Who will the Oakland Raiders take with the No. 9 or 10 (to be determined month by a coin flip with the San Francisco 49ers) pick?
Will Jon Gruden address the Raiders’ biggest need and take a defensive playmaker in the first round April 26 or will he be romanced by a bell-cow running back or a speed receiver which would be true to his offensive roots?
We shall see in three months. Let’s look at the first-round pick of Gruden in his prior NFL experience.
OK, let’s get this out of the way first because it’s less relevant to Gruden’s drafting strategies: The Raiders took defensive back Charles Woodson and guard Mo Collins (1998), guard Matt Stinchcomb (1999), kicker Sebastian Janikowski (2000) and defensive back Derrick Gibson in (2001).
Woodson will end up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Janikowksi has had a long career and the other three players were just marginal players. But we can’t praise or hold these picks against Gruden.
Al Davis ran the Raiders’ draft until he died in 2011. Gruden was just there. Do you really think Gruden would have taken a kicker in the first round?
When Davis traded Gruden to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2002, Gruden had a much bigger piece of the drafting decision-making process. While Bruce Allen was Tampa Bay’s general manager, it was well known Gruden was the key decision maker.
How did he fare in Tampa? Well, let’s look:
Well, because the Buccaneers valued Gruden so much, he had to wait a while to make a pick in the first round. Tampa Bay sent their top picks in 2002 and 2003 for Gruden.
In 2002, Gruden had eight picks with five of them being offensive players. None of the players — the Buccaneers didn’t have a second-round pick, either — stood out too much. In 2003, the Buccaneers had just six picks. Their first and last picks were on defense, but the four in-betweens were offensive players. The most notable pick was quarterback Chris Simms. He was the first quarterback Gruden drafted to develop in Tampa and he didn’t have much success.
In 2004, Gruden was finally able to make a pick in the first round – and it was a receiver. He took Michael Clayton from LSU. He had 80 catches as a rookie but never caught more than 38 passes again in his eight-season career. Five of Gruden’s eight picks were on offense, but remember the Buccaneers were stacked on defense those days.
In 2005, Gruden again went offense in the form of running back Carnell Williams. Better known as ‘Cadillac,’ the Auburn product was named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year after being picked No. 5 by Gruden. He was a good player but slowed some by injuries.
In 2006, Gruden had 10 picks. Again, he went heavy on offense with six picks coming from that side of the ball. His top pick was guard Davin Joseph. He had a solid career, making the Pro Bowl twice. He went for a tackle in the form of Jeremy Trueblood in the second round as well. He had a decent career as well. Gruden took quarterback Bruce Gradkowski in the sixth round, but he never started into a true starter.
In 2007, the Buccaneers went heavy on defense in an attempt to make a beastly unit again. Seven of the 10 picks were defensive players. Defensive end Gaines Adams was taken No. 4 overall and he did not develop in Tampa and was traded in the months after Gruden was fired in 2009. The entire 2007 Buccaneers’ draft was not good.
In 2008, the last time Gruden was in an NFL draft war room, the Buccaneers had eight picks and split the choices on offense and defense. The first pick was cornerback Aqib Talib. Yes, Raiders’ fans hate him, but he may be a borderline Hall of Famer. He was one of Gruden’s finest picks in Tampa Bay, probably the best considering he was taken at No. 20. Third-round pick, center Jeremy Zuttah, was decent. Gruden took quarterback Josh Johnson in the fifth round. He never became a true starter.
In conclusion, Gruden was not a great drafter in Tampa. Yes, he did lean to offense and no, he couldn’t develop a quarterback. But he didn’t interest are a high pick in any. That won’t be an issue in Oakland anytime soon with Derek Carr around.
Gruden has a clean drafting slate and expect him to snare offense when he feels the need. But he won’t shy from drafting defensive players, either.