Raiders eye QB with pick

Published: Tuesday, January 2, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 2, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

ALAMEDA, Calif. — After setting a franchise record for losses in a season, it might be time for a new motto for the Oakland Raiders: "Just Quinn, Baby."

Owner Al Davis' favorite saying, "Just Win, Baby," no longer fits after the Raiders finished their fourth straight losing season with a 2-14 record that was the team's worst mark in more than four decades.

Oakland's season-ending 23-3 loss to the New York Jets on Sunday, coupled with Detroit's upset win at Dallas, left the Raiders in sole possession of the worst record in the NFL. That negative comes with a reward: the No. 1 pick in April's draft, when Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn could be the top player available.

Coach Art Shell said Monday he was not ready to discuss the team's priorities in the draft, saying he first needed to evaluate the players already on the team and the coaching staff.

Shell expects to be the man making those decisions, even though Davis did not give his coach a public vote of confidence when he had the chance late in the season. Shell will meet with Davis this week.

"I expect to be here and I want to do this," Shell said. "I want to try to see this thing to fruition."

The only other time Oakland had the top pick came in the 1962 AFL draft, when the Raiders selected quarterback Roman Gabriel, who instead chose to play with the NFL's Los Angeles Rams.

The Raiders' two shots at the No. 2 pick haven't worked out too well, either. They traded up in 1997 to get defensive lineman Darrell Russell, whose promising career was derailed by drugs, and in 2004 they selected Iowa offensive tackle Robert Gallery, a bust so far.

For a team that scored just 168 points, the fifth fewest in a 16-game season, it's clear what direction to go in the draft. The Raiders will almost definitely pick an offensive player if they keep the top pick.

"If you add a player here, a player there, things can turn in a hurry," Shell said. "And I expect that will happen."

Quinn is regarded as the top senior prospect in college football and that clearly is a position of need for Oakland. Both Aaron Brooks and Andrew Walter struggled this season, unable to generate much offense behind a shoddy line.

Wisconsin offensive tackle Joe Thomas also could provide a big boost to a line that allowed an NFL-worst 72 sacks. But the Raiders might not want to use such a high pick on a Big Ten offensive tackle again after their experience with Gallery.

Oakland also will pay close attention to which juniors enter the draft.

LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell, who will face Quinn and the Irish on Wednesday night in the Sugar Bowl, is third in the nation in passing efficiency and has drawn comparisons to Daunte Culpepper because of his 6-foot-6, 260-pound size.

Georgia Tech receiver Calvin Johnson also could fit in well with the Raiders, who might not bring back disgruntled wideouts Randy Moss and Jerry Porter next season.

The success of Vince Young, Matt Leinart and Jay Cutler this season showed that rookie quarterbacks can step in and perform right away. The Raiders passed on Leinart and Cutler last April, believing Walter was their quarterback of the future. They instead took safety Michael Huff, who had an up-and-down rookie season.

If they take a quarterback this time, he will be counted on to perform right away.

"You're asked to play a lot quicker now in today's football than you were in the past," Shell said. "You just don't take five, six, seven years to play at quarterback. Most guys have to come in and be ready to play in two years, at least. That's just the nature of the game right now."

The Raiders have rarely taken skill-position offensive players with their No. 1 pick. The last time they did came in 1996, tight end Ricky Dudley. Davis has picked a quarterback in the first round only twice since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, taking Todd Marinovich in 1991 and Marc Wilson in 1980.

Walter had eight starts this season and proved only that he has a ways to go before becoming a solid NFL starter. Walter turned over the ball 22 times this season, threw only three touchdown passes and was the lowest-rated passer in the league.

Brooks wasn't much better in losing all eight of his starts and might not be brought back for the final season of his two-year contract.

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