With Russell still waiting, Raiders get little production out of rookie class Print
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Wednesday, 28 November 2007 14:14
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 ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) -Finishing with the worst record in the NFL usually gives a team one benefit: picking first in each round of the next year's draft.
Despite that advantage, the Oakland Raiders have gotten little production from their draft picks this season.
No. 1 overall pick JaMarcus Russell has yet to take the field for a single snap after missing training camp in a contract dispute; two players have been sidelined all season with injuries; two other picks didn't make the team and one hasn't played at all.
Other than their second-round pick used on tight end Zach Miller and the fifth-rounder used to select defensive end Jay Richardson, the Raiders have gotten almost no production from their draftees.
``If everything was perfect, you'd expect to see more production out of guys, but there are variables which go into it with JaMarcus getting here late,'' coach Lane Kiffin said.
Russell missed all of training camp in a contract dispute and the Raiders have yet to see any dividends from the $29 million in guarantees they gave the former LSU star. He has worked mostly with the scout team and in extra practice sessions, but could play sometime in the final five games.
Kiffin said he would first use Russell as a reserve for a few series with a limited playbook. That could happen this week against Denver, although Kiffin has not said who will be the backup.
``I haven't been told anything,'' Russell said. ``I'll continue to do what I do every week.''
Russell is patiently learning from veterans like Daunte Culpepper, who was signed over the summer when Russell didn't report. Culpepper has worked closely with the rookie whose size and strength have drawn comparisons with the veteran.
``I'm excited to see him get a chance to play,'' Culpepper said. ``Obviously they're going to try to work him in so that's fine with me. The number one goal for all of us is to win the game.''
Used more as a blocker earlier this season, Miller's production has been limited. Still, he has 28 catches for 255 yards and one touchdown, one reception behind Chicago's Greg Olsen for most among rookie tight ends.
Miller has 11 catches for 114 yards the last three games as he has become a bigger part of the passing game. His 28-yard catch last week in Kansas City helped set up the winning score and was his longest reception of the season.
``I just haven't really gotten many balls deep,'' Miller said. ``I got one last game. Hopefully more will come. I think I can be a downhill receiver, especially in play action, where things can open up a lot for a tight end.''
Richardson has started seven games, providing a good spark on a defensive line that has been hard hit with injuries.
The only other draft pick to make any sort of contribution is fullback Oren O'Neal, a sixth-round pick who has excelled at times as a blocking back.
``He is just so physical every snap that he is a force to be reckoned with,'' Kiffin said. ``When you are in a running mode that we get in in most of our games, that fullback is really important because we run behind him a lot.''
The other picks have been mostly busts or projects.
With the top pick in the third round, Oakland drafted defensive end Quentin Moses, who became the highest draft pick to be cut at the end of training camp. He was picked up by Arizona and then cut last month again and is now with Miami.
With their other two third-round picks, Oakland drafted offensive tackle Mario Henderson and receiver Johnnie Lee Higgins. Henderson was active for the first time last week, but did not see any action. Higgins has lost his job as punt returner to Tim Dwight in recent weeks and has only two catches all season.
The Raiders had been hoping for big things from fourth-round pick Michael Bush, a potential first-rounder who dropped after breaking his leg in last year's season opener for Louisville. But Bush's progress back was slow and the Raiders have kept him on the physically unable to perform list.
Seventh-round pick Jonathan Holland, a receiver from Louisiana Tech, was hurt during minicamp and has been sidelined all season.
Oakland's other fourth-round pick came in the trade that sent Randy Moss to New England. While Moss has 71 catches for 1,095 yards and 16 touchdowns, cornerback John Bowie has played in only one game, getting time on special teams against Chicago earlier this month.
Oakland's other fifth-round pick, Eric Frampton, was cut before the season and is now playing in Minnesota.

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