Raiders Draft, Daymeion Hughes, Bonds
by Glenn Dickey
Mar 07, 2007

THE RAIDERS seem likely to choose a quarterback with their No. 1 selection in the draft. That bothers some of their fans, who point out that several quarterbacks drafted No. 1 have failed. That’s true – bit it’s also true of players at other positions.

I looked at the players who have been drafted No. 1 in the last 25 years, which seemed a reasonable sampling. Two of those players are now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and they’re both quarterbacks, John Elway and Troy Aikman. Two of the players drafted No. 1 in recent years seem to be having Hall of Fame careers, quarterback Peyton Manning and offensive tackle Orlando Pace – and Manning has unquestionably had the biggest impact for his team.

More recently, Cleveland had the No. 1 pick two years in a row. They picked quarterback Tim Couch, who was a flop – but their other No. 1 pick, defensive end Courtney Brown, was also a flop.

In the ‘90s, there was a run on defensive tackles, with three picked in four years. The best of the three was Russell Maryland, and he was only a journeyman. Steve Emtman and Dan Wilkinson were flops. The only other No. 1 in that stretch was a quarterback, Drew Bledsoe, who has had a better career than any of the defensive tackles.

Clearly, even when a team has the top choice, the draft can be a crapshoot. Given that, a team that needs a quarterback should draft one at that spot, because a championship team must have a quality quarterback.

The only true exception to that rule is the Baltimore Ravens, who beat the New York Giants, 34-7, on January 28, 2001. The Ravens had a mediocre quarterback, Trent Dilfer, who is now the nominal backup for the 49ers but more of a mentor for Alex Smith. Dilfer did not take a snap last season. In the Colts’ Super Bowl win, Dilfer was just 12-for-25 for 153 yards and one touchdown. But that Ravens’ team had an absolutely stifling defense, which some NFL observers think might have been the best ever, and yielded only 152 yards to the Giants, as middle linebacker Ray Lewis was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.

So, if you have a Ravens-type defense, you can win with a mediocre quarterback, but the only other Dilfer comparison I can think of in a championship game was in the 1963 season when the Chicago Bears won the NFL championship, in a pre-Super Bowl time, with Billy Wade at quarterback. After winning the title game, the Bears serenaded defensive coordinator George Allen because it had been defense which had won for them all year.

The last time the Raiders were in a Super Bowl, defense made the difference in a 48-15 win by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as the Bucs intercepted five Rich Gannon passes. But that was a fluke game because Bucs coach Jon Gruden knew the Raiders offense inside and out, because he had designed it when he coached the Raiders. Tampa Bay quarterback Brad Johnson wasn’t required to do much, but he did throw for two touchdowns. Johnson is hardly on the Hall of Fame level, but neither is he another Trent Dilfer or Billy Wade.

One reader suggested that the Washington Redskins were another example of a Super Bowl winner with mediocre quarterbacks, having won with Mark Rypien and Doug Williams. But Rypien and Williams were both Super Bowl MVPs when their team won, so they hardly can be regarded as mediocre quarterbacks.

So, even if you consider the Tampa Bay win as one in which the quarterback wasn’t a big factor, that’s two of 41Super Bowls. Not much of an argument for not needing a quality quarterback to get to the top.

The 49ers did it right when they went for a quarterback when they had the No. 1 pick. Smith is still learning but he’s shown enough in spurts to suggest he’ll be one of the top quarterbacks in the league soon. When he does, he’ll take the 49ers with him. That’s the example the Raiders should follow.

FALL FOR HUGHES? As I noted last week, NFL scouts and coaches pay far more attention to 40 times than they should, without considering playmaking. Sure enough, Cal corner Daymeion Hughes is in danger of falling to the second round because his 40 time at the NFL combine was slower than expected.

There are always players who are better than their measurements and players who are worse. Hughes is an example of the first, former Raider Anthony Dorsett Jr. an example of the second.

Dorsett looked like he should be an outstanding player, with size and speed, but when he was on the field, he never seemed to take the right angle on a play, so he continually missed tackles.

Hughes always makes the play because he has a feel for the game. If he falls to the second round, some team is going to get a tremendous bargain.

HOW’S THAT AGAIN? There’s always some free agent signing that boggles the mind, and Buffalo’s signing of offensive tackle Langston Walker to a big contract is the latest mind-boggler. Walker is another guy who looks good but can’t play. See above item. He may have been the worst player on an incredibly bad Raiders offensive line last season. He would have been relegated to the bench this year, with Barry Sims returning to left tackle and Robert Gallery moving to right tackle.

Meanwhile, Jeremy Newberry is attempting to prolong his career with the Raiders, but I’m not holding my breath. Newberry was a very good player for the 49ers and he is incredibly courageous, playing on damaged knees, but the likelihood that his knees will hold up this season is not high.

BONDS EXPERIMENT: It’s a sure sign of spring when the Giants talk of batting Barry Bonds third, but there’s a difference this year: Bonds is willing to try it.

In previous springs, when Felipe Alou suggested it, Bonds resisted, but new manager Bruce Bochy is much more of a players’ manager than Alou, talking often with players and getting their feedback. He has established a rapport with Bonds that Alou never had.

It makes sense to bat Bonds third because he’ll come up in the first inning and get more at-bats during the season. As Bochy noted, it’s also more likely that his last at-bat will come in the eighth inning, instead of the ninth, so he won’t have to play in the field in the ninth. Both Bonds and whoever is on the mound for the Giants in the ninth will be happy with that arrangement.

I did have to laugh, though, when Bochy said he wasn’t worried about teams intentionally walking Bonds because “Numbers have shown that walking Barry is not advantageous. It’s putting more runners on base.”

Funny, but I don’t remember Bochy having that philosophy when he was managing the Padres.

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