NFL: Raiders once again look for speed in NFL draft
AP Sports Writer
ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) – The Oakland Raiders are once again feeling the need for speed.
The Raiders took two of the fastest players available in the NFL draft on Saturday, picking up cornerback Chimdi Chekwa from Ohio State and Eastern Washington running back Taiwan Jones in the fourth round.
They followed that by taking receiver Denarius Moore of Tennessee in the fifth round, giving the Raiders four players who have been clocked in sub-4.4 second 40-yard dashes, including third-round cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke of Miami.
The Raiders have now taken the fastest player at the combine the past three years with Van Dyke joining receivers Darrius Heyward-Bey and Jacoby Ford as owner Al Davis remains committed to drafting speed.
“As I told you guys before, we don’t run from speed, we run to speed, especially guys that can play,” coach Hue Jackson said.
Chekwa started 38 of his 52 career games for the Buckeyes and was also a member of Ohio State’s Big Ten championship 400-meter relay team in 2009. He had six interceptions and 29 pass breakups and was the 113th overall pick.
Chekwa was clocked at 4.38 seconds in the 40-yard dash, giving the Raiders two new speedy cornerbacks. Oakland was looking for help in the secondary with Pro Bowl cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha likely to depart as a free agent. The Raiders used two third-day picks last year on cornerbacks Walter McFadden and Jeremy Ware, who will be competing with Chris Johnson for a starting spot opposite Stanford Routt this season.
“Cornerback here for the Oakland Raiders will always be a position that we address,” Jackson said. “We love guys who can cover, we love guys who can run, we love guys who are athletes, who can play several different spots back there in the secondary.”
Jones, who grew up in nearby Antioch, was extremely productive in two years at Eastern Washington and helped the Eagles win the FCS championship last season. He ran for 2,955 yards, averaged 7.7 yards per carry and scored 37 touchdowns overall. Jones was reportedly clocked between 4.27 and 4.35 seconds at his pro day.
While running back was not a position of need for the Raiders, the team could not pass up a game-breaker like Jones with the 125th overall pick. He had 21 offensive plays of at least 50 yards in his career, including five plays of at least 80 yards.
“He can make plays,” Jackson said. “The guy can score from anywhere on the field. He can catch it, he can run with it, he can play on special teams. This is another athlete who has unquestioned ability to put the ball in the end zone. And now he’s a Raider. There’s no question why he’s here. We know what he’s capable of doing, and we’re looking forward to him doing that.”
Jones joins a group that includes Darren McFadden, who had a breakout season last year with 1,157 yards rushing and a 5.2 yard per carry average. Michael Bush added 655 yards and received a first- and third-round tender as a restricted free agent before the NFL lockout started in March.
“I’ve got a lot to offer,” Jones said. “I’ve got a lot of good agility. I’m good with my speed and how they want to use me is up to them. I just know I’ll come in and give them my all.”
The pick for Jones came from New England in a deal made the previous day. The Raiders ended up with Jones and third-round tackle Joseph Barksdale of LSU for a seventh-round pick later Saturday and a second-rounder next season.
Moore had 112 catches for 2,004 yards in 52 games at Tennessee. He had his best year as a senior with 47 catches for 981 yards and nine touchdowns, but 433 yards came in games against Kentucky and South Carolina. Moore has been clocked in the 40-yard dash in 4.39 seconds.
Moore played his junior year at Tennessee for former Raiders coach Lane Kiffin, who was fired by Oakland in 2008 after feuding with Davis.
The Raiders later took blocking tight end Richard Gordon of Miami in the sixth round and receiver David Ausberry of USC, who also played for Kiffin, in the seventh round. Oakland also took center Stefen Wisniewski in the second round.
Oakland did not pick a quarterback despite talking about possibly adding a young arm with starter Jason Campbell under contract for only one more season.
“I think this is a very talented team. I didn’t think we had a ton of holes to fill,” Jackson said. “But there were some things that we needed to get done, and we were able to get those things done.”
The Raiders brought Jones and their three picks from Friday to the facility on Saturday to meet the coaching staff and get a tour. Once the draft is over, the players will not be allowed back until the league’s lockout is lifted.
That apparently will prevent Wisniewski from talking to his uncle, Steve, who is the Raiders assistant offensive line coach.
“I don’t think the NFL recognizes family loopholes,” Wisniewski said. “He’s my coach and he also happens to be my uncle, but I’m not going to be able to talk to him.”