With the eighth pick of the 2010 NFL Draft, the Oakland Raiders select…a linebacker that isn’t just a work out warrior. The Raiders made Alabama middle linebacker Rolando McClain the newest member of a defense that hasn’t been able to stop the run since Jon Gruden was coaching the team. McClain was drafted to put an end to that.
“First thing, I’ve got to tell you, I’m geeked,” said head coach Tom Cable after making the selection.
“That’s the best word I can use. I know it sounds silly but it’s just what I feel right now. This is obviously a long process that we go through, but this is a great piece to the Oakland Raiders’ future. I think getting Rolando in this organization does a lot of good for us. We’ve got to stop the run and defend the run better.“
The Oakland Raiders ranked 29th against the run in 2009 and haven’t finished higher than 20th since 2002. While getting a defensive tackle may have been obvious to many as the answer for their dilemma, the players that the Raiders were high on were already off the board when it came time for the silver and black to make their selection.
“We coveted those four guys who went, (DT Gerald) McCoy, (DT Ndamukung) Suh, (OT Trent) Williams and (OT Russell) Okung, and just really felt there was a chance they’d go early. They did. They’re all four very, very good players. As I mentioned to you in the pre-draft media day last week, we want to get the needs, the things that are most important. We couldn’t get those guys that we really liked. They were taken. That’s the way the draft goes. This became the next biggest need that was available to us.”
Even though the Raiders didn’t get one of their top four linemen, Tom Cable said that the draft played out exactly how they expected it. Before they picked, Cable said they were entertaining trade talks with other teams, but decided to stick with their original plan coming into the day.
“I was sitting there hoping that one of those (offensive/defensive) tackles would come to us like that, but it didn’t,” said Cable of the linemen that were already drafted. “Those first seven went exactly the way I thought it would go. Unless someone slipped or (a team) traded or did something that I hoped for, and it didn’t. When it didn’t, it was perfect, No. 8, Rolando McClain is going to be an Oakland Raider. I’m just tickled about it.”
It’s a good bet that McClain wasn’t a Raiders fan until now. Asked if he was aware of the Raiders run woes, he admitted that he hadn’t really followed the Raiders closely in the past, but he’s confident that the defense won’t have those same troubles for long.
“Me personally, I’m going to do my job,” said McClain in a conference call with media. “I pride myself, because Coach Saban, he’s real tough on me a little bit. He prides himself on stopping the run and I pride myself on stopping the run so I think some of those there, the D-lineman and linebackers and everybody including me, I think we’re all going to do what we have to do to stop the run and make this defense real good there.”
McClain is widely regarded as the top linebacker in this draft, but a player with mid 4.6s speed isn’t a natural Raiders pick. That lack of top-end speed didn’t deter the Raiders due to what they were able to watch on his game tapes.
“The guy made plays,” said Cable about what he saw on the videos of McClain. “He made plays against the run, he made plays against the pass, he could cover, which probably was the most surprising thing in that we play a lot of man-coverage and this guy could cover the tight end and defend in one-on-one situations, as well as intercept balls in space. But the thing that thrilled me the most is that he’s playing in arguably the best college football conference there is, and he’s able to go out there and direct it.”
Now, McClain will be playing in the top league in the world and being asked to help make the Raiders’ defense the best of the best.
More on that later…