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“The 5 Best NFL Draft Classes in Raiders History; With Video Comments from Phil Villapiano, Madden, Atkinson, Tatum & Stabler”

 

villapiano game
Phil Villapiano

*Raider fans are the best!  Please show your Raider loyalty and sign the petition to put Cliff Branch in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  

https://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/276/842/889/

 

*Please follow Phil Villapiano’s Facebook page supporting him entering the Pro Football Hall of Fame. (#PhilVForHOF)

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1878470965816620/

 

*And Follow Phil’s page on Twitter:

https://twitter.com/VillapianOk?lang=en

 

*Want some Phil V “Foo” Gear for the HOF?  His College BGSU has you covered! 

Phil Villapiano Hall of Fame Rally T-Shirt

NFL: Oakland Raiders-Jack Del Rio Press Conference

The NFL draft can make or break you.

The NFL draft has always been fascinating to me.  It’s an amazing thing to see how teams choose who they want to create the foundation of their team.  It’s not a coincidence though that with the greatness of the Raiders of the 1960’s to early 1980’s, most of their drafts were excellent getting at least 2 good starters in many drafts.  Director of Player Personnel Ron Wolf was a key element of these drafts and he is now in the HOF.  As John Madden said, “Al listened to only one person and that was Ron Wolf”.

To establish a great team you have to have excellent drafts.  Back in the day, a guy that could scout and pick out a good player was worth their weight in gold.  A recent ESPN study showed just how bad the NFL teams of today draft, especially missing on so many QB’s that it’s ruined some franchises for years.  In the olden days they relied on game films and occasional interviews with the players and their coaches.  Now they over analyze and see things that aren’t there and refuse to see things that are.  Paralysis by analysis.  If you look at something long enough you begin to see flaws.

For now though, let’s forget the drafts of today that might work out well, and look to the draft picks that did work out well often leading to wins and championships.

henry lawrence

#5:  1974 Draft:

1st Henry Lawrence T

2nd Dave Casper TE

3rd Mark Van Eeghen

4th Morris Bradshaw

Henry Lawrence was a pillar in the OL for 13 years for the Raiders with much of it being as a starter. He has 3 Super Bowl rings and in the last 2 Raider titles he was a starting tackle.  Dave Casper is a HOF player and was one of the best all around tight ends in history.  With his tough and physical blocking and his amazing hands, he, Biletnikoff, Cliff Branch, and Ken Stabler made one of the greatest passing combinations of all time.

mark van eeghen

Mark Van Eeghen took over for Marv Hubbard and could do it all.  He wasn’t fast, but he was amazing at following his blockers and soon became one of the best all around RB’s in the NFL.  A great pass catcher, Mark also was a key pass protector for his ability to pick up blitzing LB’s.  Even though he ran for over 1,000 yards in the 1976 season, Oakland’s game plan was for Mark to be the lead blocker for most of the game and the speedy Clarence Davis (who ran for 516 yards the same year) would get the bulk of the carries against an older Minnesota Vikings team.  The plan worked to perfection as Mark had an amazing game blocking and Davis ran 16 times for 137 yards.  Van Eeghen ran for 73 yards and the Raiders rushed for 266 yards which is still the 3rd highest Super Bowl rushing game in history.  You wonder if players of today would sacrifice like that.

In the 4th Round the Raiders got WR Morris Bradshaw who became a key member of their special teams unit for 8 years.  He also was a part time starter with his best year being 1978 when he caught 40 passes for 552 yards.

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Cliff Branch scoring another Post Season touchdown this time against Washington in SB XVIII

#4:  1972 Draft: 

1st Mike Siani WR

2nd John Vella OL

4th Cliff Branch WR

4th Dave Dalby OL

7th Alonzo “Skip” Thomas DB

To be honest you could interchange the #4 and #3 drafts and still have winners.  What a problem to have.  Mike Siani was a poor man’s Fred Biletnikoff and while he never lived up to his #1 status, he was a vital contributor in the Raiders passing game with many key pass catches in important games.  John Vella and Dave Dalby were part of what many consider the greatest offensive line of all time.  Their size and toughness wore opponents down.  Dr. Death Skip Thomas was a key member of the famous “Soul Patrol” that many feel is the greatest defensive backfield in NFL history.

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Dr. Death Skip Thomas

Cliff Branch will eventually get into the Hall of Fame but he remains one of the greatest deep threats the NFL has ever seen.  During a talk show Raiders great Ken Stabler said, “I had a great offensive line, Casper, Biletnikoff who caught anything and Cliff Branch who could outrun half of the cars in the parking lot”.  This amazing draft class is just another reason why the Raiders were so good.

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Mike Davis & Lester Hayes

#3:  1977 Draft:

2nd Mike Davis

4th Mickey Marvin

5th Lester Hayes

5th Jeff Barnes

8th Terry Robiskie

12th Rod Martin

Maybe this draft didn’t have the iconic talent of other drafts, but it definitely filled a lot of holes with excellent players.  Mike Davis was a key member at safety and his interception against the Cleveland Browns in the playoffs helped propel the Raiders to eventually win a Super Bowl. Mickey Marvin was an excellent OL for years.  Lester Hayes started out slow, but eventually became one of the best cover corners in the game and should be in the HOF.  Jeff Barnes and Rod Martin were excellent LB’s that helped the Raiders shore up their defense after the Villapiano, Willie Hall and Monte Johnson era.  Terry Robiskie was an excellent special teams player and backup RB.

 

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Clarence Davis with the “Sea Of Hands” catch surrounded by 5 Dolphins

#2:  1971 Draft:

1st Jack Tatum DB

2nd Phil Villapiano LB

4th Clarence Davis

5th Bob Moore

12th Horace Jones

“They changed the rules because of Tatum and Atkinson”, said HOF QB Fran Tarkenton on San Francisco’s KNBR radio.  “The 5 yard chuck rule was created because of them and the other Raiders DB’s because the WR’s literally could not get off of the line against them.  They were so physically imposing and strong.”

Jack Tatum hit harder than any DB in history and should no doubt be in the HOF.  Phil Villapiano said, “Tatum’s shots just sounded different.  His hits sounded like a car wreck”.  George Atkinson added, “I once saw Jack hit Denver’s Riley Odom’s so hard that I thought he killed him.  It sounded like a car wreck”.  He was a star at Ohio St. where Woody Hayes loved his hard hitting style and instinct to be where he needed to be, and he brought that to the Oakland Raiders.  Jack’s timing was unmatched.  If it wasn’t for the Darryl Stingley hit, Tatum would already be in the HOF.  RIP to both of them.

A huge get was Phil Villapiano.  Supposedly an undersized LB out of Bowling Green, most teams had him as being too small.  Almost everyone had him as a possible 3rd round pick, but most had him going into the 4th round.  The Raiders; who were the only team that would not share information with other teams; picked him in the second round.  They knew that Phil was really 225 and not the 210 that everyone else said he was.  Villapiano became a key element shoring up their back 7 on defense.  He could tackle and stop the run, and with his lateral speed and timing he was a great pass defender.  There are many that feel Phil should be in the HOF as well.  His personality and fun spirit is classic Raider.  The below video shows Phil Villapiano leading the Raiders on and off the field.

Clarence Davis was a fast and clutch player.  His catch in the famous “Sea of Hands” game and his amazing performances in post season including his 137 yards rushing in the Super Bowl win against Minnesota are immortalized.  Bob Moore was a solid NFL back up tight end and Horace Jones was an important defensive starter for four of the 5 years he played for the Raiders.

eerie magazine ken stabler
This is the 1979 popular Eerie Magazine cover paying homage to the Raiders and Ken Stabler

#1:  1968 Draft:

2nd Ken Stabler QB

3rd Art Shell T

4th Charlie Smith RB

7th George Atkinson DB

11th Marv Hubbard

Now finally the greatest draft in Oakland Raiders history, the 1968 draft.   If you can draft 2 quality starters in your draft, usually your draft is considered pretty good.  Draft 5 key starters and 2 Hall of Famer’s and I’d say your draft was awesome.

In 1967 the Raiders drafted HOF guard Gene Upshaw who would help anchor an amazing offensive line.  In 1968, they chose other big pieces that would lay a foundation for their success in the 1970’s.

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Marv Hubbard on the cover of Sports Illustrated

This draft was the key to the Raiders success in the 60’s and 70’s and this draft topped them all.  They now had one of the greatest QB’s in history in Ken Stabler, and another HOF player on the OL in Art Shell.  With Charlie Smith and Marv Hubbard they had a set of starting RB’s that could run and catch the ball.  All 4 players were big parts of the success of the Raiders in the 1970’s and late 1960’s.

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Charlie Smith catching a pass and scoring the go ahead touchdown in the famous “Heidi” Game v.s. the New York Jets

Then oh by the way add 7th round pick George Atkinson who was considered too small to be a full time safety.  What teams didn’t get is that Atkinson was as tough as nails, hit like a ton of bricks, had a bad attitude on the field and was as fast as lightning.  Early in his career he was a great kick returner on both punts and kickoffs and held records for a number of years.

Jim’s Jamz:

So there you have it.  These are the 5 greatest draft classes in Raiders history.  The hope of all fans is that their favorite teams draft choices will reach their full potential and step up to be great players.  In the following years we will find out how the draft choices of the new millennium rank.  History shows us that if you consistently draft poorly, you will eventually erode your foundation and have to start over.  If you excel in the draft, you create a winning team for years to come.  When the Raiders had great drafts, they succeeded and were the winningest franchise in U.S. sports.  When they didn’t, they failed and struggled breaking records for futility.  Here’s to a future of great draft picks and great success to this amazing franchise.

 

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“Oakland Raiders great Phil Villapiano; A Hall of Fame Man, Living a Hall of Fame Life”

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Phil & his daughter Andrea

(I humbly thank Andrea Villapiano Kelly for allowing me to use some of her private photos that I’m able to share with you)

Please follow Phil’s Facebook Page; get him into the NFL Hall of Fame!  Show that Raider loyalty!

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1878470965816620/ 

Follow them on Twitter:     https://twitter.com/VillapianOK

 

A Hall of Famer in my world.

Friends used to ask who do you want on a podcast or even to just have a beer with.  The 4 people remain the same.  Ken Stabler, Bill King, John Madden, and Phil Villapiano. Today I’m writing about one of the most popular Raider players of all time, and one of my dad’s favorites in Phil Villapiano.   “Foo” was a Raider from the start.

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Phil during his days at Bowling Green; team MVP and defensive player of the year

From Day One:

When Phil Villapiano was drafted, most teams had him going in the 3rd or 4th round. The Raiders drafted him in the 2nd round out of Bowling Green which was a surprise to some. Many teams had Villapiano listed at only 210 pounds, being too small to play linebacker.   Back then there was no NFL combines or official weigh ins, so most teams would share information with each other to save money and time.  The Raiders refused to share information.

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Phil with his sons Phil & Michael

What the Raiders knew about Villapiano was that he was legitimately 225 pounds. He was an instinctive player who loved to hit. His speed laterally was excellent and a big part of his game. He could play every down and had great feel in pass coverage.   In the same draft Oakland selected Jack Tatum, Clarence Davis, and backup tight end Bob Moore. With Tatum and Villapiano, they had 2 hard hitters to go with another that loved contact in George Atkinson. The Raiders added Skip “Dr. Death” Thomas in the following draft and their back 7 was as physical and skilled as any in the history of the game.

The Raiders offenses were awesome but most forget that in 3 Super Bowl wins the Raiders only gave up 33 points and had three great QB’s in Fran Tarkenton, Ron Jaworski & Joe Theismann running for their lives most of the time.  In fact all 4 teams in last years AFC and NFC Championship games were in the top 5 scoring defenses in the entire NFL.  It isn’t sexy but defense still wins championships.

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Dave Rowe, Ted Hendricks, Phil Villapiano, Ken Stabler

Phil’s Coming Out Party:

In week 3 of the 1971 season, rookie Villapiano was thrown into the fire and he had to start due to injuries at linebacker. Phil had an amazing game on national television against the Browns in front of 84,000 screaming Cleveland fans. To the dismay of every fan outside of Oakland, Howard Cosell raved about Phil during the Raiders 34-20 win, making him a household name over night and announce another weapon for the hated Oakland Raiders.

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Phil Speaking after he was elected to the College Senior Bowl Hall of Fame

A Key Member of the Raiders Defense:

Phil soon became a mainstay in the Raiders physical style of play.  He could cover all parts of the field, and his violent play was just what the Raiders wanted.   In front of the famous “Soul Patrol” and behind an aggressive and relentless defensive line, Monte Johnson, Ted Hendricks, Willie Hall, and Villapiano manned one of the more underrated LB crews and defenses in the NFL. Al Davis and Ron Wolf’s motto for their defense was one thing; the QB must go down, and go down hard. Raider fans loved seeing Villapiano slowly and methodically hitting his arm pad on the line of scrimmage letting opponents know that he was coming and he was going to hit somebody.

(A video showing the brutality of the Raiders defense and Phil Villapiano’s team “activities”)

The renegade Raiders were by far the king of bay area sports and they capped off their success in 1976 with a dominating performance in Super Bowl 11 with a win over the Minnesota Vikings, 32-14. There were some sweaty palms at the start of the game though. The Raiders took the opening kickoff and went down the field but kicker Errol Mann missed a 29 yard field goal. Later in the 1st, Viking great Fred McNeil blocked a Ray Guy punt for Guy’s first blocked punt in his career.   Minnesota recovered it on the Raiders 3 yard line and Raider fans began to worry. On third down, Villapiano forced a fumble from RB Brent McClanahan which fellow LB Willie Hall recovered and the Raiders went on a long drive for a short FG. Phil’s key play changed the momentum of the game.

(Phil is even clutch during a fun time at the 2009 Biletnikoff Celebrity Golf Tournament)

The Wild Days In Oakland:

Along with their amazing winning ways, Oakland also lead the league in having fun. The Raiders off the field craziness was unequalled, with Phil Villapiano being the unofficial ring leader of all of the antics. The stories of the Raiders training camp days in Santa Rosa are of legend. So many fans enjoyed spending time with players at North Bay hotspots and one of their favorites to party with was Villapiano and Ken Stabler.

(Phil’s interview on his foundation to save the Jersey Shore after hurricane Sandy)

He would set up activities and games to break the monotony of training camp.   And as many players have said, cheating was not only encouraged but a necessity. Players drank with fans, outcasts, and anyone else that was considered part of the Raider family. Hells Angels and the Black Panthers would befriend some Raiders, and even a few shady figures would emerge. While most celebrities loved glamorous teams like the Cowboys, actors like James Garner became friends with the Raiders of the 70’s along with owner Al Davis.

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Phil Loves his golf especially charity events

From paying a woman to run naked across the practice field, to setting a small fire to stop the monotony of training camp, the pranks were wild and Phil was usually the instigator. Phil once even helped put on a wedding at one of the restaurants with some of the Raiders helping with the direction and officiating of the nuptials. After passing the hat around they helped the couple go on a honeymoon. Of course the wedding was bogus, and to this day no one knew if the couple ever found out they really weren’t married.

Phil & the Raiders Legacy:

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Phil is all smiles giving the #1 sign late in the game of the Raiders 1st Super Bowl win against the Vikings

I fought with some old time NFL fans and writers last year who tried to downplay how good the Raiders were. We all know how I love facts so I was loaded for bear. Daryle Lamonica was 38-4-1 in his first 43 starts for Oakland.   Ken Stabler was 50-11-1 in his first 62 starts and the Raiders were 18-1-1 in their first 20 Monday night football games. No offense, but if Derek Carr and the Raiders had those stats today, with the fervor of social media, they would be erecting statues for them.

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Raiders Greats; Phil Villapiano and Jim Otto

The Facts About The Raiders & the 1970’s:

The Raiders won more games than any other team in the NFL in the 1970’s, the greatest decade in NFL history.   During the 1970-75 dynasty of the Miami Dolphins, the Raiders were 4-2 against the mighty Dolphins including 2-1 in the playoffs. Against the Pittsburgh Steelers of the 1970’s, the Raiders were the only team with success owning a 6-5 record. They were 2-3 against Pittsburgh in the playoffs but one of those wins was the Immaculate Reception, and another was the 16-10 loss in Pittsburgh, where “somehow” outside the hash-marks the field had become completely frozen after the Steelers groundskeepers allegedly watered it down in the frigid cold of a Pennsylvania winter day. One of the few players Pittsburgh Hall of Famer Mel Blount struggled with was Cliff Branch. Al Davis got in an argument, yelling at Pete Rozelle before the game on the field saying how this now limited Cliff Branch’s speed. And they say the Raiders cheated!

In an online contest created by the NFL on their website, the 1976 Raiders were voted the greatest team in NFL history by over 5.2 million fans.

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2016/03/30/over-5-2-million-nfl-fans-vote-the-1976-oakland-raiders-the-best-team-of-all-time/

Phil was a big part of all this success. In fact most felt the Raiders were better in 1977 but Phil and OL John Vella had season ending injuries.  The beat up Raiders were never healthy for the rest of the decade.   Eventually he was traded to Buffalo not long after he made comments that the Raiders needed to stay in Oakland. He said that he never felt those comments got Al Davis mad, but Phil is a nicer guy than I am and I’m not so sure.

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Phil making sure Steelers great Franco Harris goes nowhere.

Phil is Just as Good Off the Field:

First off, congratulations to Phil who just won the Jersey Shore’s greatest Sports Personality in the last 50 years! We hope that this is not the last HOF he gets into.  Again, please go to his Facebook page to support his Hall of Fame run.

http://shoresportsnetwork.com/phil-villapiano/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1878470965816620/

When I first worked for the Muscular Dystrophy Foundation in honor of my cousin Celestina, I was so happy to see Phil Villapiano being such a huge contributor for them. Phil has lent himself to many charities and he is beloved by fans and organizations alike. Phil is in various Hall of Fames and his other charities include saving the Jersey Shore after hurricane Sandy and MDA & ALS.

http://www.niashf.org/inductees/phil-villapiano/

The story of Phil giving his Super Bowl ring to inspire a man in a wheel chair is amazing and continues to spread online.

http://www.nj.com/sports/index.ssf/2017/02/one_raiders_star_walked_the_walk_with_the_gift_of.html

He also has bravely offered his brain to CTE research as well. Players like Jim Plunkett and George Atkinson have discussed the issue and the struggles they are having, and Phil also has done several interviews on the effects that football has had on his body.

https://www.mercurynews.com/2016/04/21/raiders-great-phil-villapiano-pledges-brain-to-research/

Phil recently has joined his voice with other former NFL players to support flag football instead of tackle football for kids under the age of 14.

https://www.cnn.com/2018/01/18/health/nfl-no-tackle-football-kids/index.html

Jim’s Jamz:

Phil joins the ranks of so many special Raider players. Their love of life, football and their fellow man is both inspiring and endearing. Born in Long Branch, New Jersey and raised in Asbury Park, Phil has left his mark on many hearts around the country. He has seen pain and tragedy but through it all he lives life with joy and a smile. Graduating from Bowling Green and making a name on the national scene in Oakland, he is more than a college icon, former NFL Rookie of the Year, 2 time all NFL player, or 5 time all AFC player. A lot more.

I was once asked on a podcast why the Raiders players relationship with the fans was so special because they said they just didn’t understand it.  I said, “Most people look at the players as celebrity athletes. It’s their team. Even though I was too little to understand anything, in Oakland the Raiders were not celebrities but they were considered family. The players were underpaid so many worked, played and were socially active with the fans.   They also genuinely enjoyed and cared for each other, and the players were a part of the community. From Al Davis who the NFL and most owners hated; to the great Bill King who the networks and the Warriors took off of tv for looking like the Devil; neither they, the players or the fans really fit in anywhere.  Except in Oakland”.

“They worked hard and played hard and loved their families. They were outcasts and throw aways that made sense to no one. The players were always too old, wild, or too slow or not big enough.  Al Davis would see their heart and take them in.  Then you put them all together with an East Bay attitude under an overcast, grey sky in Oakland on a crisp fall day, and together they all made sense. They won and they dominated.  The pride; the winning; the diversity in race and religion; it was the best relationship in sports.  No stadium was louder, no bond stronger”.

From New Jersey to California, Phil has never lost who he was and who was there for the ride. His loyalty and love for fans and family is contagious. And anyone that could put a smile on my mom and dad’s face has my loyalty.

(The Amazing run of the Raiders; The Rebels of Oakland)

They say never meet your heroes, and when I first started my medical business in the bay area, I was able to meet some A-List athletes and celebrities that I admired.  Most were ok, but a couple turned out to be arrogant, self absorbed and just plain strange and it hurt.  Raider fans are lucky because for the most part they are never disappointed.  Meet Lester Hayes or Jim Otto or Phil Villapiano, and they will have you leaving with a smile.  Phil is a fan favorite due to his whit, love of life, and passionate heart.  He’s never really received the credit he deserved on the field, but let’s be real, many Raiders haven’t.  People forget the east coast media dominated sports at the time.  I’m sorry but waiting this long for Cliff Branch, Lester Hayes, Jack Tatum and Phil Villapiano is unacceptable and I’ve told the NFL writers as such.  (Don’t get me started on Ken Stabler). Phil is already in our HOF and I hope Phil truly knows just how special he is to the bay area.

So if you are having a rough day, open your favorite adult beverage and go on youtube and enjoy the Super Bowl and championship games all over again. Check out Phil’s interviews that will leave you inspired and always laughing. Reminisce about the players and friends and family that you shared these amazing times with. Remember loved ones that are no longer with us that you shared so much with and who started your journey as a Raider fan.  The Sea of Hands; The Holy Roller; the Ghost to the Post; the Heidi Game; and all that winning. For me, every time I watch these videos and see the feelings of joy in the fans and the players, it’s as exciting as the Klondike, flying over the Atlantic, or the story of the White Whale.

How innocent were those days….how rich we are to have known them.

“Remembering Oakland Raiders Al Davis (& the AFL) on MLK Day & His 5 Decade Fight For Equality”

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Al Davis, civil rights pioneer.

Al Davis has been called many things. Innovator, rebel, leader, dictator; and many other things that are not for print. One thing many will remember him for though is as a civil rights leader.  Al Davis had one goal in sports; winning. And because of that spirit, he didn’t care what color or sex you were.  Just win baby.

Davis Stand against Racism in the 1960’s; The AFL makes history in a boycott:

The 1960’s was a heck of a time. It had a lot of turmoil due to military conflicts and racial injustice.   From the college game to the NFL game, there were still many fans, coaches and administrators that didn’t like having blacks on their teams. We applaud the storied Alabama football program for it’s winning today but we forget it didn’t integrate black players until 1971 when John Mitchell and Wilbur Jackson first played for the Crimson Tide. Even though the civil rights bill threatening to take away federal funding to schools that discriminated against African Americans was enacted in 1964, it took years for some schools to comply. In fact, even though they have tried to hide it,   look at the Mormon Church and BYU’s history in the 1970’s in regards to race. Quite a read.

The same was seen at a smaller level in pro football. Even though there were many African American players, they were not welcomed by everyone with open arms. Al Davis really helped in opening doors for many people.

The AFL and Al Davis especially were different.  In a 1963 exhibition game in Mobile, Alabama, Al Davis demanded the contest be moved to Oakland because he was not going to separate his players in segregated hotels. He also tried to do this in many other games through the 1960’s.  When Raiders outspoken star Clem Daniels complained about the way black players were treated at the 1965 AFL All-Star game in New Orleans, Al Davis supported them when they voted to boycott the game unless it was moved.  Other owners and commissioner Joe Foss joined the outcry.  Even many white players including Ron Mix stated that they would no longer play in the game if it stayed in New Orleans.  The organizer of the All-Star game went so far as to tell the minority players that they and their families were welcome in New Orleans but that was far from the case.  African American players were left stranded at the airport with some not being able to get taxi’s while others were not allowed to go into restaurants and bars in the french quarter due to the color of their skin.  Eventually the game was moved to Houston and even though it was a spur of the moment thing, Houston did a good job of hosting.  AFL Commissioner Joe Foss wrote a letter to the people of Houston thanking them for the classy way they supported the AFL’s players.  The actual letter is below.  Pretty cool letterhead.

afl-letter

African American Colleges Play a Big Role in Player Drafts:

When he took over for the Raiders, Davis was one of the first to specifically target black/small colleges. Some of the greatest Raiders were from small or black colleges including Hall of Famer’s Gene Upshaw ( Texas A & I) and Art Shell (Maryland St.).   Both Hall of Fame players were thought of as somewhat risky picks because they were from schools that were too small or too abstract.

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Two of the Greatest to play the game.  HOF players Art Shell, and Gene Upshaw.

When Raiders all world WR Warren Wells was in Texas state prison serving time, the Raiders had an important team celebration. Mr. Davis contacted the state of Texas stating that he would pay for security for Warren to attend, but the state denied the request. It didn’t matter that Warren was an African American to Al Davis. What was important was that he was a Raider.

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The greatest catch that few remember.  Wells Makes Miraculous grab with 8 seconds to beat the Jets in 1970.

The Good Old Boys Network Get’s a Shakeup:

When Davis hired Art Shell to be the first African American head coach, it had broken down decades of prejudice.  It was groundbreaking and even today name all of the GM’s in the NFL that are African American or Hispanic?   There aren’t very many, but of course the Raiders have one of them in Reggie McKenzie. Al Davis also hired the first Hispanic head coach in Tom Flores, and the first female executive in Amy Trask. If he thought you could do the job, he didn’t care if you were a blue smurf, he would hire you.

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Art Shell and Al Davis 1989

In an episode of HBO’s amazing series “Real Sports”, they talked about the lack of support and care for retired NFL players. One owner had an idea of building a hospital in Utah or another inexpensive state for the retired players that would be funded by the NFL retirement plan through the profits of the league. Who was the owner that created the plan and was the only one that voted yes for it? Al Davis.

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No One but Elvis could rock a white jumpsuit like Al Davis

Jim’s Jamz:

There have been many white owners, coaches and players in pro footballs history who have done their part in helping to cross the barriers of prejudice and hate.   None of them though did it with the confidence, fire and flare that Al Davis did.  On the field Mr. Davis didn’t want to lose and he didn’t want to tie. He wanted one thing and that was to win. And if you could help the Raiders get to that goal, he wanted you and you were a Raider brother for life no matter what your religion or race was. Especially in today’s America, wouldn’t it be nice if that was the way things were?

Sadly we still have a long way to go in eliminating hate and prejudice, but it’s people like Martin Luther King Jr.; and to an extent Al Davis; that gets us closer to that goal.   I know today is MLK day but on this day I always think of Mr. Davis. From Terry Bradshaw to Derrick Thomas to the countless number of players from other teams that he supported during bad times, Mr. Davis really cared about them.  The football world is not as fun without Mr. Davis but few see his other side because like most men his age, they didn’t want the attention it gave. The thing that everyone in football knows about Al Davis is that even though he loved the Raiders tough, renegade image, he had an awful soft heart under that ugly white jumpsuit.

“A Football Family Reunion for the Ages; Ken Stabler’s NFL HOF Induction”

 

ken stabler hof bustA family reunion for the ages.

In a night that went as perfect as a last minute Ken Stabler drive, Ken Michael Stabler took his rightful place in the NFL pro football hall of fame. For one last time, Ken Stabler lead everyone on a magical ride that will never be forgotten.

With decades of Raider tradition all around mixed in with a little Southern warmth from the state of Alabama, Canton looked more like Oakland, Ca than the sleepy town that wakes up for a week every year before the NFL season starts.

With several Raiders by their sides and HOF WR Fred Biletnikoff giving support, Ken Stabler’s grandsons unveiled the HOF bust of their beloved grandfather. In one action, all of the emotions that have built up from decades of frustration, anticipation, sadness and hope was released. Tears flowed, and closure began to fill the air slowly like a soft mist on a hot night.   All the years of waiting; all the unjust votes and comments came out in a healing moment that hopefully now brings closure to an amazing career by an amazing man.

http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-hall-of-fame/0ap3000000681148/Ken-Stabler-Enshrinement

Brett Favre’s Moment:

http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-hall-of-fame/0ap3000000681185/Hall-of-Fame-QB-Brett-Favre-shares-a-story-about-Ken-Stabler

Why He’s Loved So Much:

I have many good friends from around the country who ask me, why was there so much emotion and love for Ken Stabler. I think the answer is easy.

When the Snake saw a fan he didn’t care what color you were. He didn’t care if you were famous or rich.   He truly appreciated the adoration that was given him. I think Ken always knew how important he was to the City of Oakland, Alabama and the bay area. That’s why he was so kind to so many. He never judged; never lashed out; he was always good to those that supported him, and shrugged off those that hurt him. Many saw a little of themselves in Ken. Sometimes misunderstood, often doubted, and occasionally misjudged. Ken was an every man and in reality so many people related to the things he went through.

Ken was real. He made mistakes; he failed at times; he was ripped in the media at times; but he ALWAYS dusted himself off and kept coming. He never quit and the harder someone pushed, the harder he pushed back. The Raiders and Ken Stabler smashed people in the mouth and never gave up. That’s why when most teams would have quit, the Raiders usually won due to the never give up attitude of the Snake. Ken was a lot like the fans that supported him. He was a lot like the City of Oakland and the East Bay; always fighting, never quitting.

 

 

Why Younger Fans Should Be Excited:

Some younger Raider fans seem to be in a fog at the great adoration for Ken and this amazing era. Let’s face it, we live in a society where history to some is what pokemon go character you caught last night. If it’s old, society seems to not care about it.

If you are a younger fan, look at the extreme excitement that is seen in social media today for the upcoming season. The Raiders were 7-9 last year and some are nearly losing their minds with excitement. Nothing wrong with that especially with all the improvements, but put it into perspective.

Think about going 56-13 in Ken’s first 69 starts. Think of going 18-1-1 on Monday night football. Think of having the highest winning % of ANY professional team in the U.S. of ANY sport for a 25 year stretch. Think of 3 Super Bowls in 7 years and 5 straight AFC Championship games. For almost 3 decades the Raiders and the Cowboys were consistently on top of the NFL ratings for most watched teams on television. Oh and don’t forget having more wins in the greatest NFL decade of all time, the 1970’s. Could you imagine what Ken and the Raiders offense could do with today’s rules?   Now you understand OUR excitement.   As Raider great Tim Brown said Friday, “When Ken walked into our locker room you saw everyone change. It was like royalty had just come into the room.   The Raiders of that time were just that good; people adored him.”

A Leader to the End:

The reason this meant so much to so many is because Ken really was the Raiders leader in every way.   He was a leader on the field and off.   Players felt he was invincible and looked to him when things got rough. Even after his death he inspired. Raiders greats like George Atkinson, Art Thoms, and George Buehler followed in Ken’s footsteps and decided to donate their brains to the study of CTE and give them to the Concussion Legacy Foundation after they passed away.   Truly unselfish acts inspired by the Snake’s selflessness and the encouragement of his partner Kim Bush.

“When you see your teammate deteriorate a lot through the end of his life, to see him go out like that, it brings us together,” Thoms said in a Mercury News article. George Atkinson has complained often of his memory issues. “Ken meant so much to us and we felt we needed to do this.”

The Closest Team in the NFL:

Many of the retired Raider players talked about how close they were to each other. Many stated how no team was as tight as they were.   Even after retiring, they would meet for dinner often and even if players were out of state, they would fly back to join their fellow teammates. It was important to them to stay in touch with an incredible time that gave them so much enjoyment.

Jim Jamz:

We have many older patients and one is Mr. & Mrs. C who live deep in the wine country (I wont give their name for health privacy reasons.) They used to be a Raiders season ticket holders in the 60’s and 70’s.   I visited them recently.

Mrs. C is the classic sweet nurturing elderly woman who still feels a good meal will solve any problem. Mr. C was a successful businessman who’s health is failing. I go to their house so he doesn’t have to go into the office. I also know they enjoy my visits. Mr. C usually holds court with a scotch in his hand while I get my usual pay for a house call. A cold beer with a roast beef or turkey sandwich or the occasional German Chocolate cake and cold glass of milk.

“You know something James, those times were so special and those guys meant the damn world to us.   Players like Tom Keating and Art Thoms; Tony Cline, Warren Wells, Charlie Smith, Raymond Chester. Tatum and Atkinson, Skip and Willie. Otto, Beuhler and Dalby; Upshaw and Shell; Sistrunk and Kinlaw; Rod Martin and Vilipiano. Sumner, Wolf, and Al Locasale. So many great men that gave their all to win. And Kenny was everyone’s favorite. No group of players and fans were closer. The minute you forget this son, you won’t be worth a damn as a writer, or as a fan.”

After a pregnant pause, Mr. C showed a moment of rare emotion. Pointing his finger at me he said softly while winking, “Ken in the Hall of Fame? This one means something son; this one means something.”

It sure does Mr. C.   It sure does.

 

“The Passing of NFL Hall of Fame Raider Fan Ron “The General” Rickard; Fans From Every Team Mourn Their Amazing Friend”

Please Donate to RAIDER RONS SUPERBOWL FUNDRAISER CELEBRATION OF LIFE

https://www.youcaring.com/janet-richard-has-taken-a-financial-sack-from-rons-diseas-586242

 

Fans are Invited to Ron’s Memorial on Saturday, July 9th. 

https://www.facebook.com/events/141139472956658/

 

ron and janet rickard (2)

Hero:

a person, who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.

Heroes…….

My father once said that the hardest part about aging is watching people around you; including family, friends, athletes and celebrities; slowly pass away as the years go by. As NFL fans it’s also hard for us to watch the iconic fans of our youth slowly leave us with the passing of time. Another great one has left us in Ron “The General” Rickard.  “Raider Ron” was a Hall of Fame fan, and so much more.

We all have a story, and Ron’s was one of fun, determination, struggle, pain and joy. That’s why fans from all over the country have been saddened by his death at the tender age of 54 due to liver failure. He had been battling for over 6 years. He was hoping for a liver transplant but it wasn’t to be. He had contracted Hepatitis C which eventually damaged his liver.  Sadly the liver that he long waited for came 12 hours after his passing.

Ron was a cherished member of the exclusive NFL Pro Football Ultimate Fan Association and his brothers and sisters from this group are hurting from his passing.

http://www.pfufa.org/

“Raider Ron’s” story is an amazing one.  What made Ron’s story amazing is that he went to 246 straight games for the Raiders; HOME and AWAY! He even got to go to the game in Wembley to keep the streak alive after winning the “One Nation, Your Story” contest.

After his 200th game his friends that he competed with (mostly as a leader) at The Bad Boys of BBQ threw him a tailgate party in his honor. “Kingsford” Kirk Bronsord, the leader of the Bad Boys of BBQ stated in an article from the Raiders website, “I’m proud and honored to be able to say that this is a great friend of mine. He has done something that few people get to do. That’s 12 ½ years of never missing a game”.

Ron said of the streak, “one year I told my wife, you know, I want to go to every game and do it just one time. So I did it and everything went pretty smooth so I did it again the next year.”

After his 246th game in 2014, the Raiders honored him, and Lincoln Kennedy interviewed Ron on the field. He was thrilled to be able to light the Al Davis memorial torch.

http://m.raiders.com/media-vault/videos/Raider-Ron-Attends-246th-Straight-Game/933b1c84-3123-454c-ac6c-108af7efc053

Ron’s story doesn’t end there by a long shot. He began to create friendships with Raider fans from all over the country. He also created great friendships with fans of other teams. From Tampa Bay, to San Diego to anywhere there was an NFL stadium, people grew to love Rickard. That love was shown when at times fans would help him financially including getting him tickets and other items to keep the streak alive.

Fast friend and a person I enjoyed talking to; Ron’s Fellow Hall of Fame icon Tim Young; (The Famous Tampa Bay Fan known as “The Captain”) said he once came to a game in Oakland knowing no one.  “I walked into the parking lot and I told Ron I was looking for a tailgate to adopt me.  Ron quickly took me in and added me to the fold.  A long friendship ensued”.  (I will be featuring Tim’s story during the season hopefully with an amazing podcast!)

Friendship was important to Ron and people reciprocated that feeling.  Ron said in an interview, “70 or 80 people; many of them Raider fans; have even offered to serve as living donors for me”.

Tim said that Ron grew up in Kentucky.  He came to California and started a car wash which he later sold.

Ron’s personality was refreshing. Friends described him as blunt and to the point but also compassionate and caring. He had a goofy, fun side and even when he went through hardships he always had a smile to give to whoever needed it.

“He was very smart” Tim exclaimed, “but he never was arrogant and he never name dropped.  He was extremely kind and humble.  He showed great sportsmanship.  Ron and his wife couldn’t have kids but he adored them.  He mentored many people showing them the ropes of life, of being a good fan and of being a good person.  He did so much for so many”.

 

Ron and his lovely wife Janet were true soulmates with years of devotion.  He was loyal, appreciative, kind and strong. He was given a rotten hand, but he smiled and fought hard with all he had to the end.  Ron enjoyed being a Raider fan but most of all he enjoyed just being. He inspired and touched so many, and he put a lot of smiles on a lot of faces.

The Commodores have a song called Heroes and here are some of the lyrics:

Heroes make the sun rise in the mornin’
Heroes make the moon shine bright at night
Heroes make our lives a little stronger All our fears go away when he’s around

Whoa, heroes make our lives a little stronger
If you look you’ll surely see they’re you and me

I am lucky in life.  I had heroes.  My mom and dad; my grandparents; uncles and aunts and great friends.  Ron was a hero too.  Heroes are not some of the popular dysfunctional celebrities who are famous for being famous.  They are not boy band members or coaches that make risky play calls.  Heroes are every day people living through the ups and downs of life. Heroes are soldiers fighting for our freedom.  Heroes are teachers and janitors and wait staff.

A hero loves their family, shows kindness and love to others, and they don’t look down on people.  And during their darkest hour they still think of those around them and how they can make things better for them. They are our partners, parents and grandparents who fight a disease with dignity and grace.  They are those that give of themselves with no care or desire to worry about what they get in return.  They are the ones that inspire others to do good with little to no fanfare.  They are us.  Ron was one of those heroes.  The simplest of things.

The best way to honor Ron is to be that hero.  To be the one that leads and encourages and inspires.  Live with ethics and grace and be inspired by right and wrong.  Be kind when others aren’t, and be level headed and open minded when anger fills the air.  In a country that has lost it’s way with violence, anger and a lack of compromise, be a hero like Ron.  In this way his legacy will live on.  A good General mentors and inspires even after they are gone.

So in remembrance of Ron and in support of his amazing wife Janet, I would love for fans from all over the country to donate to help them financially during this tragic time.   Healthcare costs have drained them (sadly) and if everyone donated just a little, they could reach their modest goal quickly.

https://www.youcaring.com/janet-richard-has-taken-a-financial-sack-from-rons-diseas-586242

I would also encourage those to go to his memorial this Saturday. Here is a website with the information, and an RSVP. A celebration tailgate party will include food, drink, music and dancing. I’m sure stories of Ron will be a plenty.

https://www.facebook.com/events/141139472956658/

I have and always will support good fans from all of the NFL teams in their causes, hardships and triumphs. We are not gang members.  We are people who are part of one team; the human race; who just want a chance to live a good, fun life in peace.  Just like Ron, support one another and let’s never forget to live life to the fullest while never taking ourselves too seriously. And as Ron “The General” Rickard taught people; wear your colors proud, but wear your heart prouder.

“After a Blockbuster Trade, Who Will The Raiders, AFC West & Others Pick in The NFL Draft?”

nfl draft rg

In the first blockbuster trade of this year’s NFL Draft, the Los Angeles Rams traded with the Tennessee Titans for the #1 pick.  In exchange for the top pick, the Titans get the Ram’s 1st pick which is #15; 2 second rounder’s (43 & 45) and a third round selection (76th).  The Titans will also get the Ram’s first and third round picks in next year’s draft.  The Titans now have 6 of the first 76 draft picks.  The Rams get Tennessee’s 4th and 6th round picks next year.

This is why I don’t like trading up.

Why This Move Was Made & Will Backfire:

If you look at most of the teams that have traded up for a player, it almost always benefits the team that gave up the top pick. You give so much for a player and then in reality if they don’t pan out the near future of your team is ruined.

As I’ve said many times, you have to have patience.  When most of the Oakland Raider fans wanted Reggie McKenzie’s head the first 2 years he worked, I said that this was a 4 to 5 year plan.  Many fans; and for years Al Davis; over estimated how good this team was when it lacked talent.  McKenzie cleaned house and built a team on solid drafts and a good signing here and there.

The Rams are making the mistake a lot of teams do.  It’s the same mistake Minnesota made in 2013 when they traded up and used New England’s first round pick to get WR Cordarrale Patterson.  The Vikings thought they were better than they were and felt they were a player away from being really good.  They gave up 4 picks that turned into 3 starters for the Patriots Super Bowl Team for a good return man that is now 5th on their depth chart at WR.  Even though Sammy Watkins is a good player, the Bills made the same mistake trading picks to move up to get him when they had several holes to fill.

I think this is a bad move by the Rams.  Maybe I’ll be wrong and Carson Wentz or Jarod Goff will be super stars.  Most scouts though think they are projects and their upside isn’t as great as others think.  But in my mind I’m not giving up so many picks unless John Elway is there.  If Wentz or Goff doesn’t pan out, this move will ruin the Rams for at least 2-3 years if not more.  It’s a gutsy move but I think a desperate one for a team that is trying to make a splash after moving.

Mock Drafts Change Like The Wind:

What happens every year is that team’s desires change as time goes on; that’s why so many drop and move up in mock drafts over time.  Athleticism and the NFL combines shock teams.  It’s like they are enamored with athleticism.  It’s kind of like the pretty cheerleader in high school.  You finally get a chance to date her and then over time you realize she is high maintenance, stuck up and boring.  You eventually move on.  That’s what happens with NFL teams and players in the draft before they are selected.  Athleticism is great but football talent is greater.  Get football talent with athleticism and you have a super star. 

Let’s now look at how this trade changes the fortunes of some teams.

Tennessee Titans;

Wow; what a great trade for them.  They have holes to fill and now, with good drafting, they can literally rebuild their team in 2 drafts.  It was a great move for a team that is on the rise.

San Francisco 49ers:

This almost assures that Colin Kaepernick is staying in San Francisco.  With the Rams and Cleveland almost assuredly taking quarterbacks, this trade hurts.  The 49ers really seemed to like Cal Bears QB Jared Goff and it looked like he was going to fall into their laps.  Somewhere in Ann Arbor Michigan there is a middle aged college football coach wearing khakis and a blue hat who is smiling ear to ear.

This trade does one thing; it means the 49ers are almost for sure going to take a DL in the first round.  The Ravens will take Ohio St. DL Joey Bosa or Oregon DL DeForest Buckner with the #6 pick I’m pretty sure, and then the player that is left over will go to SF.

Denver Broncos:

This move is good and bad for Denver.  Colin Kaepernick is almost for sure not leaving San Francisco.  But if you look at the draft it also allows the Broncos to probably be able to pick Memphis QB Paxton Lynch at #15.  I’m not a huge fan of Lynch’s but some really like him.  There are rumors of trades with Buffalo for Tyrod Taylor but he’s limited as a QB in my opinion.

Look for Nick Foles (gulp); to possibly be wearing Orange next year in Denver.  If they don’t plan on drafting Lynch then it’s almost for sure.  The QB position has never been worse in the NFL.  Look for Denver’s defense to again have to carry the load for this team.

San Diego Chargers:

The Chargers catch a huge break.  Or did they?  Most see monster LT Laremy Tunsil out of Mississippi now falling into their laps greatly helping out their offensive line.  In most drafts some of the safest picks are OL and this is a great get for them.  The Jags and the Cowboys are in front of them and no way are they taking a left tackle.   To gain a great pick without doing anything is not bad.

The problem is the Chargers already have two pretty good starting Tackles in Joe Barksdale & King Dunlap.  They also signed Chris Hairston for depth.  Many feel the Chargers need a center big time but no center warrants that high of a pick.  I see the Chargers going defense either with CB Jalen Ramsey, DL Joey Bosa or DL DeForest Buckner.  While most online have Tunsil moving to SD, I see them going defense.

Kansas City Chiefs:

This probably won’t affect the Chiefs much.  There are a lot of edge rushers in this draft and that’s something that they need.  Tamba Hali is going to be 33 and Justin Houston’s injuries are a worry.  I see them getting a solid player in this year’s DL heavy ensemble.  Kevin Dodd?

NFL-Draft-compensatory-11-19-15

Oakland Raiders:

Yes Raider Fans; let’s look at what this does to your Raiders.

I said it last year that the 2016 NFL draft is going to be a crap shoot and extremely exciting; maybe the most fun ever watching a draft.  No one really knows what teams are going to do and what their evaluations of players are.

As I wrote in my article yesterday, I think right now the Raiders will take Reggie Ragland, MLB out of Alabama for their first pick.  He is by far the best MLB in the draft but it’s slim pickings out there for inside linebackers.  Some think there isnt’ even a second round MLB that warrants to be picked there.  It’s a safe pick.

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2016/04/13/who-will-now-be-the-oakland-raiders-1-draft-pick-after-their-latest-signing/

Three guys that are greatly climbing up the ladder that I spoke about a while back are Clemson DL Shaq Lawson, Michigan St. OL Jack Conklin, and OLB Leonard Floyd @ Georgia.

I wrote about these guys before and most ripped on me having them so high but now many mock drafts have these guys climbing big time.  I have no idea why Kevin Dodd is ahead of Lawson in some peoples’ minds.  Lawson was double teamed most of last year and Dodd was helped by that.  Dodd also had only one good year at Clemson.  I take Lawson all day.  There were some games that Lawson played where he was obviously the best football player on the field.

Jack Conklin is a mean physical lineman.  Good at pass protecting but great in run blocking.  He needs work protecting the QB but I think he can be solid for a long time.  Some of the major writers have him going to the Raiders and I think that’s kind of silly with their recent signings.

Sports Illustrated is obsessed with giving the Raiders another wide receiver in the first round but I think there is no way that happens.

The guy that I like a lot is Leonard Floyd.  He’s a machine out there who makes plays.  The problem with Floyd is he looks like Lawrence Taylor one game and then Rip Taylor the next.  He needs maturity and focus.

I admit; Georgia was a dysfunctional wild-west show at times but if you give this guy discipline and he matures, wow.  If the Raiders picked him I would not be upset.  You can still try to fill in the MLB position later in the draft or with cap casualties that always are cut during training camp, because this guy just jumps off of the page.  You know how I love pass rushers and seeing him blitzing behind Mack?  Worse things could happen.

I love Clemson CB Mackensie Alexander too.  I think he’s the best DB in this draft.  Teams were so intimidated with his skills that they just stopped throwing at him.  He gave up 11 passes all year last year and no touchdowns.  He has a toughness and swagger that reminds me of George Atkinson.  He’s very strong and physical.  Scouts don’t like that he’s a legit 5’ 10” but I still like him a lot.  If he’s chosen I think it’s great.

If you have Alexander now you have David Amerson, Sean Smith and Alexander as your top 3 cornerbacks, and Reggie Nelson, Nate Allen and TJ Carrie as your safeties.  Not exactly the Soul Patrol but it is pretty good.

Guys Falling For The Raiders Pick:

The two guys that are falling are Notre Dame OL Ronnie Stanley and Alabama DL AShawn Robinson.  There are worries about Stanley’s passion for football and his work ethic.  He has not shown much strength at times as well during pre-draft workouts.  AShawn Robinson works hard and is a really good player but some say he’s not totally into football as a long term thing.  Early retirements are occurring more and more in the NFL and it’s a risk that worries teams.

Ohio St. OL Taylor Decker; (who I originally had Conklin ahead of) was considered a for sure top 15 pick but now he’s not even in the first round in some people’s eyes.

Ohio St. CB Eli Apple is raw and is also dropping on some boards.  I am not a huge fan of his.  I like Alexander a lot better.  Again athleticism and the cookie cutter size for each position is popular in the NFL but I want football players.

Many people were also trying to promote Ohio St. OLB Darron Lee but I think that is a bad #1 pick.  If you are going to get an MLB later in the draft I’d rather pick Floyd over Lee.  Lee’s an athlete playing football.  He has literally only played LB for 2 years of his life and he has a lot to learn.  He’s also a smallish LB and not a real physically strong one at that.

I see two people on my social media timeline that are promoting Ole Miss DL Robert Nkemdiche about 5-10 times a day.  In reality he only has 7 sacks in 3 years, and in his last 7 games last year he had only 2 tackles a game.  You tube videos and reading experts opinions is great, but if you really want to know how good players are you have to watch them play.

I pass big time on Robert and I see in some mock drafts he’s not even in the first round anymore.  ESPN’s Todd McShay even got off his bandwagon and dropped him out of the first round.  (Finally!)  Remember when I warned you about Jets Vernon Gholston in 2008 and Jadeveon Clowney being busts and some of you didn’t listen?  Listen to Brother Jim.

I can’t see Ohio St. RB Ezekiel Elliot passing by the Eagles, Bears or the Giants without being chosen.

There you have it; so get the food ready; call in sick to work; the kids are at school; open up a cold one or a glass of wine and take the day to enjoy the NFL Draft.  We’ve had a draft party for 16 years and it’s something I look forward to every year.

 

 

“Who Will Now Be The Oakland Raiders #1 Draft Pick After Their Latest Signing”

mckenzie mack

With the signing of ex Cincinnati safety Reggie Nelson, the Raiders filled another hole in their defense that needed to be addressed.  In another cap friendly contract the Raiders get a solid run defender who is also fairly good against the pass.  His high amount of interceptions is a good and bad thing; proves he can get interceptions but it also proves teams are not afraid to throw at him.  He’s going to be 33 in September and that is probably the reason he didn’t get the money he wanted in free agency.

Trading Up:

Someone asks me every week on Twitter why the Raiders don’t ever trade up.  For the most part it’s because it’s not smart all the time.

Unless you need that one player to put you over the top, it’s not a good idea.  Most teams that trade up get burned.  Bill Belichick and the Patriots have been fleecing teams for years.  I still remember the 2013 trade when the Vikings thought they were a WR away from being good.  They traded a #2, #3, #4, & a #7 for New England’s #1 pick.  At the 29th spot they chose Cordarrelle Patterson.  While he’s been a fine return guy, he is now 5th on the WR depth chart and caught 2 passes all of last year.  Four picks for a 5th string WR.

The Bills; overestimating their talent; sent their #9 overall pick in the first round along with a #1 and a #4 in 2015 to Cleveland to pick #4 overall in the 2014 draft to get talented WR Sammy Watkins.  Watkins is good but I didn’t get that trade because the Bills had holes in their offensive line, QB and a few more on the defensive end.

Ron Wolf was never a huge fan of trading the first round pick either at Oakland or Green Bay, so I find it hard to think McKenzie will do it.  Many fans like to talk trade scenarios but NFL teams are huge creatures of habit and unless the Raiders have fallen in love with a player, I don’t see them trading up.

What Are Their Needs Now?

The main needs are at middle linebacker, a defensive back, and another DL.  They probably will also look into a RB and WR in the later rounds.

Ezekiel Elliott will probably go to Philadelphia or the Giants.  A Running Back would be helpful to the Raiders as well but it’s not as big a need as people think.  As I said before, I’m not a fan of Raiders OC Bill Musgrave.  Not giving Marcel Reece and Jamize Olawale more carries is just ridiculous.  The lack of imagination in using Roy Helu Jr. last year also hurt the Raiders.  And to the writer that said Elliott was as good as Adrian Peterson in college?  Elliot isn’t even close.  Stop it.

Paralysis by Analysis:

I’ve been monitoring my draft picks for 16 years now.  I want to be right so I take evaluating players seriously.  Most just give brash comments and then move on to the next year but I want my followers to know they can trust my opinion.  We all will be wrong at times but I want to have a history of quality picks and predictions mixed in with my Matt Leinart’s.

People wonder why so many teams make mistakes in the NFL draft.  I think it’s because they over think it.  Paralysis by Analysis; over analyzing.  The more you look into something the more chance you will find fault in it.  Now NFL teams are using an arrest formula to predict how many arrests a player will have.  You can’t make this stuff up.

I think also NFL teams and experts are obsessed with athleticism over football talent.  Darrius Heyward-Bey had no business being the Raiders top pick; in fact he was on my no draft list and to the dismay of Raider fans who applauded the pick, I destroyed the choice on draft day.  DHB was picked purely because of his fast 40 time @ the NFL combines.  He really wasn’t even that good at Maryland.

Look at the old videos on Youtube.  I was watching the draft day video on Aaron Rodgers.  Experts were justifying why he was falling in the draft.  “He has bad hand placement; he has bad mechanics.  Look how high he keeps his hands.  He still has a chance to be a pretty good QB but Alex Smith by far is the best QB in the draft”.

From teams overreacting to Thurman Thomas’ knee, to Jerry Rice and Marcus Allen not being fast enough, the nitpicking gets to be a bit rough.  I’m not saying the other stuff isn’t valuable but as John Madden said, watch the games, not drills with players in gym shorts.  This is still football.  Now let’s look at each position and the possible first round pick for the 2016 NFL draft.

Defensive Line:

This is going to be interesting.  Many think that DL’s will fall in the draft because there are so many potential good ones.  It wouldn’t be a surprise but my feeling is that only QB is more important than a DL so if there is one you like then you pick him.  It will be fun to see.

Kevin Dodd:

I’m not a fan of this pick because in reality he had only 1 good year in college and his teammate; Shaq Lawson; was the one being double teamed most of the year which allowed him to be freed up.  I like Lawson better.  It wouldn’t be a tragedy to pick him but I think he’s overrated.  I think Dodd is a borderline 1stround pick.  Not a fan.

Robert Nkemdiche:  

When I wrote on how Vernon Gholston would be a huge bust in the 2008 draft, Jets fans destroyed me.  Some Raider fans wanted to draft him.  In 3 years he ended up with ZERO sacks & never played again.  I also was ripped apart on ESPN when someone shared the preview article I wrote with me saying how Jadeveon Clowney would also be a bust; 1500 thumbs down.  This year I’m picking Nkemdiche as the poster child to avoid.  His stats were like theirs.

In 3 years Nkemdiche only had 7 sacks.  In his last 7 games last year he averaged 2 tackles a game.  His best college year he had 3 sacks.  For his career he averaged a little under 3 tackles a game.  If that excites you then then that is cool but I pass on him big time.  His football numbers don’t equal his athleticism.

AShawn Robinson:

His talent and work ethic are not questioned but his interviews are.  He’s a good guy but some think he’s really not that passionate about football and with players retiring early, that is a big issue.  This guy is a super hard worker.  He’s big and has a great motor as they say.  Nick Saban said he’s just learning how to pass rush and I think his push up the middle would be a great plus.  He was double teamed a lot and was told to play a lot of 2 gap so in reality he was a key to clogging up the middle.  As one scout said, he knows how to play and these guys are valuable.

Sheldon Rankins:

I like Rankins as well.  Like Robinson he’s raw as a pass rusher but scouts like him.  He is physical and is a good tackler and he would help the Raiders.

Shaq Lawson:

Even with being double teamed often throughout the year, Lawson thrived.  There were more than a few games where it was obvious he was the best player on the field.  I think he’s a special talent that can’t be passed up.  If Lawson and Rankins is there, I pick Lawson.

Defensive Back:

Mackenzie Alexander:

I think he’s the best cornerback in the draft.  Great instinct, cover skills and recovery speed.  He’s a film room junkie who works as hard as anyone in college football.  Confident, physical and tough and he plays with a swagger.  I love this guy.  Teams just stopped throwing his way.  He gave up 11 passes all last year and no touchdowns.  NFL scouts hate that he’s only 5 10” but I don’t care.  This guy is really good.  If you pick him, now you have a great nickel back who has time to learn the position.  TJ Carrie and Nelson and Nate Allen can play safety with Smith, Amerson & Alexander playing CB.  A good mix of youth and experience.

Vernon Hargreaves:

Oh the fickle NFL draft.  Remember when Hargreaves was in the top 5 of most everyone’s mock draft?  Not anymore.  In fact I just saw him falling as low as 16 now in an experts draft.  Another great athlete but he gave up 16.5 yards per pass play and struggled in Florida’s two toughest games; Michigan and Alabama.  Two months ago I said I liked Alexander over him and again got the idiot tag.  I’ll stick by what I said.

Linebacker:

There are slim pickings for MLB so it’s going to be tricky here.  There really is only 1 first rounder with Kentrell Brothers being the next best MLB after Reggie Ragland but most think he’s a mid to late 2nd rounder.

Reggie Ragland:

Ragland is a classic Alabama linebacker who is a thumper.  He is a good tackler and very physical.  As I’ve said before, Alabama linebackers are a risk.  Nick Saban plays almost all zone and LB’s at Bama don’t have to cover RB’s man to man.  You literally don’t know if they can cover.  The Raiders found that out with Rolando McClain.  He wasn’t a good cover guy and the pick didn’t pan out.  I’m not a fan of this pick because of the risk but again; but their are slim pickings at MLB this year.

Darron Lee: 

Lee is the favorite for some but he is an OLB so I don’t get the love.  It’s also a huge risk.  Lee is a great athlete but he’s pretty lean for a LB position in the NFL and at times struggled against power blockers.  He also has been playing LB for only 2 years; that’s in his life.  He was a QB in high school and he played safety early on at OSU.  A great athlete and again, that’s what the NFL likes but he has a lot to learn.

Leonard Floyd:

Wow; this guy has talent.  I love his potential and I like him over Lee.  He needs to be consistent and with the right coaching he can be something special.  I would not be hurt by drafting Floyd and then getting a MLB in the later rounds.  If he’ll play hard every play, he can be special.  If the Raiders are looking at just talent, this guy is hard to pass up even though it doesn’t fix the MLB problem, but they could address it later.

Who will the Raiders pick?

If it was me I would take Lawson, Alexander and Floyd in that order.  Floyd is moving up the charts I think and if he is a top 10 pick I would not be surprised.  I would then pick a MLB in the 2nd or 3rd round.

No one really knows; not even the Raiders at this point; but I think the Raiders are going to go for the safest pick.  The draft has very slim pickings at MLB and they really need one.  As of now I see them drafting Reggie Ragland MLB out of Alabama.  He can definitely start right away and if you draft an MLB in the lower rounds, they may not be ready to start.  Ben Heeney is a nice backup but he’s not a full time starter IMHO.

Whoever they pick it will be another piece to help the Raiders attempt to be a playoff team.  It’s hard to realize that there has never been a Tweet or a Facebook post that has ever talked about a Raiders playoff game.  Facebook started in 2004 and Twitter in 2006.  Hopefully for the Raiders that will end this year.