Tom Cable spent his first two years in Oakland rebuilding the Raiders' offensive line with castoffs, reclamation projects and overlooked players.
ALAMEDA, Calif. — Tom Cable spent his first two years in Oakland rebuilding the Raiders' offensive line with castoffs, reclamation projects and overlooked players.
That's why his eyes lit up recently when asked about the opportunity to possibly work with one of the four "Cadillacs" available in the first round in this week's NFL draft.
"There's four legitimate guys that can play for anybody, regardless of what your scheme is, and probably all four can play left tackle," Cable said. "It's a luxury if ever there's been one, and I don't know if there has ever been that many good ones in the first round like that. But there is this year."
Cable the former offensive line coach would undoubtedly love to get his hands on Baylor's Jason Smith, Virginia's Eugene Monroe, Alabama's Andre Smith or Mississippi's Michael Oher with the seventh pick of the draft.
But with two or three of those players likely to be off the board by the time the Raiders make the No. 7 pick Saturday and other glaring needs, it's no sure thing that Cable and Oakland owner Al Davis will go after a tackle when they are on the clock.
Cable said the Raiders have three or four needs to address in the draft, and would only specify the offensive line. But it's clear the team could use a big-play receiver, help on the defensive line and a safety with its five picks.
While there is no safety worthy of being picked as high as seventh, the Raiders could have choices at the other positions with receivers Michael Crabtree and Jeremy Maclin, and defensive linemen B.J. Raji and Brian Orakpo.
Receiver is an especially intriguing spot considering the poor play the Raiders got at that position a year ago. Johnnie Lee Higgins led all of Oakland's wideouts with 22 catches, and the team had just 82 receptions in all from the position.
Crabtree had 97 catches and 19 touchdowns himself last season in Texas Tech's spread offense. But questions how that would translate into the NFL, as well as Crabtree's speed and health following news of a stress fracture in his foot, have caused some doubts surrounding him.
"At the end of the day, it's about touchdowns and production and if you look at that, there's probably nobody better," Cable said.
Maclin offers a speedier option and Oakland also could consider trading down to grab a player such as Maryland's Darrius Heyward-Bey, whose combination of size and speed fit what Davis likes in a receiver.
But Davis has always been hesitant to trade down in the draft, even though Cable said that could be a real option.
Whatever Oakland decides, the main theme will be giving more help to quarterback JaMarcus Russell.
Cable has prodded his young quarterback to work harder and become more of a leader; signed former Pro Bowler Jeff Garcia as a backup to both push and teach Russell; and brought in some new offensive linemen for better protection.
The Raiders figure to give Russell even more support in the draft, hoping that will help Russell fulfill the potential he came into the league with when he was drafted first overall two years ago.
"He has to be the face of the organization," Cable said. "He has to accept the responsibility that comes with that. That's a huge responsibility, regardless of what your age is, where you've come from or this or that. If you're going to be that, you've got to embrace it. And he's doing that."
Unlike the previous offseason when the Raiders made many high-profile and high-priced additions that flopped — most notably DeAngelo Hall and Javon Walker — the emphasis during this free agency period has been on keeping the team's own free agents.
The team re-signed Pro Bowlers Nnamdi Asomugha and Shane Lechler, as well as key contributors Chris Johnson, Cooper Carlisle and Tony Stewart.
The highest-profile addition this offseason was the signing of Garcia, who they hope will not even have to play next season. There were also a few targeted additions, bringing in offensive linemen Khalif Barnes, Erik Pears and Samson Satele.
"I didn't think you need to take this football team and add some names or high salaries to it. You needed to get the core re-signed," Cable said. "That, for me, far outweighs signing some name or some big salary because that didn't do a damn thing for us. This team needed to be taken care of from inside out and then add to it through the draft."