With the 2020 draft over, this series looks back some parallels in decision making and habits that could affect the current Las Vegas Raiders. This team of the future draws some parallels of the past but aren’t the Oakland Raiders that we were used to. The Oakland Raiders have been one of the doormats of the NFL for almost 25 years.
There’s a lot of finger-pointing, coaching changes, Al Davis flops and unfortunate front office turmoil after the death of the great Raiders owner but the common denominator has been the repeated botched draft picks and scouting. Whether it was bad free agent signings, bad handling of star players, or lack of draft capital, the Raiders have not put together a competent draft class in back-to-back years let alone developed a lot of it. The following is an extensive examination of where the bad draft decisions started, the players that could’ve changed the team’s fortunes, and the perpetual problem that still exists in the scouting department to this day.
The fairest place to start is the year 2012, which was former General Manager Reggie McKenzie’s first year and draft class. For all the things Reggie did right like drafting Khalil Mack, Amari Cooper & Derek Carr (be nice adjacent Raider Twitter) and signing team-friendly contracts, he whiffed terribly on most of the players he drafted and somehow passed upon can’t miss talent all the same.
- 3rd round, 95th overall: Tony Bergstrom/Guard/Utah
- 4th round. 129th overall: Miles Burris/Linebacker/San Diego State
- 5th round, 158th overall: Jack Crawford/Defensive End/Penn State
- 5th round, 168th overall: Juron Criner/Wide Receiver/Arizona
- 6th round 189th overall: Christo Bilukidi/Defensive Tackle/Georgia State’
- 7th round, 230th overall: Nathan Stupar/Linebacker/Penn State
Bergstrom was drafted as a rotational backup lineman and that’s what his career evolved into. He had a history of injuries despite his position versatility and definitely was drafted incredibly high for who was left on the board. Burris was the best player in this draft class. That’s it. That’s the tweet. To his credit, Burris fell out of favor when he was stupidly moved to middle linebacker after the Rolando McClain experiment failed. He started as a rookie and should’ve stayed as an outside linebacker.
Another linebacker on the board still who would’ve been a better middle linebacker prospect but no one expected McClain would bust out the way he did. Crawford had some promise but there was nothing special about his game. He was simply a rotational player behind Lamar Houston and Matt Shaughnessy. They needed a defensive lineman but there were better players on the board over Crawford. Criner was an All-American at Arizona, a good redzone threat as well and a great blocker but speed and separation were problems for him. Ironically, he was a 77 overall when you switched him to tight end in Madden. You’re welcome OG gamers and cheesers. That was the best move you could make with a guy like that.
To be fair, the Raiders receiving corps was grossly underwhelming. Former seventh overall pick Darius Heyward-Bey and Denarius Moore were the best receivers on the team. No one really progressed into a consistent threat. Heyward-Bey is still with the Pittsburgh Steelers until this day. Stupar and Bilukidi were washouts who never really flashed much of anything. This was a pathetic and abject failure of a class. Drafting the best available over projects isn’t and wasn’t the smart idea for a team with very little talent and no first or second-round picks. The Raiders went 8-8 in Hue Jackson’s only season, with a third-place finish in the AFC West.
- 96th overall: Chris Givens, wide receiver, Wake Forest
- 4th round, 97th overall: Lamar Miller, running back, University of Miami
- 99th overall: Ben Jones, center, Georgia
- 4th round, 100th overall: Travis Benjamin, wide receiver, University of Miami
- 102 overall: Kirk Cousins, quarterback, Michigan State
- 4th round, 105th overall: Nigel Bradham, linebacker, Florida State
- 119th overall: Keenan Robinson, linebacker, Texas.
- 4th round, 123th overall: Brandon Boykin, cornerback, Georgia
- 4th round, 132th overall: Mike Daniels, defensive lineman, Iowa
- 5th round, 137th overall: Malik Jackson, defensive tackle, Tennessee
- 5th round, 166th overall: Marvin Jones, wide receiver, University of California-Berkeley
- 167th overall: George Iloka, safety, Boise State
- 6th round, 188th overall: Danny Trevathan, linebacker, Kentucky
Next up in this series is the 2013 draft. The Raiders were 4-12 in Dennis Allen’s first year as the head coach.