Despite trading the No. 7 overall pick in the draft along with linebacker Napoleon Harris to acquire wide receiver Randy Moss, the Oakland Raiders should still be in a position to selection somebody who can improve the porous pass rush with the No. 38 pick. The question is will they get one that can make an immediate impact?
The Raiders, however, are not the only team needing one so it’s not necessarily a given that they will get one to their liking. Plus, recent history suggests that position takes time to blossom. To steal a Rick Pitino line that might amuse Raider fans, “Greg Townsend is not walkin’ through that door, fans.”
When talking about which positions are the hardest to fill, quarterback is usually at the top of the list followed by finding a stud offensive tackle. On the latter, the Raiders appear to have found that man last year in Robert Gallery.
Pass rushers, however, should be on that list as well. Pass rushers are like pitchers in baseball, every team needs more and doesn’t have enough. Those players, with the exception of maybe Jevon Kearse, seldom make an impact right away.
Why, might you ask? Everyone has their theories. The competition is much higher but you can say that about every position. In the NFL, the talent is much more evenly spread than in college. In addition, and perhaps the biggest reason why quality pass rushers who are drafted high have seldom panned out is that, like quarterbacks, teams are counting on the pass rusher to be a defensive savior. So, in their desire to get better, they might take a pass rusher higher in the draft than they should. Then, they’ll invest a lot of money in that player only to see it go to waste.
The position I refer to most specifically is defensive end. Granted, any defensive player is allowed to apply pressure and/or record a quarterback sack but defensive ends is a position commonly associated with that role.
So, let’s take a quick look the last five seasons at the defensive ends taken in either the first or second round:
Courtney Brown, Penn State, Cleveland: Has had an injury plagued career but even when healthy he has been underwhelming. The Browns released him and Brown will try to revive his career in Denver.
Shaun Ellis, Tennessee, NY Jets: He had plenty of ups and downs in his first three years but has since made a quantum leap forward and has recorded 23 sacks in the last two seasons.
Erik Flowers, Arizona State, Buffalo: No pun intended but these flowers haven’t bloomed. Five career sacks, three different teams.
Michael Boireau, Miami (Fla.), Minnesota: Two teams in three years. No longer on the radar screen.
John Engelberger, Virginia Tech, San Francisco: Good, high energy player. Has recorded 10.5 of his 17.5 career sacks in the last two seasons.
Darren Howard, Kansas State, New Orleans: Has had ups and downs but has two double-digit sack seasons, including 2004 and his rookie season. If the Saints trade Howard, he’ll help somebody.
Marcus Washington, Auburn, Indianapolis: Drafted as an end but much more successful since moving to linebacker.
Andre Carter, California, San Francisco: Considered a modern-day Fred Dean and has 27.5 career sacks. Has a ton of ability but how much is his upside after suffering through a season of back problems?
Jamal Reynolds, Florida State, Green Bay: Played 18 career games in four seasons. Here’s a one word answer to describe Reyonds’ NFL career – bust.
Justin Smith, Missouri, Cincinnati: Solid all-around player but not a dominant one that most expect in a first-rounder.
Aaron Schobel, Texas Christian, Buffalo: Solid ball-player but won’t make Bills fans forget Bruce Smith anytime soon.
Paul Toviessi, Marshall, Denver: No where to found after two seasons.
Kyle Vanden Bosch, Nebraska, Arizona: Has shown promise when healthy but that’s exactly the problem.
Dwight Freeney, Syracuse, Indianapolis: One of only a few bright spots on a below average defense. Freeney, who has 40 career sacks in three years, did not need a learning curve. He’s been a dominant force since he came into the NFL.
Charles Grant, Georgia, New Orleans: Like fellow Saints defensive end Darren Howard, Grant has been star material.
Anton Palepoi, UNLV, Seattle: Hardly first-round material. Now in Denver.
Julius Peppers, North Carolina, Carolina: Modern day Lawrence Taylor, minus the off-field baggage. Has game-changing ability that go far beyond his 30 career sacks.
Bryan Thomas, Alabama-Birmingham, NY Jets: Three career sacks. Hasn’t come close to meeting expectations, to put it mildly.
Ryan Denney, BYU, Buffalo: So-so but nothing to write home about 6.5 career sacks.
Kalimba Edwards, South Carolina, Detroit: Recorded 6.5 sacks as a rookie but has since regressed.
Tyler Brayton, Colorado, Oakland: Clearly out of position as a linebacker but is a middle-of-the-road defensive end in a best case scenario.
Michael Haynes, Penn State, Chicago: Slowly but surely appears to be getting better.
Jerome McDougle, Miami (Fla.), Philadelphia: The biggest mark so far is that he has problems staying healthy.
Calvin Pace, Wake Forest, Arizona: Decent pass-rush ability but at 270 needs to add bulk.
Terrell Suggs, Arizona State, Baltimore: Pass-rushing nuisance but more so as a linebacker.
Alonzo Jackson, Florida State, Pittsburgh: Barely on the radar screen.
Chris Kelsay, Nebraska, Buffalo: Made more of an impact as a second-year man but not likely to make Bills fans forget Phil Hansen, let alone Bruce Smith.
Osi Umenyiora, Troy State, NY Giants: Recorded seven sacks last season in his second year, not too many noticed given the Giants horrendous season.
Dewayne White, Louisville, Tampa Bay: Could be a good find for a franchise whose MO is defense.
Will Smith, Ohio State, New Orleans: Had an outstanding rookie season in recording 7.5 sacks, not easy to do this early. Could really blossom.
Kenechi Udeze, Southern California, Minnesota: Did not meet expectations as a rookie. Still a lot to prove.
Marquis Hill, Louisiana State, New England: Hardly played for the Super Bowl champs. Too soon to tell.
Travis LaBoy, Hawaii, Tennessee: Nothing wrong with his effort, just needs more bulk.
Antwan Odom, Alabama, Tennessee: Could be a decent fill-in.