Oakland lost the Super Bowl to Tampa Bay, but the Raiders can take a giant step toward squaring matters this weekend at the NFL Draft in New York.
For acquiring Jon Gruden as coach, the Bucs had to part with their top draft choice this year. Thus, the Raiders own the last two picks of the first round. The question is what Al Davis does with them?
The Raiders are one of four teams that select twice in the opening round. New England has selections 14 and 19, New Orleans 17 and 18, and the New York Jets choose 13 and 22. Tampa Bay, Atlanta, Miami and Washington dealt away their first round selections.
Cincinnati has the first pick, but it’s no longer a lock that Heisman winner, Southern Cal QB Carson Palmer, is headed there. In fact, the rumor mill suggests that the first QB may not be taken in the first five picks.
It’s all guesswork, but here is a short synopsis of what holes the 32 NFL teams need to fill entering this season.
1 Cincinnati: Stud RB Cory Dillon will come back and there is WR depth. Jon Kitna has been designated the QB. The Bengals may look toward fixing a porous defense.
2 Detroit: Now that Steve Mariucci is coaching, look for the Lions to begin improving in spite of GM Matt Millen. Detroit ranked next to last in defense. Enough said.
3 Houston: The Texans are happy with QB David Carr, last year’s top pick. Houston passed on popular Emmitt Smith, which may indicate a desire to draft a RB early.
4 Chicago: The Bears seem content with Pittsburgh free agent QB Kordell Stewart. Chicago had a woeful pass rush and needs to help All-Pro LB Brian Urlacher.
5 Dallas: This should be some war room with new coach Bill Parcells and owner Jerry Jones. Parcells is known for buildings champs with defense.
6 Arizona: The Cards may want to jump on Palmer or Marshall’s Byron Leftwich but, with Jeff Blake signed, the greater need is replacing All Pro WR David Boston.
7 Minnesota: The Vikings can put up the points with anyone, but don’t defend well. Any help on defense would be greatly appreciated.
8 Jacksonville: The Jags are in a physical division with Pittsburgh and Tennessee. Camp Coughlin is gone, but Jacksonville needs to toughen up defensively.
9 Carolina: The Panthers need loads of help on offense and can go in any direction. This may be a case of the best available player on the board.
10 Baltimore: The Ravens win with D but, like Carolina, are offensively challenged. The offensive line problems could be addressed first.
11 Seattle: A team to watch this year. The Seahawks are solid on offense. We’ll be very surprised if a top defensive player isn’t chosen first.
12 St. Louis: The Rams could go WR, but the major need is DB with Dre’ Bly now in Detroit and Aeneas Williams coming off an injury.
13, 17 NY Jets: The New York fans at the Garden should go wild with the Jets owning two picks. The Jets need younger LBs and a WR replacement for Coles.
14, 19 New England: The Pats actually have six picks in the first four rounds. A quality RB would certainly be a priority.
15 San Diego: The Chargers lost Junior Seau to Miami. Clearly the Bolts must find a replacement quick.
16 Kansas City: With QB Trent Green safely tucked away, the Chiefs have to find a way to help stellar RB Priest Holmes. Defense needs lot of help.
17,18 New Orleans: The Saints beat the Bucs twice, but had another disappointing finish. Consecutive picks could bring defensive help in secondary.
20 Denver: Plummer is the man in Denver and coach Mike Shanahan may help his new QB by finding him a new target to support aging WRs Rod Smith and Ed McCaffrey.
21 Cleveland: RB William Green’s development was huge, whether the starting QB is Holcomb or Couch. The Steelers lit up the Cleveland D in the playoffs. Hint?
23 Buffalo: The Bills have major needs at RB, defensive line and secondary. At 23, it’s best to take the best athlete on the board at those spots.
24 Indianapolis: QB Peyton Manning needs protection to reduce those interceptions. A very weak secondary could have priority over OL.
25 NY Giants: We’re still hearing the roars of approval for Jeremy Shockey in last year’s draft. Some help for RB Tiki Barber would definitely be appreciated and supported.
26 San Francisco: Now that Dennis Erickson is head coach, expect the 49ers to draft for speed. The quickest fix would be WR, DE and CB.
27 Pittsburgh: No more Kordell, now that Tommy Maddox produced big time. But the Browns wounded Pittsburgh’s vaunted defense. Look for DB help.
28 Tennessee: Steve McNair and Eddie George are solid, but the Titans need quality WRs. Figure if a top wideout slips down to 28, he’ll be grabbed.
29 Green Bay: The Packers must replace leading tackler Nate Wayne at LB, but a backup for legendary QB Brett Favre is a possibility.
30 Philadelphia: Judging from last year’s loss to Tampa Bay, the Eagles desperately need a quality WR. And guess who the Eagles host in Week 1?
31, 32 Oakland: With the last two picks, the Raiders should be leaning toward offense and adding depth to aging RB and WR positions.