“The draft is a crapshoot.”
Despite the myriad of tests and measurables the NFL has hopefuls go through, the draft process is anything but an exact science. Teams are going to have to roll the dice to land a player they hope can transform their franchise.
You’ve probably seen all the statistics and analytics that support that “crapshoot” notion. I too, am a believer of that phrase. However, my stance on the matter has gone from full-fledge belief to more 50/50 regarding that matter.
I say that, because after bearing witness to player development at the college and pro levels as a sportswriter for nearly a decade, the “crapshoot” falls 50 percent on organization and 50 percent on prospect.
The onus of player development falls equally on the team’s and draftee’s shoulders.
The team puts sizeable capital into a prospect – both pick and money-wise – and it’s up to the player to live up the lofty expectations – fair or unfair as it may be. But organization and player are shareholders in development. The team must do everything in its power to harness and nourish the prospect’s skills to ensure said neophyte blossoms. And it’s the player’s burden to soak in all those teachings and become a game-changer or contributor the team wants them to be.
There are the outlying cases, of course. No matter what the team does, a player just doesn’t develop and away they go.
The Oakland Raiders have seen their fair share of these types. First-round mega busts have been common in the Silver & Black dating to linebacker Rob Fredrickson, quarterbacks Marc Wilson and Todd Marinovich, safety Derrick Gibson, to more recently offensive lineman Robert Gallery, quarterback JaMarcus Russell, linebacker Rolando McClain and cornerback DJ Hayden, to name a few.
But we’ve also seen cases where a once-promising prospect flounders on one team and flourishes with another. The Raiders were once the career-renaissance destination for the unwanted.
Ozzie Newsome, the former Baltimore Ravens general manager and personnel wizard, has draft mantra I believe wholeheartedly: “There’s always enough players to go around.” Even when a draft class was viewed by many as “weak”, Newsome believed every class is a good class. And because of that, Newsome built quality teams year in and year out.
Adding draft junkie and former TV analyst Mike Mayock to the fold should be a boon for Raiders head coach Jon Gruden. No one is perfect when it comes to the draft. Newsome and many others have swung for the fences and struck out horribly. But in Mayock, Gruden gets a trusted voice to bounce ideas off heading into a critical event.
Yes, the Raiders have four picks in the top 35. And yes, the organization can swing quickly back on the track of success if it can hit on said selections. But as I’ve outlined above, making the pick is one thing. Coaching and developing a talent is a whole other breed of animal. This isn’t received strictly to top-end high draft selections, neither. Like Mayock said, the Raiders hold all draft picks valuable, even the late seventh rounders.
The scouts did their jobs to the best of their abilities. And the general manager and head coach make the selections with the organization’s best interest in mind.
But after draft weekend comes the most challenging task: Development.
The jury is still out on Oakland’s 2018 draft class.
If the Raiders coaching staff and draftees don’t teach and grow, respectively, in concert, you can take the “shoot” out of crapshoot and you get the gist.