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Oakland Raiders 2003 Draft Preview

By Bryan McGovern, NFL Editor

(Sports Network) - Al Davis is always one of the most intriguing figures to watch on draft weekend. This year, the Oakland Raiders are armed with a pair of first-round picks and could look to package them and move up in the first round.

The defending AFC champs don’t have many pressing needs, but the defensive end spot is one to question. The Raiders could add some youthful talent at the end of round one with a player like Chris Kelsay (Nebraska) or Dewayne White (Louisville). Tyler Brayton (Colorado) and Cory Redding (Texas) are second- round possibilities.

The other need that could be addressed in round one is safety. The Raiders released Anthony Dorsett and Derrick Gibson, a former first-round pick, has been a model of inconsistency. Troy Polamalu (USC) and Mike Doss (Ohio State) are the top-rated safeties in the draft. Davis would be wise to grab one of them if they’re still on the board at 31 or 32.

Of course we’re talking about the Raiders and just about everything they do goes against conventional wisdom. Davis could roll the dice and grab Miami RB Willis McGahee late in the first round, or Texas QB Chris Simms. The Raiders wouldn’t need McGahee to contribute in 2003 and they would be set in the future when he gets the strength back in his knee. Simms, who had a good private workout with the team, could learn for a year or two under steady veteran Rich Gannon, whom he admires.

With Jerry Rice and Tim Brown getting up there in age, Oakland would like to get a WR prospect to complement Jerry Porter and learn under the current veterans. The club could select a wideout anywhere from the second round to the seventh round. Potential first-day targets include Kelley Washington (Tennessee) and Tyrone Calico (Middle Tennessee State).

The uncertain future of Barret Robbins might force the team to go for a center on day one. Notre Dame’s Jeff Faine would be a solid choice at the end of the first round. Wisconsin’s Al Johnson and Iowa’s Bruce Nelson are possible second-round targets.

If Oakland doesn’t wind up gambling on McGahee it likely will look to add a RB prospect like Sultan McCullough (USC) or LaBrandon Toefield (LSU) on April 27.

Davis and his staff will use the second day of the draft to fill holes on the offensive line, secondary and linebacking corps. It’s always interesting to see what Davis does on draft day, but this year could be better than most because Oakland has a pair of first-round selections. Last year, the Raiders got CB Phillip Buchanon and LB Napoleon Harris in the first round. Expect a similar impact this time around with a trade being a distinct possibility.

DRAFT NEEDS: Defensive end, wide receiver, safety, running back, linebacker, center, cornerback, offensive line depth.

DRAFT PICKS: 1st round (#31 overall); 1st round (#32 from Tampa Bay); 2nd round (#63); 3rd round (#96); 4th round (#129); 5th round (#167); 6th round (#204); 7th round (#246).

RECENT FIRST ROUND HISTORY: 2002 - Phillip Buchanon (CB, Miami), Napoleon Harris (LB, Northwestern); 2001 - Derrick Gibson (S, Florida State); 2000 - Sebastian Janikowski (K, Florida State); 1999 - Matt Stinchcomb (OT, Georgia); 1998 - Charles Woodson (CB, Michigan), Mo Collins (OL, Florida); 1997 - Darrell Russell (DT, USC); 1996 - Rickey Dudley (TE, Ohio State); 1995 - Napoleon Kaufman (RB, Washington); 1994 - Rob Fredrickson (LB, Michigan State); 1993 - Patrick Bates (DB, Texas A&M;); 1992 - Chester McGlockton (DL, Clemson); 1991 - Todd Marinovich (QB, USC); 1990 - Anthony Smith (DE, Arizona).

04/22 16:01:24 ET

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