The last truly great player the Oakland Raiders drafted in the first round was Charles Woodson back in 1998. Since then, the only players worthy of being noted in a positive way are kicker Sebastian Janikowski and cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha. However, in Janikowski’s case Al Davis was attempting to once again show everyone in the NFL that he does things his own way. While Janikowski has had a very good career, the Raiders still overpaid in using a first round pick. Asomugha, on the other hand, had a few great years and looked to be on his way to becoming an all-time great before his career took a nose dive upon leaving the Silver and Black. While Asomugha had some very good years, it’s a stretch to call him a great player.
Including the 1998 NFL Draft, the Raiders have made 17 first round picks in the last 16 drafts. While the Raiders have lacked first round picks as of late, Davis was no stranger to trading back into the first round to get a player he coveted. As such, there are a number of years in which the Raiders made two first round selections. Among the first-rounders taken during that period are Rolando McClain, Darrius Heyward-Bey, JaMarcus Russell, Robert Gallery and Phillip Buchanon.
Given the horrific luck the Raiders have had in the first round of the NFL Draft, it’s not surprising that they’ve been one of the worst teams in the NFL over the past decade. Typically, first round draft picks are guys who should be able to come in right away and contribute, if not earn a starting role outright. They are also expected to be building blocks for a team — young guys on affordable contracts who will be around for a long time. Not only have the Raiders failed to find these kinds of players, very few of their first round picks have even stuck with the team very long.
A year ago the Raiders once again picked a guy who, so far, has been a disappointment. Though D.J. Hayden’s career has only just begun and he has plenty of time to turn things around, there is no ignoring the fact that his rookie season was just plain bad. He was unable to complete the season due to injury, and when he did play he was less than impressive. Most notably, he had a horrific game trying to defend the more physical Riley Cooper when the Raiders were thrashed by the Philadelphia Eagles. In order for the Raiders to turn things around, they need to buck this trend. They can’t afford to take a Hayden type player with the hope he develops into something better. The Raiders need someone who can come in and start as a rookie and hopefully become the kind of star who — gasp — fans would pay to see.