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Oakland Raiders defenders, from left, Tyvon Branch, Michael Huff, Walter McFadden and Matt Shaughnessy watch the offensive unit drive down the field against the Seattle Seahawks in the fourth quarter of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 31, 2010, at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, Calif. The Raiders won, 33-3.

At some point Sunday, one is apt to see as many as six rookies on the field for the Raiders defense and two for the offense against the Dolphins. It's all part of coach Tom Cable's plan to bring in an infusion of fresh talent and distance the team from its recent history of sticking with underperforming players too long.

The process started in earnest in 2008 with the selection of running back Darren McFadden, safety Tyvon Branch, defensive end Trevor Scott and wide receiver Chaz Schilens in the NFL draft. The first three have been regular starters -- though Scott will miss the rest of the regular season after suffering a torn left ACL against the Steelers -- and Schilens is expected to be the No. 1 receiver upon his return from a left knee injury.

In 2009, the Raiders netted receivers Darrius Heyward-Bey and Louis Murphy and defensive end Matt Shaughnessy, all of whom are starters now that Shaughnessy will replace Scott for the rest of the season. Key backups in tight end Brandon Myers and safety Mike Mitchell also were picked in '09.

Yet, this season's draft haul is the one that has stocked the cupboard with core talent for years to come.

Middle linebacker Rolando McClain, defensive end Lamarr Houston and offensive lineman Jared Veldheer cracked the starting lineup from the outset at their key positions.

Receiver Jacoby Ford, linebacker Travis Goethel and defensive backs Walter McFadden, Jeremy Ware and Stevie Brown have carved out niches as backups and on special teams.

Cable said few, if any, could have foreseen this draft class making such a huge impact right away.

"Honestly, no," Cable. "We're thrilled that it's turned out this way, there's no question. I don't think anybody can expect this number of guys to contribute this amount on any one team. "... It's a heck of a draft."

Perhaps it's no coincidence that the Raiders are in the midst of their best season since 2002.

Gone are the days when managing general partner Al Davis relied heavily upon high-priced free agents to stockpile his roster.

Davis still is prone to the occasional trade, as evidenced by the moves that landed defensive tackle Richard Seymour in '09 and linebackers Kamerion Wimbley and Quentin Groves this past offseason.

But the Raiders turnaround is tied mostly to their success in the draft in recent seasons.

Eight other players who either started or played supporting roles against the Steelers came from the 2004-07 draft classes.

Twelve of the 22 projected offensive and defensive starters, as well as kicker Sebastian Janikowski and punter Shane Lechler, for Sunday's game against the Dolphins are home-grown talent.

"They do a great job," said running back Rock Cartwright, a nine-year veteran, of this year's rookies. "They're always excited about playing the game. They always want to do more and get better. As long as you got guys who are always willing to get better, then your team is going to continue to get better. We got a great group of rookies."

Cable and others said part of the key to his young players' success has been a conscious effort by the Raiders to target players from successful programs.

Having so many young players on the 53-man roster has an added, if unintended, benefit. Many Raiders aren't beaten down from enduring some or all of the previous seven seasons. The Raiders have lost at least 11 in each campaign since 2002, a streak that will end with one more victory this season.

"It's like asking someone if they've been through Hurricane Katrina," Murphy said. "If you've never been through it, and it's really not in your mind, you feel it, but it's not really there. So, same thing here.

"A lot of guys haven't been here for the drought. And it's just a good feeling that a lot of these guys come from winning programs and you just try to put that chemistry together, amongst each other."

SUNDAY'S game
Miami (5-5) at Raiders (5-5), 1:05 p.m., CBS