Safety Mike Mitchell (34) was the last player left from the 2009 draft class, and now he's gone, too. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
After the Raiders completed drafting in 2009, some analysts said team owner Al Davis had again proved he’d lost it as a football evaluator.
Receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey at No. 7 overall? Safety Mike Mitchell in the second round?
Just four years later, the Raiders truly have lost it – all of it – as far as the draft class of 2009.
As Jerry McDonald of the Bay Area News Group posted on Thursday after Mitchell announced on Twitter that he’d agreed to a deal with the Carolina Panthers: “There goes the Class of 2009.”
McDonald then went down the list of Raiders picks that year, noting each is gone.
First-round pick Heyward-Bey was recently released. Mitchell is gone to Carolina. Third-round pick Matt Shaughnessy, a defensive end, recently signed with Arizona. Receiver Louis Murphy, a fourth-round pick, was sent to Carolina in 2012 and is now a Giant. Linebacker Slade Norris, also taken in the fourth round, was released in 2010. Defensive end Stryker Sulak, taken in the sixth round, was released before even going to camp. Tight end Brandon Myers, another sixth-round pick, blossomed into a terrific tight end in 2012 and was allowed to leave in free agency, signing with the Giants.
The Class of 2009 is symbolic of the Raiders’ woes. If good teams build through the draft, Oakland’s foundation has been constructed on shifting sands. Former No.1 overall pick JaMarcus Russell is the poster child, of course, for the Raiders’ draft-day fumbles. But the Class of 2009, too, is a huge swing-and-miss because of faulty evaluation or salary mismanagement that hasn’t allowed the team to keep a Myers or Heyward-Bey (who’d shown improvement over the past couple of seasons).
Even at the time of the draft, many were questioning what the Raiders were thinking. Consider Ross Tucker’s analysis for Sports Illustrated, upon completion of the 2009 draft:
“I would pay money to get a copy of the Raiders draft board,” he wrote. “Seriously. First-round pick Darrius Heyward-Bey is fast but has trouble catching the ball at times, which is kind of a problem when you are trying to make your living as an NFL receiver. Mike Mitchell had a good pro day, which, of course, makes him a second-round pick. Then the Raiders reached (what else is new) for Wisconsin defensive end Matt Shaughnessy. Sorry, Raiders fans, but it does not look like there is any light at the end of the black tunnel.”
Four years later, coming off a 4-12 season and now in the midst of an offseason of more roster upheaval, fans of the silver and black are still looking for the light at the end of that tunnel.
General manager Reggie McKenzie and head coach Dennis Allen are now in their second year of trying to turn the franchise around, and have counseled patience. After so many years of mismanagement and poor decisions – including non-productive drafts – McKenzie has said this turnaround process is going to take a while.
Allen recently said he believes in the model of building through the draft and says the teams that compete consistently at the top of the league are the ones that do it best.
“They’re the teams that, they’re in this year, they’re in it next year, they’re in it the year after than and the year after," he said. "That’s what we want to be. We want to be one of those teams. We don’t want to be a flash in the pan, you know, where you show up for a year, and here we are, we’re a playoff contender and the next year you don’t hear from us.
“We want to build a team that’s going to compete year in and year out.”
And not be a team that, four years after the 2009 draft, has nothing to show for it.