AFC West: Nick Saban

Rolando McClain was supposed to be different.

He was supposed to break the chain of poor first-round drafting by the Oakland Raiders. Oakland took McClain with the No. 8 overall pick in the 2010 draft. It was well received because McClain was expected to be a sure thing. He was a star on a defense of stars for Nick Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide.

Many teams wanted him. McClain earned immediate kudos for asking for his playbook as soon as he was drafted. He was going to be the anti-JaMarcus Russell.

It went downhill from there.

McClain was not a good NFL player and it seems like his time is up in Oakland before his third NFL season is over. ESPN’s John Clayton is reporting McClain will be cut Thursday.

The situation became murky Wednesday when McClain missed practice and the team said it was because of a team-related issue. McClain then took to social media, saying he was no longer a Raider.

McClain never lived up to his billing on the field. He was out of shape, slow and often out of position. He didn’t show the instincts expected from a top-10 pick. He was convicted on a gun charge last year, but it was recently overturned on an appeal, according to his attorney.

The new Oakland regime was charged with salvaging McClain’s time in Oakland. He didn’t make improvements and his playing time dwindled in some games. Now, it is over.

McClain will be the 27th player to leave since new general manager Reggie McKenzie took over. Last week, fellow starting linebacker Aaron Curry was cut.

Changes like this show that the Raiders are rebuilding and patience is needed with the new regime. McKenzie is trying to reconstruct a team with a bad salary cap situation and small draft classes. Getting rid of players who didn’t work out like McClain is also part of the process. Perhaps more cuts are on the way.

McClain may be able to salvage his career elsewhere in the right situation. I’m sure some teams will be interested in him. Oakland will hope he is claimed so the rest of his contract is taken on. But that may not be easy. I could see McClain passing through waivers.

Like every NFL team, I think the three other AFC West teams could look at McClain because he can fit in both 3-4 and 4-3 defenses. But each team will have to decide if trying to salvage McClain is worth its time.

As for Oakland, newly signed veteran Omar Gaither will likely play at middle linebacker for the time being.

Oakland will look for a middle linebacker in the offseason. One target may be Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o if he is available when Oakland picks in the NFL draft. He is expected to be a top-five pick. Oakland is currently on pace to pick fourth. Te’o is considered a can’t miss prospect.

Sound familiar?

Mailbag: Give Poe a chance

May, 2, 2012
Midweek mail call:

John from Kansas City wants to know if I think Kansas City's top pick, Dontari Poe, will be a sure bust.

Bill Williamson: I find it a bit amusing that the consensus is that Poe will not succeed in the NFL. It’s as if the poor kid’s fate has already been sealed. Come on, folks. Had Kansas City not taken the defensive tackle from Memphis at No. 11, another team would quickly have taken him. Sure, he didn’t have great film in college. But there is no denying he is a talent. He will get supreme coaching from Romeo Crennel and Poe will be put in a position to succeed. Just because there are question marks doesn’t mean Poe has no chance to succeed. Don’t be shocked if in two years we hear what a steal he was.

Mike from San Francisco wants to know if the Raiders made a mistake by not drafting Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict.

BW: Well, if Oakland whiffed on Burfict, so did the rest of the league. He was not drafted and he signed with Cincinnati as an undrafted free agent. Here’s why Burfict wasn’t drafted: he didn’t deserve to be. In addition to having character red flags, his game film wasn’t great. He doesn’t have strong fundamentals and he freelances too much. He wasn’t worth the trouble to draft. Perhaps he will develop, but just because he was a known quantity doesn’t mean he should have been drafted.

Rich from St. Louis wants to know what I think of Kansas City draft choice DeQuan Menzie.

BW: I like him. I think he has a real chance. The fifth-round pick from Alabama was a cornerback in college but he may project as a safety in the NFL. He is a smart, heady player who stood out on a classic defense. Nick Saban’s defenders come to the NFL ready and I think we will see an impact made by this player. Yes, he lacks ideal speed, but it didn’t hurt him in the SEC and he knows how to make up for it. I know the Chiefs are tickled about this pick.

Report: Rolando McClain sued

November, 18, 2010
It has been reported that Oakland rookie middle linebacker Rolando McClain is being sued by an Alabama student for an alleged incident that took place while McClain was at the school in 2008.

McClain is accused of hitting the student with his car and then physically assaulting him. McClain reportedly was punished by Alabama coach Nick Saban at the time. If McClain ends up being liable in this case, don’t expect him to face NFL punishment because the alleged incident occurred before he was in the league.