Speed has been the backbone of the Oakland Raiders' philosophy since Al Davis started running the team, so it came as no surprise to anyone when the team went after speed in this year's draft.
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Demarcus Van Dyke had the fastest 40-yard dash time at the NFL Scouting Combine. Chimdi Chekwa had the third-fastest 40 time among defensive backs. Taiwan Jones was the fastest running back in the draft. Wide receivers Denarius Moore and David Ausberry weren't exactly slow with sub-4.5 40 times. When you take all of that into consideration, it begs the question: Can you build a team strictly on speed?
The answer is not 40 speed, but how good are the fast guys as football players. The Raiders also took two offensive linemen high in this draft. Neither one of those players bring an element of speed to the game, rather power and strength.
Van Dyke might find himself replacing Nnamdi Asomugha, who is eligible to leave in free agency. Van Dyke might have run 4.28 at the combine, but he also lost his starting cornerback spot at Miami (Fla.) last season. Chekwa ran a 4.40 at the combine and had 37 straight starts for Ohio State, but he has to learn to trust his speed and play more aggressively. Al Davis wants his corners on an island playing man-to-man coverage where speed is a factor, but so are mental toughness, change of direction and instincts.
Jones told me he was going to break 4.3 at his pro day, and he did on a few watches. He also averaged 145 yards rushing a game in college at Eastern Washington. He will probably be asked to use his speed in the return game, but the Raiders got great production out of Jacoby Ford in that position last season. The speed is great, but Jason Campbell needs to be pushed at quarterback, and who is lining up at safety?