-- With the NFL draft only days away, Scouts, Inc., revisits each NFL team's needs.
New head coach Norv Turner will alter the team's offensive philosophy by focusing on stretching opponents with the vertical passing game far more often than Oakland has done in recent years. This will require speed, which the Raiders don't have a lot of at receiver right now. Jerry Rice and Tim Brown were adequate fits in the West Coast offense but they have lost a step with age and are no longer fast enough to consistently get open downfield. Rice is an adequate No. 2 and Brown is more of a No. 3 if not a No. 4 at this point. In fact Jerry Porter is the team's only deep threat at this point and he'll see a steady dose of double teams if Oakland doesn't find him some help. It also doesn't help that Porter will be an unrestricted free agent that may be too expensive to retain at the end of the year.
The Raiders may have more pressing needs but owner Al Davis isn't interested in going through a rebuilding process. He will look to find an impact skill player that can help Oakland win games this year in the first round as a result. The Raiders would love to move down a few spots, pick up an extra pick, and still get Texas' Roy Williams but they don't think he's worth the value at No. 2. If they get stuck with the second pick overall, they will probably draft Pittsburgh's Larry Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald is clearly the best receiver prospect and his height, playmaking skills and 4.47-speed would make him a threat in Turner's system. With Fitzgerald lined up opposite Rice, Porter can work out of the slot where he is at his best and Brown can provide quality depth.
Rich Gannon is 38, coming off a season-ending shoulder injury and his durability concerns mean Oakland must have great depth behind him. Marques Tuiasosopo has the potential to develop into a quality backup but a knee injury ended his 2003 season in Week 9. He didn't give the Raiders enough of a look to make them comfortable enough to just give him the backup role and he may not be the long-term answer. With unrestricted free agent Rick Mirer signing with Detroit, Oakland needs a quarterback that can give Tuiasosopo some competition while improving depth. The Raiders aren't expected to take a quarterback in the first round with Davis not wanting to rebuild or develop a young quarterback. Oakland could wait until after the June 1st cuts to address this need in the hopes a proven veteran becomes available as a result. Another option is to take the best available quarterback with the second or third round pick. Tulane's J.P. Losman, Virginia's Matt Schaub and Washington's Cody Pickett have the natural ability to develop into quality starters.
Rod Woodson plays with rare intensity and he possesses outstanding instincts but he turned 39 during the off-season and he is coming off a season-ending knee injury. While he is a leader of this defense, he is clearly on the downside of his career and this could very well be his last season. It doesn't help that Derrick Gibson hasn't developed as expected and Anthony Dorsett, who is an unrestricted free agent that could still return, gives up far too many big plays. The Raiders need a safety that has the size and cover skills to eventually develop as a starter whether it's at strong or free safety. Iowa's Robert Sanders, Maryland's Madieu Williams and Arizona State's Jason Shivers have great potential and should provide quality depth while contributing on special teams as rookies. At least one of them should still be available late on the first day. There is also an outside chance that Charles Woodson moves to safety. If this were to happen, this need would have to flip-flop with corner.
Guard may appear to be a bigger need with Ron Stone aging, Frank Middleton coming off a season-ending quadriceps injury and Mo Collins coming off a season-ending knee injury. Langston Walker is poised to replace, who has retired, and Barry Sims returns as the other starter. However, LOT Barry Sims is better suited to play guard. The Raiders want to move him inside and it would help solve their problems at guard but they don't have a player on the roster ready to step in at left tackle, as Matt Stinchcomb signed with Tampa Bay. While here has been some speculation that Oakland will take Iowa's Robert Gallery with the second pick overall, it's more likely they fill this need either at the end of the first day or early on the second day. East Carolina's Brian Rimph, Kansas' Adrian Jones and Illinois' Sean Bubin have the talent to eventually replace Sims allowing him to slide inside.
Although Barrett Robbins returns as the starter and he is coming off another strong season, the versatile Stinchcomb's departure leaves a glaring lack of depth. Adding a quality backup is critical considering Robbins' medical history. Kansas State's Nick Leckey, Purdue's Nick Hardwick and Tennessee's Scott Wells should provide adequate depth as rookies and at least one should still be available early on the second day.
Oakland tried to make a deal for Corey Dillon in an effort to replace unrestricted free agent Charlie Garner but Cincinnati traded Dillon to New England. Without Garner or Dillon on the roster, there is a glaring lack of depth, which is a big concern. Tyrone Wheatley has had problems staying healthy and Fargas is coming off a season-ending knee injury. The Raiders would rather develop second-year back Justin Fargas rather than draft another back so they could wait until after the Junes 1st cuts to sign a veteran. However, Oakland will draft a quality back like Oklahoma State's Tatum Bell or Northern Illinois' Michael Turner if one slips to the middle rounds.