the Raiders had envisioned he would be. Once again Oakland missed out on a superior talent at the same position as five-time Pro Bowl safety Adrian Wilson was picked by the Cardinals with the 64th overall selection.

2002: Philip Buchanon, CB (17th overall) and Napoleon Harris, LB (23rd overall)

2003: Nnamdi Asomugha, CB (31st overall) and Tyler Brayton, DE (32nd overall)

After going 1 for 2 on first round picks in 1998, the Raiders hoped they could do the same in 2002 and 2003.

The Raiders four first round selections in those two years were all on the defensive side of the ball – cornerback Philip Buchanon (17th overall, 2002), linebacker Napoleon Harris (23rd, 2002), cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha (31st, 2003) and defensive end Tyler Brayton (32nd, 2003). The foursome combined for three Pro Bowl selections, all by Asomugha, who at one time was arguably considered the most feared defensive back in the league before leaving the Raiders via free agency in 2011 after eight seasons as a Raider.

2004: Robert Gallery, OG (2nd overall)
2005: Fabian Washington, CB (23rd overall)
2006: Michael Huff, S (7th overall)

More draft day frustration followed in 2004, 2005 and 2006 with the Raiders making Iowa guard Robert Gallery (2nd overall, 2004), Nebraska cornerback Fabian Washington (23rd, 2005) and Michael Huff (7th, 2006) members of the silver and black. A mixture of disappointment and mismanagement followed. Oakland moved Gallery from his natural guard position to tackle, where he floundered. Washington underperformed for three seasons before being traded to Baltimore, even admitting that he would have traded himself due to his poor play. Huff was given every opportunity for two seasons before being benched in his third season.

2007: JaMarcus Russell, QB (1st overall)

None of the three managed to make a Pro Bowl in their NFL careers but each failed to live up the bust label as much as the Raiders 2007 first round selection – LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell. For the first time in franchise history, the Raiders came into the draft holding the first overall selection and in need of an impact player more than ever after winning just two games the previous season.

Russell spent just three seasons in the NFL before being cut by the Raiders in 2010 and defines the term “bust” in every sense of the word. After the former LSU Tiger became the first player of the day to shake hands with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Raiders fans could only watch helplessly as future Pro Bowlers Calvin Johnson (2nd overall), Joe Thomas (3rd), Adrian Peterson (7th) and Darelle Revis (14th) made their way onto NFL rosters.

2008: Darren McFadden, RB (4th overall)

The jury is still out on the Raiders 2008 first round selection – former Arkansas running back Darren McFadden. The former two-time All-American has proven to be a force when healthy but has missed time in all five NFL seasons due to injury, including 9 games in 2011. While his injury history is disappointing, it is hard to criticize Oakland for taking a player who has shown himself to be very talented.

2009: Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR (7th overall)
2010: Rolando McClain, LB (8th overall)

Oakland’s first round selections in 2009 (wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, 7th overall) and 2010 (linebacker Rolando McClain, 8th) hold the similar distinction as virtually every Oakland draft pick in this article – each failed to live up to their draft slot.

Heyward-Bey was released this past offseason by the team after only catching 140 passes in four years and failing to become the deep threat the team had envisioned. This is not surprising, as the team was widely criticized for drafting Heyward-Bey with the 7th pick ahead of wide receivers like Michael Crabtree (10th overall to San Francisco), Jeremy Maclin (19th overall to Philadelphia) and Percy Harvin (22nd overall to Minnesota). McClain, while currently with the team, has more arrests (four) than Pro Bowl appearances (zero) and his future in Oakland is very much a cloudy one.

2011: No selection
2012: No selection

Oakland did not have a first round pick in 2011 or 2012. The 2011 pick was sent to New England in a 2009 trade for defensive tackle Richard Seymour, while the 2012 pick was sent to Cincinnati in exchange for quarterback Carson Palmer.

In 2013, the Raiders hold the third overall selection. Who they will take in the first round this year is anyone's guess, including the Raiders themselves. But if history has proven anything, it's that the Raiders' early pick has been prone to frustrating fans.

Aaron Carr is a junior majoring in journalism. To contact him, email adc5230@psu.edu