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(Jim Gensheimer/Mercury News)

They're quiet and diligent and seem to take pride in toiling in relative anonymity.

They neither coach nor play, nor even step onto the field.

Yet they are as responsible as any individual or group for raising the Raiders from the NFL dead.

Though most of the praise and publicity related to Oakland's resurgence in 2010 clings to running back Darren McFadden and defensive tackle Tommy Kelly and offensive coordinator Hue Jackson -- not undeservedly -- no one drawing a Raiders paycheck has been more impressive than those within the team's player personnel department.

They identified a quarterback, Jason Campbell, with the tools to succeed and convinced owner Al Davis to swing a trade to acquire Campbell from Washington.

More to the point, they navigated the draft process as well as any personnel group in franchise history.

There are numerous reasons why the Raiders are 7-7 as they face Indianapolis today and why, for the first since 2002, they are playing meaningful games in the final month of the season. None is more apparent or surprising than having the entire nine-man draft class on the roster.

Two rookies, linebacker Rolando McClain (first round) and defensive end LaMarr Houston (second), entered the season as starters. A third, offensive lineman Jared Veldheer (third), has played his way into the starting lineup at left tackle. A fourth, wide receiver Jacoby Ford (the second of two fourth-round picks), has made only one official start but has proved too valuable to keep off the field.

After so many years of drafting workout superstars defined by 40-yard dash times and bench-press repetitions, the Raiders seem to have rediscovered a knack for identifying players for whom they don't need to make excuses and don't have to hide.

This has led to all kinds of rumors and theories insinuating Raiders scouts and player personnel associates have found ways to work more effectively with or around an owner who has difficulty completely relinquishing his general manager duties.

There was the ESPN report in the spring indicating members of the player personnel department were, um, rigging workout results in hopes of steering Davis away from his beloved measureables and toward those who could be productive players.

There is speculation that Davis, rocked by his part during an unprecedented slide of seven consecutive losing seasons, conceded his team might be better off if he placed more trust in the personnel staff.

One fact is that Al's once-robust and highly visible presence at the annual February NFL scouting combine has faded, and another fact is he did not interview or even meet McClain until after the draft.

It's as if drafting combine sprinter Darrius Heyward-Bey seventh overall in 2009 and paying him top dollar, only to realize he was unprepared to be a productive NFL receiver, forced Davis to reconsider his draft methodology.

In any case, the early signs indicate this new direction is the right way to go.

Having four rookies make a positive impact on a contending team, with four more getting significant playing time, is enough to put this draft class in the upper echelon of those throughout Raiders history.

There have been few deep and fabulous drafts for a team that during its heyday excelled at building with a blend of draft picks, trades and free agents. The Raiders' best drafts -- 1983, 1977, 1971 and 1968 -- yielded multiple Pro Bowl players, some worthy of Hall of Fame consideration.

It's much too soon to know if anyone from this draft will build such a distinguished career, but it's already safe to conclude Veldheer can have a good career at tackle, McClain can become an intimidator at middle linebacker, Houston can be a productive starter, and Ford can frighten defenses for many years.

Other members of the 2010 draft class -- offensive lineman Bruce Campbell, linebacker Travis Goethel, safety Stevie Brown and cornerbacks Walter McFadden and Jeremy Ware -- are getting varying amounts of playing time, with uneven results.

There is cause for satisfaction from those who pore over hours of video and attend hundreds of college games, evaluating players all over North America. Men such as Keith Rowen and Tom Delaney and Jon Kingdon and Bruce Kebric -- and their colleagues -- did their part to make the Raiders matter again.

Still apparent is some of the dysfunction that has defined them in recent years, but it no longer prevents growth and development.

The Raiders have made a quantum leap in 2010, and they could not have done it without those rarely seen and never heard. Nothing that happens today or next week or next month will change that.

Contact Monte Poole at mpoole@bayareanewsgroup.com.

Today's game
Indianapolis at Raiders, 1:05 p.m., No TV