Tom Cable met with the press at the conclusion of each round during day one of the 2009 NFL Draft.
After round one, the Raiders were being criticized by every pundit on ESPN and the NFL Network for taking Darrius Heyward-Bey over the popular pick, two-time winning Biletnikoff Award winner Michael Crabtree who was selected by the San Francisco 49ers three picks later.
Cable began his press conference after the first round with a confident explanation of why Oakland chose to do the unexpected.
“This is a very exciting time, obviously announcing the pick for Darius Heyward-Bay, wide receiver from Maryland. This is the guy we wanted the whole time, like I’ve said about a month ago there’s one guy in the draft that I think makes our entire team better, he makes Zach Miller better, he makes JaMarcus Russell better, he makes Darren McFadden better, Justin Fargas, Michael Bush, Johnnie Lee Higgins, Chaz Schilens, on and on and on. We now have a guy who we can throw the ball over the top of anybody and he can go get it. So this is a very exciting time because he helps us, obviously what we do want in a football player but he gives us that deep threat that traditionally has been The Oakland Raiders. And really it’s just an awesome, awesome time for us and excited to have Darrius, look forward to getting him here in mini-camp and let him show some of that speed. Questions?”
Cable explained that the Raiders contention that Heyward-Bey was a better fit due to his exposure to a pro-style offense while playing at Maryland as opposed to the run and shoot offense that Crabtree played in at Texas Tech.
Cable was asked about drafting other players besides Crabtree, but he reiterated that the Raiders had targeted and planned on taking Heward-Bey for at least a month.
Cable also addressed the criticism levied on the first round pick concerning his abilities and his readiness for the pro game. When asked if Heyward-Bey was a polished receiver, he responded,
“Actually, he was in all the top receivers, there’s really four of them, as everyone has talked about; three really at the top. He is the best route runner of that group. Again, the only guy who came out of the true pro-style system, everyone else was in the spread system, so his learning curve is much, much shorter than those other guys, and then you’ve got that size and speed, and his ability to go get it. I think the thing that jumps out at you is, that this is the one guy in the combine that at the 30-yard mark, actually changed gears, and there was a whole other warp speed, if you will.”
The more interesting pick that the Raiders made on day one was the pick of unknown Michael Mitchell, or as he likes to be called, Mike.
According to Cable, Mitchell wasn’t as unknown as the ‘draft experts’ thought he was. Cable addressed the media excited that the Raiders had just gotten the ‘find’ of the 2009 NFL Draft:
“That was a great deal for us we maneuvered around as you know we were sitting there at 40 and then moved on make some trades because we need some picks, we were short some picks this year so that was a positive there so that gives us 2 fours, a 6 and a 7 now along with a third tomorrow so that’s good not sure if we are done today there are something still out there that have potential for us that are pretty exciting so will see how it goes here at the end. In regards to our pick Mike Mitchell, we got both the guys we targeted today, a guy that really came on the scene in the last three weeks. More then anything, as we started those visits, when the prospects come in and we thought we were sneaking one and he had already been to 15 teams we knew its would be a challenge to get him who is he? He is a strong safety and probably the most ferocious hitter in the draft, a very, very physical guy and it just so happens he can fly. Another good pick for us, helps us on our defensive side of the ball. A month or five weeks ago, I mentioned it was a great concern to us, so a good day so far.”
Besides Mitchell showing his blazing speed at his pro day, the media asked Cable to explain what it was about him that had the Raiders salivating to take him in the second round. It’s not common that a player who didn’t make an All-Conference team, was not invited to the combine, and didn’t play in any all-star games gets drafted higher than the fourth round nowadays. Cable explained that the sub 4.4 40-yard dash may have caught their attention, but it was his tape that convinced them:
Very physical guy. Again, when you see some highlights from this guy when they cut it up, you’ll see a guy who reminds you of, and I don’t want to put too much pressure on him, but he has that Ronnie Lott and Jack Tatum mentality as a player. He knocks players out, knocks piles back, knocks runners back and receivers back. A very smart football player, been about a 3 ½ year starter for them. A very, very physical player with good size.
While both picks have drawn the ire of their fans and all those considered to be experts of the draft, only time will tell who is right about what the Raiders did on day one. Usually, draft busts aren’t considered busts until after their third season.
If the pundits end up being right about today, Cable may not be around to witness the final judgement on these picks.