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Raider Nation a punch line after Day 1 of NFL Draft

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POSTED April 26, 2009 1:58 a.m.
I was on my way to Lathrop Saturday just after the Raiders selected Maryland wide-out Darrius Heyward-Bey with the seventh pick in the 2009 NFL Draft.

Not yet knowing the selection, I tuned in to KHTK and judging from the lifeless drawl coming from host Mike Lamb I knew right away that the laughing stock of the NFL had struck again.

Lamb took a couple of calls from miserably dejected Oakland fans before I stepped out of the car, and when I returned he was talking to head coach Tom Cable.

“This was the (selection) the whole way,” Cable spewed over the Central Valley airwaves like a well-trained Al Davis lap dog. “We had targeted him from the get-go.

“We signed two tackles in free agency and particularly Khalif Barnes – you know, to come in here with Mario Henderson who really played well at the end of the year – we knew we had fixed those kinds of issues.”

In 2008, Khalif Barnes ranked No. 23 in the NFL for sacks allowed by left tackles with 7.5.

Apparently that was enough for Cable to consider the Barnes acquisition an upgrade, which is all well and good until you look up where Kwame Harris finished last season: Tied with Barnes at 7.5 sacks allowed.

The Jacksonville Jaguars, Barnes’ old employer, didn’t hesitate to take Virginia tackle Eugene Monroe, who some considered the best tackle in the draft, with the eight pick.

Imagine a left-side of Monroe and Robert Gallery, who finished eighth in the league last season with just 1.75 sacks allowed at left guard.

Now imagine if Davis had the foresight to trade up in the second round and take a polished wide-out like Brian Robiskie out of Ohio State, or kept the No. 40 selection and picked up Georgia’s Mohamed Massaquoi.

Robiskie, a 6-foot, 3-inch sure-handed senior and three-year starter, caught 42 for 535 and eight touchdowns a year ago, and is the son of long-time NFL player and coach Terry Robiskie.

Massaquoi, who stands at 6-2, combined with freshman A.J. Green for 114 catches and 1,883 yards through the air in his senior stint with the Bulldogs, and was recognized for his outstanding academic prowess every year he played at Georgia.

The 6-foot, 2-inch Heyward-Bey, who declared as a junior and has a reputation for dropping the football, finished his final season at Maryland a year ago 42 catches for 609 yards.

But, hey, the kid’s fast.

“We’re kind of sitting in the cat-bird seat with enough speed,” Cable said. “This guy, literally, was the fastest guy at the combine.”

Cable went on and on about how Heyward-Bey will spread the field and make the other Oakland skill position players better.

He even compared to Heyward-Bey to Randy Moss.

The unmitigated disaster that was Moss in the Bay Area aside, my question is this: What does speed at the wide-out position really get you in today’s NFL?

Last year, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Tennessee all proved that controlling the time of possession battle rather than deploying a vertical, quick-strike offense, is still the best way to win football games.

Even the Arizona Cardinals, who wing it all over the field, featured Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin, two slow-footed receivers with great size and a masterful knowledge of route-running.

The most mind-numbing comment Cable made Saturday, however, was when he talked about Heyward-Bey’s ability to put the ball in the end zone.

“The biggest thing was we had to find a guy that could score touchdowns,” he said.

In three seasons at Maryland, Heyward-Bey scored 13 touchdowns.

In two seasons at Texas Tech, Michael Crabtree scored 41 touchdowns.

Cable’s interview ended as Roger Goodell sauntered to the podium and handed San Francisco a gift-wrapped Crabtree, who may end up haunting the Silver Black for a decade or two.

Finally, as if the nightmare could get any worse, Oakland traded up in the second round to select Michael Mitchell, a 6-1 safety from Ohio.

Mitchell, who was tabbed as a likely rookie free agent, wasn’t invited to the NFL Combine, and wasn’t even listed as a player of note in the Ohio Pro Day report.

He did run a 4.32-second 40 though.

At least we know this much, Oakland’s sprint to the top of next year’s draft will be a speedy one.
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