At one point last season, there was a preference by the Oakland Raiders' coaching staff to keep rookie Jacoby Ford inactive on gameday. To which Raiders owner Al Davis said: "I think you should reconsider that."
Sure enough, Ford went on to make several game-changing and head-turning plays for the Raiders, both as a receiver and a return specialist. Ford was the fastest player at the NFL Scouting Combine in 2010, and it was no surprise that Oakland drafted him (he was a fourth-round pick). Davis loves speed, perhaps more than anyone in the NFL.
And so it should be no surprise that the Raiders now have drafted perhaps the three fastest players from this year's combine -- Miami cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke in the third round, Ohio State cornerback Chimdi Chekwa in the fourth round and Eastern Washington running back Taiwan Jones later in the fourth.
"As I told you guys before," Raiders coach Hue Jackson said Saturday to the Oakland media, "we don't run from speed, we run to speed, especially guys that can play."
Davis, who was a football coach long before he was an owner, basically believes there are two things you can't teach: size and speed. He keeps two lists heading into the draft: "Speedy" and "Jumbo." The Raiders also grabbed a player from the Jumbo list in this draft: LSU guard Joseph Barksdale in the third round.
Davis has always had success with his speed mantra, going back to Pro Bowl wide receiver Cliff Branch in the '70s. Davis even recognized the value in the early '60s with a player we originally signed with the Cowboys.
We had Dave Grayson, a defensive back from Oregon, on our squad in 1960. But Tom Landry felt Grayson was too small. On my suggestion, Hank Stram signed him to the Kansas City Chiefs, but Davis traded to make the speedy Grayson a Raider. Grayson went on to register 44 career interceptions and is a member of the all-time AFL team.