AFC West: Bruce Campbell
Both teams passed on the Florida product in the fourth round of the 2010 draft. The talented Hernandez was considered a first-or-second round talent, but he had some red flags that allowed him to fall to the 113th pick. Hernandez became a strong performer for the Patriots and a draft steal.
Of course, that perception changed Wednesday when Hernandez was arrested and charged with murder and cut by the Patriots. Let’s a take a look at the AFC West selections that were made shortly before Hernandez was taken.
Oakland: Guard Bruce Campbell, 106: He was a combine star and the late Al Davis loved combine stars. But Campbell never made many strides and he was traded from the new regime to Carolina last year for running back Mike Goodson. Goodson left through free agency this year.
Oakland: Receiver/returner Jacoby Ford, 108: Another combine star, the fastest player in the draft, Ford has been a dynamic returner and he made a lot of big plays as a receiver. But he had had trouble staying healthy the past two years.
San Diego: Safety Darrell Stuckey, 110: He has become a tremendous special teams player. Stuckey hasn’t made much of an impact at safety. He will get more of a chance to play this season.
None of these players have come close to making the impact on the field that Hernandez did in the past three seasons. And both teams went into this offseason with the need at tight end, so bypassing Hernandez looked like a mistake.
That can no longer be said.
The Contra Costa Times reported that offensive lineman Joe Barksdale was cut Wednesday. There were conflicting reports earlier in the day. Barksdale was a third-round pick in 2011. The late Al Davis traded his second-round pick in 2012 for a package in which Barksdale was the focal point.
To replace Barksdale, Oakland signed pass-rusher Andre Carter. I will have some thoughts on that signing shortly.
McKenzie, who replaced Davis as Oakland’s top decision maker, has cut higher-round 2011 picks this year. Barksdale joins join fellow 2011 draft picks DeMarcus Van Dyke (cornerback, third round) and Chimdi Chewka (cornerback, fourth round) off the roster, Chewka is on the Oakland practice squad.
There was a thought Barksdale would compete for the starting right tackle job this year, but he has been inactive all three games. With Khalif Barnes out with an injury, newly claimed Willie Smith has taken over instead of Barksdale.
Like former Davis draft choice Bruce Campbell (who was traded to Carolina by McKenzie), I don’t think the Raiders thought Barksdale fit the zone-blocking scheme.
I’d expect Barksdale to get a chance elsewhere. He can be claimed by Thursday. However, because it is late in the work week, I’m not sure a team would be willing to make a roster move at this point. So perhaps Barksdale will clear waivers.
Meanwhile, the San Francisco Chronicle reports Oakland receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey is at the team’s facility and is undergoing concussion tests. The paper indicated Heyward-Bey will likely return Oct. 14 at Atlanta. The Raiders play at Denver this week and then have a bye.
I think everyone involved would accept Heyward-Bey missing one game after the terrible hit he took Sunday against Pittsburgh. Heyward-Bey spent Sunday night in a hospital for neck and concussion injuries. The Steelers’ Ryan Mundy was fined $21,000 for the hit.
Mike O’Connell from San Diego writes: What type of impact do you expect running back Mike Goodson to have in Oakland?
Bill Williamson: Goodson was acquired from Carolina for guard Bruce Campbell. It was a trade of players who didn’t fit with their former teams' plans. Goodson has some ability, but he did not carry the ball at all in 2011, and was active for just four games. So, to expect him to be Darren McFadden’s primary backup might be a tad risky. Perhaps Goodson (who has 501 yards on 125 career carries) will carve a role for himself in Oakland as a running back, but he is far from established.
Matt Duench from Waterloo, Ontario, writes: What do you expect from Denver receiver Demaryius Thomas in 2012?
BW: I expect big things form Thomas. He is growing as a player, and having him work with Peyton Manning should be a major boost to his career. I fully expect Thomas -- if he can stay healthy -- to take the next step in his career in 2012. I think he can be a star.
Darren from Kansans City writes: Do you think Rodney Hudson is ready to be the Chiefs’ starting center?
BW: I think so. He is a second-round pick entering his second season. We really won’t know until we see him, but the Chiefs believe in him and plan for him to play this season. Hudson is known for being a smart, tough player. He has a chance to develop into a solid pro.
Friday, in a swap of backups, the Raiders shipped offensive lineman Bruce Campbell to Carolina for running back/special teamer Mike Goodson. Davis took Campbell in the fourth round of the 2010 draft. He was a combine star but never developed in Oakland. He appeared in 14 games in two seasons with no starts. The Panthers indicated Campbell, 23, will be moved from guard to tackle.
Campbell didn’t fit the Raiders’ new zone-blocking scheme. While giving up depth at the offensive line, the Raiders did add depth at running back in Goodson. I think Goodson probably replaces departed special-teams ace running back Rock Cartwright more than running back Michael Bush. Both players left in free agency.
Goodson, 24, showed some flashes as being a role player in 2010 when he had 452 yards on 103 carries and he had 40 catches for 310 yards. He fell out of favor with the new Carolina coaching staff last season and did not have any carries and appeared in just four games in 2011. I think Oakland still needs to add a running back to spell Darren McFadden and Taiwan Jones.
Update: I just caught up with Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. He thinks Goodson has a chance to have a solid role in Oakland.
“He has a lot of ability,” Williamson said. “I have no idea why he got in the doghouse in Carolina, but I see him as an excellent change of pace for McFadden and insurance for Jones. I like it, but he has fumble issues.”
UPDATE II: McKenzie issued this statement on the trade: “We wanted to acquire another player to compete at the running back position. He can do a lot of things in our scheme on offense. He’s very versatile, he has natural running skills, he’s a great receiver out of the backfield and he has kick-return ability. I’m anxious to see if he can put all that together here as aRaider.”
“We appreciate the work Bruce has put in thus far with the Raiders, and we wish him the best"
The paper writes that injuries could potentially derail English’s San Diego career. The former No. 16 overall pick has missed nine of the past 20 games due to injury. He missed time with a foot injury last year.
English has potential, but if he can’t stay healthy the Chargers will eventually lose patience.
Meanwhile, there has been a lot of talk that rookie Marcus Gilchrist could replace Antoine Cason at cornerback in San Diego. Cason has struggled in Greg Manusky’s defense this season. Cason gave up three touchdowns to the Jets’ Plaxico Burress in the Chargers' 27-21 loss on Sunday. Don’t be surprised if Cason gets another a chance to start Monday night at Kansas City. Yet, if Cason does start, his leash likely won’t be long.
- The Raiders are now looking at second-year offensive lineman Bruce Campbell at tackle. He was considered a potential starter at guard. Campbell is a project, but he has immense physical ability.
- There is talk rookie Colin Baxter and Jordan Todman will land on the Chargers’ practice squad. Baxter was cut by the Jets on Tuesday. The Chargers cut him in September and were disappointed that the Jets signed him and blocked him from their practice squad. Todman, a sixth-round pick, was cut by the Chargers during the weekend.
- Denver safety Brian Dawkins is celebrating a milestone.
- The Chiefs waived receiver Jeremy Horne.
Now, it’s time to riff on that Derek Hagan is inactive. I didn’t expect it.
The word around the press box is that Hagan is not injured, or at least, he wasn’t injured enough not to finish the practice week. If he is a healthy scratch, you have to wonder why. He was one of the teams most reliable receivers.
Thus, the pressure is going to be on Jacoby Ford, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Denarius Moore and Chaz Schilens on Monday night. These youngsters all have to perform. The Raiders have yet to announce their starting receivers. There was a thought amongst Bay Area reporters that Hagan would start. Now, he’s not even playing.
As expected, Brandon Myers will start for Kevin Boss at tight end for the Raiders. Boss has been out for three weeks with a knee issue. Myers is a fine blocker, but he is limited in the passing game.
The Raiders are still not ready to play guard Bruce Campbell. He is inactive.
Derrick Harvey is inactive for Denver. The Broncos hoped he’d come in and help against the run. But he is clearly not ready to help in a game where the Broncos will be challenged to stop the run.
ESPN’s Ed Werder is reporting Denver reserve quarterback Tim Tebow is not expected to play in any packages Monday at this point, of course, things can always change during the course of the game.
A Bay Area columnist looks at the impact the absence of Oakland owner Al Davis from practice during this training camp has had on the team. Davis, of course, still runs the Raiders, but he hasn’t made it out to practice yet, which is extremely rare. In the recent past, he has watched camp from a golf cart.
While Tim Tebow may have regressed this training camp, Brady Quinn has improved. And that’s a reason Quinn may beat out Tebow to be Denver’s backup quarterback.
San Diego cornerback Marcus Gilchrist continues to have a strong training camp. Expect to see him in nickel situations in the regular season.
The mayor of San Diego likes what he saw in Indianapolis as he toured cities to find inspiration for a new stadium plan for the Chargers.
Speedy rookie Taiwan Jones is healthy again and he is looking, well, speedy as ever.
He talks fast. He walks fast, and he coaches fast.
The Tom Cable put-your-toe-in-the-water-start-of-training-camp days are over.
There was no warm-up period to Camp Jackson. In his first camp as a head coach on any level, Jackson has not wasted any time. His team has been flying around the field and playing to the whistle on every play since the moment it stepped onto the pristine practice field in Wine Country last week.
Cable believed in getting into the groove of training camp slowly by holding glorified walk-through practices for the first few days while stressing the importance of the classroom. Jackson believes in teaching on the go.
Jackson sees a talented team in front of him, but he also sees a team that needs to block better on offense and tackle better on defense. It’s all about finishing plays on both sides the ball. If you don’t start, you can’t finish.
“It’s a fast game,” Jackson said. “We have to move fast. At all times.”
When they can catch their breath, Jackson's players can see the difference.
"This is totally different, totally different from last year," defensive tackle Tommy Kelly told reporters early in camp. "I mean, he made that plain and clear in the meetings when he was talking about what we had to do. … [Cable] wanted us to learn the stuff. But Hue ain't worrying about that. He just wants to go hard as you can. If you fall out, we'll put somebody else in there."
There is urgency in Oakland. The Raiders teased their fans with an 8-8 record in 2010 -- highlighted by an AFC West 6-0 sweep -- ending an NFL record of seven straight seasons of 11 losses of more. This young team has a chance to continue to improve. Jackson isn’t going to sit around and wait for it to happen.
“We got to go now,” Jackson said. “I talk to them every night about that.”
1. How to replace Asomugha and Miller? The Raiders have to spend training camp trying to figure out how to replace two of their best players. Not many teams are dealing with that this summer. But the departures of star cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha to Philadelphia and tight end Zach Miller to Seattle create holes for the Raiders.
The Raiders gave Stanford Routt, formerly a part-time starter, No. 1 cornerback money in the offseason and expect him to take over for Asomugha. Oakland has reportedly toyed with signing another cornerback. But for now, veteran Chris Johnson and a host of young players, including draft picks DeMarcus Van Dyke and Chimdi Chekwa (who is currently injured), will be in charge of replacing Asomugha, who is arguably the best cornerback in the NFL. Safety Michael Huff, who just re-signed with the team, could also play cornerback in some situations.
The Raiders probably need to bring in a veteran receiver or a tight end. Right now, their starting tight end is Brandon Myers, who has 16 career catches. Miller was quarterback Jason Campbell’s favorite target, and he led the Raiders in receiving in 2010. He made the passing game go. A replacement must be established in camp. (Update: The Raiders added former Giants tight end Kevin Boss Friday.)
2. Is the offensive line ready? This has long been Oakland’s weakest spot, and Jackson vowed earlier this year to improve it. Finding a suitable unit will be a top goal in training camp. The team drafted Stefen Wisniewski in the second round, and he will start at center. Joe Barksdale was drafted in the third round, and he could battle Khalif Barnes at right tackle if he has a good camp. If second-year guy Bruce Campbell gets healthy quickly, he could make a push at guard, where the Raiders lost longtime starter Robert Gallery in free agency. The team wanted to sign left tackle Jared Gaither, but he is still dealing with back issues. This unit remains a work in progress.
3. Is Campbell ready to be consistent? This is Jason Campbell’s second season in Jackson’s system, and he is expected to make strides. He must show consistency in camp, and he must continue to grasp Jackson’s offense. He started slowly last season and was replaced. But he finished strong. Jackson is a believer in Campbell. Campbell needs to continue to build chemistry with his receivers and entrench himself as the leader of this offense.
CLEAN UP THE MESS
The Raiders have long been one of the most penalized teams in the NFL. It goes back to their golden era. Whether it is a cheap hit or a false start, the yellow flag is a familiar sight for the Silver and Black.
Jackson wants to end that part of Raiders lore.
The Raiders were ranked first in the NFL last season in accepted penalties with 604. It seems penalties have been overlooked in Oakland because it’s long been an issue. Jackson said he thinks that is nonsense. Playing clean football is an emphasis of this camp.
DEFENSE STARTS UP FRONT
While the offensive line is still in flux, the Raiders are set on the defensive line. This camp is about establishing dominance for the group. If the Oakland defense improves despite Asomugha’s departure, the front four will be responsible.
There are several excellent pieces on the unit. It all starts with defensive tackle Richard Seymour. A likely future member of the Hall of Fame, Seymour is the best player on the team and the leader of his unit. Add Kelly, polished second-year player Lamarr Houston and run-stuffer John Henderson, and the Raiders are primed to dominate teams up front. Pass-rushers Matt Shaughnessy and Trevor Scott (if healthy) give this unit an important dimension.
- Jackson has often lauded second-year linebacker Rolando McClain during camp. He said he thinks McClain has developed in the offseason, and McClain is expected to be a stalwart.
- Running back Darren McFadden was spectacular during camp before he suffered a broken orbital bone. He is expected to miss two weeks. The Raiders expect him to make a serious Pro Bowl push. He and restricted free agent Michael Bush should be a good tandem again.
- Second-year linebacker Travis Goethel could potentially push Quentin Groves at weakside, or Oakland could look for an upgrade elsewhere.
- The team is excited about fifth-round receiver Denarius Moore. He is polished and very fast and has a chance to contribute. It will be interesting to see him in the preseason.
- Seventh-round pick David Ausberry looks good as he makes the transition from receiver. He’s a project, but he has excellent size and speed.
- Fourth-year receiver Chaz Schilens is finally healthy, and the Raiders think he can live up to his potential. But his health is the key.
- Kelly looks tremendous. He is in great shape and looks primed to build upon his strong season.
- Trent Edwards will be given every opportunity to beat out Kyle Boller as Jason Campbell’s backup.
- Jackson said he thinks the Raiders fourth-round pick, speedster running back Taiwan Jones, could make his mark this season. It will be fun to watch him in the preseason.
This is the fifth in our series of position-by-position rankings. It is a little different this season because we’re ranking the players before free agency starts and before rosters are set. We will adjust accordingly as we go along. Onto to a solid group of offensive linemen:1. Ryan Clady, Denver: Clady was a little rusty early last season due to an offseason knee injury. He is still an upper-echelon player and a cornerstone on a weak Denver team.
2. Nick Hardwick, San Diego: Cagey, tough veteran is the anchor of a strong line.
3. Kris Dielman, San Diego: Big, tough Pro Bowler who is a lot to handle for defensive tackles.
4. Marcus McNeill, San Diego: There’s a reason why the Chargers gave him a long-term deal. He solidifies this line.
5. Ryan Lilja, Kansas City: He was a great addition last year. He helped set the tone for a strong run game and is a real tough guy.
6. Brian Waters, Kansas City: He’s aging, but Waters is still near the top of his game. He’s a great leader.
7. Casey Wiegmann, Kansas City: The Chiefs hope to get one more season out of the steady Wiegmann.
8. Chris Kuper, Denver: He’s an underrated player who gives Clady a lot of help on the line.
9. Louis Vasquez, San Diego: The young guy on the Chargers’ offensive line has been a good fit.
10. Branden Albert, Kansas City: He’s a good, not great, player who needs to improve in 2011.
11. Jeromey Clary, San Diego: Everyone wants the Chargers to replace him, but he’s a gamer.
12. Jared Veldheer, Oakland: Veldheer has a chance to zoom up this list soon. I look forward to seeing him at left tackle for a full season.
13. J.D. Walton, Denver: He got great experience as Denver’s center last season and has potential.
14. Cooper Carlisle, Oakland: Oakland could replace him. But he always gives an honest effort.
15. Barry Richardson, Kansas City: Like Clary, everyone wants to replace him. But Richardson looks like he has another season in him with the Chiefs.
16. Zane Beadles, Denver: Like Walton, Beadles got a lot of great experience as a rookie last season. He’s not great, but he should get better.
Footnote: Veteran Ryan Harris (Denver) and Robert Gallery (Oakland) are expected to leave through free agency and that’s why they are not listed. We are not averse to listing rookies, but we are keeping promising rookies Stefen Wisniewski (Oakland), Orlando Franklin (Denver) and Rodney Hudson (Kansas City) and second-year player Bruce Campbell (Oakland) off this list. I simply want to see each of these guys play before ranking them.
We saw that coming, didn’t we? Never has the No. 48 pick been so predictable.
The Raiders have been interested in Penn State guard/center Stefen Wisniewski for months. Sometimes you have to keep it in the family.
Wisniewski is the nephew of former Raiders star lineman Steve Wisniewski, who is entering his first season as the Raiders’ assistant offensive line coach. Oakland coach Hue Jackson was complimentary of Wisniewski at the NFL combine and Jackson has said the Raiders want mean, tough players. Offensive line is the team’s biggest need.
I could see Wisniewski and second-year guard Bruce Campbell each getting a chance to start right away on a rebuilding line.
So, it’s back to the future with Wiz II in tradition-rich Oakland.
Daniel from Bremerton, Wash., wants to know if the Chargers draft a pass-rushing linebacker, does that mean they are giving up on 2009 No. 1 pick Larry English?
Bill Williamson: It wouldn’t be a complete signal that the team is giving up on English. But it would certainly put English on notice. English has been hampered by injuries and has done little in two NFL seasons. Had English (the No. 16 overall pick in 2009) been productive in his first two NFL seasons, the Chargers likely would look elsewhere in the first round. English’s early inability to make an impact has forced the Chargers to look for more pass-rush help. If he doesn’t develop quickly, English could be on the outside looking in in San Diego.
Brian Piazzi from Chicago wants to know what the odds are of Arizona moving up from No. 5 to No. 2 to take a quarterback.
BW: Denver would love to move down to the No. 5-8 range and take a defensive player and pick up other premium picks. The only way this happens is if the Panthers take a quarterback at No. 1 and the Cardinals think they must move get past Buffalo at No. 3 to ensure they get someone like Blaine Gabbert. It’s feasible, but the only question will Arizona be willing to give Denver a huge package to move up three spots?
Robbie from Santa Barbara wants to know if I think 2010 Oakland fourth-round pick Bruce Campbell will live up to his potential.
BW: I think the guard will get the opportunity to prove himself this year. Oakland will have at least one opening at guard; the athletic Campbell will get a chance. He is still a project, but the team is excited about his long-term chances.
The long-time Oakland guard told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that he and Oakland owner Al Davis have agreed that it’s time that Gallery moves on in free agency.
“With the end of the league year coming today, and the few conversations I’ve had with the Raiders and Mr. Davis, we’ve come to a mutual agreement that it’s time for me to move on with my career,” Gallery said Thursday. “I appreciate the start that they and Mr. Davis gave me and I truly have enjoyed my time wearing the silver and black. I wish them well, I thank the fans and I take away great memories of my time in Oakland.
“I’m looking for a new start somewhere else, to experience another place, and to be able to accomplish some of the things I want. It’s best for everyone.”
Gallery was the No. 2 pick in the 2004 draft, taken ahead of superstar receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald went one pick later to Arizona. Gallery struggled as a left tackle, but he found a comfort zone as a guard. He is Oakland’s best lineman, although left tackle Jared Veldheer showed promise as a rookie.
Oakland has many holes on the offensive line and it should be a focus in the draft and in free agency -- if the Raiders, who have spent a lot of money keeping their free agents, have anything left to spend. Oakland probably will give 2010 fourth-round pick Bruce Campbell a chance to win a guard spot and a player like Penn State center/guard Stefen Wisniewski could be a target with Oakland’s top pick at No. 48. He is the nephew of former Raiders offensive lineman Steve Wisniewski, who is now Oakland’s assistant offensive line coach.
Seattle has to be considered a top landing spot for Gallery. Former Oakland coach Tom Cable is now the Seahawks’ offensive line coach/assistant head coach. Seattle has a need at guard and Gallery and Cable are very close.
Oakland has to deal with several free agents, including star cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha. Other free agents include tight end Zach Miller, safety Michael Huff and running back Michael Bush.
UPDATE: The Raiders said Gallery’s departure from Oakland is based on salary. The Raiders said Gallery wanted way too much to stay in Oakland.
The Syracuse center is the early workout star at the NFL combine.
That is significant to Oakland. The Raiders love combine workout warriors, and they have a need at center. You have to consider Oakland an early favorite to pursue Bartholomew.
He led all players in the bench press competition Friday. Bartholomew did 34 repetitions of the 225-pound bench press. The average over the past three years for interior offensive linemen is 26.6 reps.
Saturday, Bartholomew clocked an unofficial 40-yard dash time under 4.9 seconds. These are tremendous numbers for a 6-foot-1, 305-pound offensive lineman. Bartholomew entered the combine considered a third- or fourth-round prospect. Now, he could shoot himself into the second round.
Oakland will likely consider centers with its first pick, No. 48.
Oakland pays attention to combine numbers as much as any team. Last year, Oakland drafted workout stars Jacoby Ford and Bruce Campbell.
First pick: No. 22, wide receiver Demaryius Thomas
Total picks: Nine
Stars: After one season, offensive linemen J.D. Walton and Zane Beadles have been the team’s best draft performers. They were both starters. Neither player was great, but they deserve credit for starting in the NFL as youngsters. Beadles, a guard who was a second-round pick and Walton, a center who was a third-round pick, may have decent futures. Quarterback Tim Tebow, the No. 25 overall pick whom Denver traded three picks to move up and take, started the final three games of the season. He might be the starter in 2011.
Duds: It’s too early to call Thomas a dud, but the Broncos have to be worried about his career issues. Thomas suffered an Achilles tendon injury last week and the team expects him to miss 6 to 8 months. Thomas, who was drafted with a foot fracture, ended the season with an ankle injury. He is very talented, but he has been unable to stay healthy. Denver bypassed Dez Bryant to take Thomas.
McDaniels’ parting gift: Josh McDaniels drafted Tebow because he thought he could make the former Florida star an NFL star. But McDaniels was fired before Tebow ever got an NFL start. Now, the John Elway-John Fox regime will decide what to do with Tebow.
What’s the future of this class? It could end up being very good or very bad. It all depends on Tebow. If he develops into a standout quarterback, it will be a great draft. If Tebow fails and Thomas never develops, it would be looked as a terrible draft. The Broncos could have a gem in receiver Eric Decker. A fine possession receiver, Decker could get a chance to play a lot in 2011. He has strong potential.
First pick: No. 5, safety Eric Berry
Total picks: Seven
Star: It has to be Berry. There was a lot of talk that the Chiefs would be reluctant to take a safety so high; usually safeties aren’t top-five choices. I’m sure the Chiefs are not regretting the decision to take Berry. He was an impact player as a rookie. He is a playmaker who is a tremendous anchor to this improving defense. Expect the hard-working, humble Berry to get better. The Chiefs have a star on their hands. I would not be shocked by the time every 2010 AFC West draft pick retires, the first pick of the Chiefs will be considered the best player of the pool.
Duds: There don’t appear to be any yet. Five of the seven picks contributed as rookies. Third-round pick guard Jon Asamoah appears to have a nice future. Fifth-round pick linebacker Cameron Sheffield seemed promising before he was injured in the preseason.
The next Tony Gonzalez? Third-round pick Tony Moeaki seems like a keeper. He had an instant connection with Kansas City quarterback Matt Cassel. He brought excitement back to the tight end position in Kansas City for the first time since the 2009 trade of Gonzalez. One of the greatest players in team history, Gonzalez was traded to Atlanta in 2009 for a 2010 second-round pick, which turned out to be cornerback Javier Arenas. Moeaki had 47 catches for 556 yards and three touchdowns as a rookie. Those numbers were much better than Gonzalez’ numbers as a rookie. This is not suggest Moeaki will be a better player than the great Gonzalez, but it’s clear tight end is again a position of strength in Kansas City.
What’s the future of this class? It is very bright. Along with Oakland's, this has a chance to be one of the best overall classes in the NFL. The class, which also includes promising receiver/returner Dexter McCluster, is very deep. The rookies helped the Chiefs win their first division title in seven years and I expect this class will assist in winning many more games.
First pick: No. 8, linebacker Rolando McClain
Total picks: Nine
Stars: This class is very deep, but right now the stars appear to be fourth-round pick receiver/returner Jacoby Ford and second-round pick defensive lineman Lamarr Houston. Ford had three kickoff returns for scores in the second half of the season and developed into a thrilling receiver. He could be a starter in 2011. Houston is a tough, rugged player who could be part of this defense for the next 10 years.
Duds: There doesn’t look like there will be one. This class is solid.
Al still has it: You can poke holes in many of Oakland’s recent drafts, but this one looks special. Starting with McClain, this draft appears solid. Al Davis bragged about the class at his January news conference. He deserved to brag. After several whiffs, Davis seems to have hit a home run in 2010.
What’s the future of this class? This is the type of class -- that includes promising left tackle Jared Veldheer (third round) -- that can be a nucleus for a long playoff run. Add youngsters like guard Bruce Campbell (fourth round), linebacker Travis Goethel (sixth) and cornerback Stevie Brown (seventh) and this class is very deep.
First pick: No. 12, running back Ryan Mathews
Total picks: Six
Star: Mathews was the only player from this class to contribute as a rookie. Mathews was good, but not great. He had durability and ball-security issues. Still, Mathews averaged 4.3 yards per carry. He helped this offense when he was on the field. While his impact wasn’t great, he clearly has good potential.
Duds: After Mathews, the Chargers' next pick wasn’t until N0. 79 when they took linebacker Donald Butler. He showed promise but was lost for the year in camp. Every other pick is a future pick.
Will Smith do it again? The Chargers traded a load of picks to move up from No. 28 to No. 12 to take Mathews. This year, the Chargers, who pick No. 18, have extra picks in the second and third rounds. The Chargers could use an impact receiver or pass rusher. If they fall in love with a pick in the top 10, I could see aggressive general manager A.J. Smith moving up again.
What’s the future of this class? If Mathews can stay healthy and be a legitimate power back, this will be a good class. It would be nice if players like Butler, safety Darrell Stuckey (fourth round) and defensive tackle Cam Thomas develop and help this class. But it was clear on draft night that this class was all about Mathews. If he fails, this will likely be the worst class in the division.
Rich from Oregon wants to know if I think Oakland second-year offensive lineman Bruce Campbell will get a chance to compete for a starting job in 2011.
Bill Williamson: I think there’s no doubt Campbell, a fourth-round pick in 2010, will get a chance to earn playing time. He is versatile and could play both guard and tackle. I could see him getting an immediate chance at guard. Campbell is a big, athletic project who could give some life to one of the weaker spots on Oakland’s roster.
Eli Goldsmith from Pasadena, Calif., wants to know if I think the Chargers could sign receiver Vincent Jackson to a long-term deal this offseason.
BW: I know there is a feeling among some close to Jackson that the Chargers will give him the franchise tag. I think that's probably the best chance for San Diego to keep Jackson, assuming franchise tags are still a part of the new collective bargaining agreement. The Chargers were reluctant to give him a long-term deal during the previous season and I bet they are still a bit reluctant. Perhaps if Jackson has a productive 2011 season and doesn’t have any off-field issues, the Chargers would be interested in giving him a new deal in 2012.
Jerry from Denver wants to know if I think fullback Mike Karney, who is being cut by St. Louis, could land with the Broncos.
BW: I think Denver will be one of the teams Karney targets. The fullback is a dying breed, but coach John Fox runs a power running offense, so there may be room for a player like Karney in Denver. I don’t see him as being a priority signing, but I can see the Broncos being interested.