Picks are in: Raiders, 49ers get defensive

Art Spander

ALAMEDA, Calif. – I’m off the clock. The pick is in. And no, to answer the question posed on the NFL Network, I don’t know what is going to happen to Josh Rosen.

That is of no concern to the Raiders, who Thursday had three choices in the first round, or the 49ers, who had one, although Rosen’s team, the Arizona Cardinals, is in the Niners' division, the NFC West, and last season defeated the Niners twice — and won only one other game.

That’s why the Cardinals had the first pick and, as predicted, took Kyler Murray, who also was a first-round pick of the Oakland Athletics, the baseball team that until the Raiders move to Las Vegas (soon) and the A’s get a ballpark (not soon) still share the Coliseum.

Murray is a quarterback, the same as Rosen, meaning Rosen will be dispatched to another team. You’re their guy and suddenly, in the time it takes for the opening pick of the opening round, you’re not their guy.

The Niners’ guy is defensive end Nick Bosa of Michigan, second overall behind Murray. The Raiders had a lot of guys, in order: Clelin Ferrell of Clemson (fourth overall), a defensive end; Josh Jacobs of Alabama, 24th, a running back; and Jonathan Abram of Mississippi State, a safety, 27th.

Both the Niners and Raiders knew where to look. Michigan is always a power; Clemson and Alabama played for the national championship (at Levi’s Stadium). It never hurts to select winners.

No one, fortunately, asked the GMs, Mike Mayock of the Raiders or John Lynch of the Niners, whether they liked their picks. It was John Madden who, when the question came up, had the ultimate answer.

“Sure they do,” said Madden, “or they wouldn’t have picked them.”

Madden, in his years of coaching and announcing, told us that with rare exception a team wouldn’t know for two or three years whether a player was as good as expected — or should that be, as good as hoped?

There’s a learning process going from college to the NFL, especially for linemen and quarterbacks. The oft-told example involves John Elway of Stanford, first pick in the 1983 draft and in time a Super Bowl champion and Hall of Famer, who as a rookie was so flustered he lined up behind a guard not the center. But only once.

At Raider headquarters, where Mayock and Gruden held sway, there are large photos of the man who made the franchise what it became, the late Al Davis, in one picture wearing a team warm-up jacket with a towel around his neck like a scarf, He is not smiling.

Most football people believe the game is won on defense — “If the other team doesn’t score, you’ll never get worse than a 0-0 tie,” John McKay once told me.

Davis, however, sought out and drafted offensive linemen, and in Gene Upshaw, Art Shell, Bob Brown, Dave Dalby, John Vella and George Buehler, the Raiders had outstanding ones. And championships.

Davis would take a chance on a player who the scouts said was too small, because that player fit the Raider system of the times. With all the extra first-round selections Thursday, acquired from the trades of Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper, Gruden and Mayock appeared to be taking chances of their own, although once again you never know about a draftee until he’s on your roster.

Many said the Raiders would get Josh Allen, the edge rusher from Kentucky. He went to Jacksonville. A morning rumor was Oakland would take quarterback Dwayne Haskins of Ohio State, who went to the Washington Redskins.

Ferrell, projected to go late in the first round, not in the top four, had Mayock a bit defensive of his (and Gruden’s) defensive choice. “I don’t care where people ranked him,” Mayock said on the NFL Network. “Clelin Ferrell for us is a foundation player He’s a building block. As is Jacobs. As is Abram. And their football character’s off the charts.”

Nothing wrong with Bosa’s character, either, but, being the modern athlete, he upset a few people with some critical tweets over the years, something he promised to halt as a pro.

“The defensive line is about finding the quarterback and finding the guys to knock him down,” said Lynch, the Niners' GM. “Now we got that.”

Check back in three years for confirmation.