Raiders stay the course on day two of NFL Draft

UCF v Texas
AUSTIN, TX – NOVEMBER 07: Defensive tackle Lamarr Houston #33 celebrates after sacking quarterback Rob Calabrese #4 of the UCF Knights on November 7, 2009 at Darrell K Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas. Texas won 35-3. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
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You’re talking about guys who have had a lot of success, guys who are made through hard work. Certainly, Lamarr coming from the University of Texas, he’s had a lot of success in his career and his program getting a chance to compete for a national championship this year. Those are important things to me, and so as part of it, we do a lot of work as to are they gonna’ come and be honorable and represent this thing right and come with the right attitude. Because, getting good and turning it around, we don’t need knuckleheads.
- Tom Cable in his day two post draft press conference.

One thing is certain about this year’s Raiders draft. It’s been a while since the team has made picks that are universally considered sound judgments.

By taking players that fit specific needs, Oakland has put themselves in a position to make themselves a much better team in 2010. That’s not to say that they are assured of being better, just assured of having a chance to be better, and head coach Tom Cable was quick to point that out in his day two press conference Friday night. “Obviously these guys have gotta’ come in and play and perform, but I like what we’re doing,” said Cable of his first three picks of the 2010 draft.

After selecting the top middle linebacker the draft had to offer in the first round, with the intention of improving their run defense, the Raiders picked up Texas Longhorns defensive tackle Lamarr Houston in the second. Then, with two picks already geared towards defensive improvement, Oakland selected little known Hillsdale College offensive tackle Jared Veldheer in the third round.

Interestingly enough, Veldheer has been the only Raiders draft pick to meet with owner Al Davis prior to the draft. “It was a great honor to be able to meet a football legend like Mr. Davis,” said Veldheer in a conference call with the press. “To be able to meet with the guy who put the league where it is today was a very special thing. He had said that he watched my tape and liked the way I played. He discussed with me how he wants to win another Super Bowl. I told him I’m definitely on board with that and I’d love to help the team out.

Cable told reporters that the team was keeping their cards closer to the vest this year more than others. “Well, really, I think we’ve tried to keep it to ourselves maybe as much if not more than ever this year.” With more media attention placed on McClain at Alabama and Houston at Texas, they had to do more homework on their third pick being that he is from a much smaller school. “You have to do your homework on those guys from smaller schools, but thrilled to get him,” said Cable.

Houston, who switched from running back and defensive end in high school to defensive tackle in college, will go back to the defensive end position on the Raiders — at least that’s where they see him playing right now. Asked if putting Houston at end leaves a hole in the middle of the defensive line, Cable confidently said, “No. You’ll see the plan when we get there. It’s good. You’ll like it.

Houston, who rushed for over 3300 yards as a 265 pound high school running back, came to college as a 276 pound defensive end where according to the incoming rookie, “did pretty good there.

Somebody should probably tell the rookie that he’ll be playing there again. “I think playing tackle does fit me better,” said Houston after getting drafted. “It gives me more of an advantage over offensive linemen, with guards not being as quick or sometimes the guards, they’re quicker or they’re not strong or not as fast, so I think it’s a perfect combination for me because I have strength and speed to use against them. I’m very excited playing tackle.

When asked if he could come in and play right away, Houston responded, “I’m a silent killer.

Cable envisions Veldheer as a player than can come in right away and work at both tackle positions. Surprisingly, since Veldheer is a third-round pick from a small school, Cable doesn’t see him as a project. “To me it’s just getting here and getting playing. I’m pretty excited about Jared because I feel like this is going to be a short window for him and he can contribute.

That has Cable excited about his first offensive selection of the draft. Being an offensive line coach himself, he was nearly giddy at the idea of getting the player that he said was their top offensive lineman at that point in the draft. “I see him coming here and going right into it, being the third and competing to be a starter somewhere. That’s why you draft them that early. I’m pleased about it. The best football player in the offensive line was him. I don’t want to say we’re getting lucky but we’re felling pretty good because things are going our way in that regard.

So what now? Do the Raiders keep selecting for need, as they’ve done so far in the draft or do they begin taking guys for what their athleticism could turn them into? Cable said that they are going to stay the course.

I think we gotta’ stay the course. I mean, I think we’re doing a tremendous job so far. We’re getting where we want to be and we were able to move there in the second (round) and build for a better draft on Saturday. But we’re getting pieces to our puzzle you know. We’re getting some issues fixed. Obviously these guys have gotta’ come in and play and perform, but I like what we’re doing. I think we just stay the course and we keep trying to make this team better specifically.

That should raise the level of excitement for Raider Nation.