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Options for Niners, Raiders in draft

Nevada Appeal Staff Reports

Today is a big day for true football fans.

The two-day NFL draft makes its yearly appearance over the ESPN airwaves today (9 a.m.) and tomorrow, and in that time you will see more film clips of top prospects than you ever saw during the season.

Hard-core fans love this. They get to hear Mel Kiper, the guru of college football, speak volumes about the strengths and weak points of all the players. They get to see 40-yard times and see how much they bench press. They get to hear Chris Berman and Joe Theismann pontificate.

The casual fan won’t care much. He or she may flick on the tube occasionally during the day to see who their favorite team drafted, or they might watch just the first round. That’s a mistake. I believe the second, third and fourth rounds, and sometimes even later, is where you really see how smart your team is.

Joe Montana was a third-round pick. Terrell Davis was a sixth-round pick. Both of those men had great NFL careers, though Davis’ was hampered by injuries.

I’m a rare exception. I grew up in the Bay Area, and I happen to like, and have covered, both teams for various media outlets. Now when the Raiders and 49ers play each other, I do root for Oakland.

The Raiders intrigue me. They have the second overall pick, and have probably had more trade offers than the Chargers, who have the top pick.

Oakland has four major areas of concern in my opinion – quarterback, wide receiver, offensive line and safety.

If I’m Oakland, I only stay in the No. 2 slot if Ole Miss quarterback Eli Manning, offensive tackle Robert Gallery of Iowa or safety Sean Taylor of Miami are available. All three address pressing needs.

Manning already has indicated he doesn’t want to play in San Diego. I don’t blame him. The Chargers are a run-oriented team, especially with Marty Schottenheimer as their head coach. Obviously Manning would like to do more than hand off the ball in the next 10 years.

The Raiders’ situation at quarterback is “iffy.” Rich Gannon is coming off a shoulder/arm injury, and who knows how much longer he’ll be around anyway. Marques Tuiasosopo also missed most of the season with an injury, and I’m not certain he’s the long-range answer anyway.

Manning or Philip Rivers from North Carolina State would be good picks, especially if Gannon can play one or two more years.

Gallery, a 6-7 315-pound left tackle, has been tabbed as a future All-Pro. The Raiders recently signed left tackle Barry Sims to a long-year contract.

I know there is a big difference between left and right tackle, and if Gallery is as good as everybody says, then take him and figure out whether he or Sims could move to the other side. The Raiders aren’t in a position to turn down future superstars.

Taylor would fill a need. The Raiders lost free safety Rod Woodson to injury, and he’s getting too old to be effective anyway. Strong safety hasn’t been a real strong position, either. Carey Scott and Keyon Nash are the subs behind starters Derrick Gibson and Rod Woodson at the safety spots.Taylor could step in and start NOW at free safety. He his big (6-3 and 225), and has good speed.

If the Raiders want a wide receiver, and they feel that it’s their most-pressing need, I say trade down. They could deal with the Steelers. Swap first-round picks (the Steelers are 11th overall), and possibly grab Pittsburgh’s second-round pick as part of the agreement. That would give the Raiders back-to-back picks in the second round.

At 11, the Raiders could still get a solid wide receiver like Reggie Williams of Washington, Michael Clayton of LSU or Michael Jenkins of Ohio State.

Tackle Shawn Andrews is another possibility. He’s 6-5 and 360, and the Raiders love big tackles. He could replace the retired Lincoln Kennedy if the Raiders don’t get Gallery.

People wonder why you would trade down from No. 2. It’s simple. You do that when you want to get extra, young bodies. It’s how the 49ers got so good so fast in the Bill Walsh era. Walsh kept trading down, and landed several talented players in the second and third rounds.

The 49ers have the 16th overall pick, and I will be totally shocked if they don’t go wide receiver.

They lost Terrell Owens to the Eagles and Tai Streets to the Detroit Lions. They have Arnaz Battle, Brandon Lloyd and Cedric Wilson. All talented, but all inexperienced. They need an impact wide receiver. Neither Larry Fitzgerald of Pittsburgh or Roy Williams of Texas will fall out of the top 10. That means Reggie Williams, Oklahoma’s Rashaun Woods and Michael Clayton could be around. Another guy to keep an eye on is Keary Colbert, who played alongside Michael Williams at USC.

If the Niners opt for defense they should go for a cornerback. South Carolina’s Dunta Robinson and Virginia Tech’s DeAngelo Hall are the best available, but who knows if they will fall past the top 10. Another possibility is Ohio State’s Chris Gamble.

Justin Smiley, a talented guard from Alabama, is one of four offensive linemen expected to go in the first round. He would certainly be available at 16 if the Niners go that direction.

Other players who could be around for the Niners are Oregon State’s running back Steven Jackson, who played for Dennis Erickson in college, Vince Wilfork, Miami’s talented defensive tackle, defensive end Will Smith from Ohio State, Michigan running back Chris Perry, who would provide backup help for Kevan Barlow, and Miami outside linebacker D.J. Williams.

Just remember one thing, the draft is always a crap shoot. There are always surprises every year.

Contact Darrell Moody at dmoody@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1281.