To no surprise, the Oakland Raiders took a defensive approach
early in the draft but the picks were evenly dispersed on both sides of the
Three of the Raiders’ first four picks were defensive players but there
were five selections each devoted to offense and defense.
“I have to speak to the ability
of our scouts in this draft,” Raiders head coach Bill Callahan said. “I thought
they were outstanding in every respect. Very thorough in identifying the
characteristics that we were looking for. I think there is no better scouting
staff in the National Football League that identifies speed as this scouting
staff does, and it was obvious in this draft. I will also say now it enters into
the next phase where we have to work to go out and coach these guys, improve
them, develop them, and make them become the players that we think they are.
There is no doubt in my mind that they will add competition to this
Regan Upshaw’s release and Trace
Armstrong landing on injured reserve the last two seasons magnified Oakland’s
need at defensive end. In addition, Tony Bryant’s status is still uncertain
after sustaining a neck injury.
The Raiders addressed defensive
end by selecting Colorado’s Tyler Brayton in the first round and South Florida’s
Shurron Pierson in the fourth round. Pierson is also versatile enough to play
Safety also became a need after the club released Anthony Dorsett.
Oakland addressed that position by selection California’s Nnamdi Asomgha in the
first round and New Mexico State’s Jeremy “Siddeeq” Shabazz. Those moves signal
that 2003 is a critical year for strong safety Derrick Gibson, who Oakland
selected in the first-round of 2001. Gibson has been hampered with injuries but
when healthy his play has not been of first-round quality.
The Raiders drafting three wide receivers, Stanford’s Teyo Johnson
(second round), Central Florida’s Doug Gabriel (fourth round) and Gustavus
Adolphus College’s Ryan Hoag (seventh round), should not be a surprise despite
the presence of Jerry Rice, Jerry Porter and Tim Brown. Oakland could use an
eventual sidekick for Porter.
BYU offensive tackle Dustin Rykert, whom Oakland took in the sixth round,
is versatile enough to play guard and tackle – versatility that Callahan covets.
The Raiders, however, did not draft a center or guard despite the uncertainty of
Barret Robbins’ and Mo Collins’ future. Does that course of action suggest they
will return as Raiders? Robbins’ future has been clouded by his episode on Super
Bowl weekend while Collins is an unrestricted free agent.
Running back Justin Fargas, a
third round pick from USC, adds youth to a backfield that features productive
veterans over 30 in Charlie Garner and Tyrone Wheatley. Fresno State’s Sam
Williams, also a third round choice, adds more youth at Oakland’s linebacker
Vince D’Adamo can be reached via e-mail at