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Stefen Wisniewski, the nephew of former Raiders great Steve Wisniewski, was drafted by the Oakland Raiders in the second round of the NFL draft on Friday.

Brush aside the sick preoccupation with punishing coaches, even at the expense of the product.

Overlook the occasional counterattacks directed at TV outlets or individual journalists or former players in the wake of perceived slights.

Ignore the spending tendencies that sometimes suggest two completely different folks, who don't communicate, are running the operation.

And concede that Al Davis is going to make at least one vanity pick each time he presides over the Raiders' involvement in the NFL draft.

Once you accept this, display the tolerance to wade through the inanity and insanity that comes with a relationship with the Raiders, you will have a chance to see that Oakland is up to something, and maybe onto something that might result in an improved football team.

After so many years when Oakland treated the early rounds of the draft as little more than an opportunity to exhibit its collective madness -- or reveal its uniquely self-destructive stubbornness -- the organization is attempting to come to its senses.

Having traded away their first-round pick of the 2011 draft, the Raiders on Friday used their second-round pick to select Penn State center Stefen Wisniewski, then took Miami cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke and LSU offensive tackle Joseph Barksdale with their third-round picks.

Wisniewski, the nephew of former Raiders great Steve Wisniewski, is a solid pick and could start as a rookie. The choice is indicative of Davis at his best.


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Van Dyke is a project who made little impact while starting only three games as a senior -- but followed that up with the fastest 40-yard time (4.25 seconds) at the NFL combine in February. This is indicative of Al at his myopic, speed-obsessed worst -- his vanity pick.

Barksdale, All-SEC in his first year at left tackle, is consistent and productive without dazzling observers. Depending on the scout, he could have gone as early as the second round or as late as the sixth.

After a 2010 draft in which they found three starters in the first three rounds and an impact player in the fourth, the Raiders used rounds two and three to address acute needs, two with heralded potential, the other with questionable talent. It's calculated strategy, sound and wholly rational.

Yet it allowed enough space to satisfy Al's fixation for risks like Van Dyke, whose measurables are, by all accounts except those of the Raiders, better than his game.

Let's face it, though, Al's fascination with workout warriors has not completely passed, and likely never will. Even last season, in the middle of an impressive draft that would alter the face of the roster, Davis couldn't resist guard Bruce Campbell, who was ordinary on video but fantastic at the combine.

In other words, Davis has found a way to get his man, while still drafting those who appear ready to help the Raiders.

What the Raiders have done, in two drafts, is maneuver themselves into position to create the most imposing offensive line they've had since the late 1990s, when Barret Robbins anchored a line featuring Lincoln Kennedy and Steve Wisniewski.

The bulk of that line, by the way, reached the postseason three consecutive years.

"We have pieces now to work with and to move and put along over there on that right side or left side, wherever we decide to play them," said coach Hue Jackson, grinning and giggling as if a dozen invisible naked maidens were tickling. "We had to get some bodies and now we have some bodies, some big bodies, some athletic bodies, to pull from and work with."

This is a refreshing departure from not so long ago, when Raiders drafts were equal parts comedy and mystery.

Remember Norv Turner explaining that Robert Gallery and Jake Grove represented the pillars of the next great Raiders offensive line, and that Fabian Washington and Stanford Routt -- drafted two years after Nnamdi Asomugha -- would be Oakland's next great cornerbacks?

Who can forget that Stuart Schweigert was sold as a rugged and fast safety certain to put fear in the minds of receivers?

Why, asked the football world, as it laughed out loud, would the Raiders take Darrius Heyward-Bey with the seventh overall pick in 2009?

Well, it now seems Davis, 81, is unwilling to let his golden years be defined by bizarre drafting, catfights with former coaches, angry responses to perceived attacks or emptying the bank for the likes of Javon Walker and DeAngelo Hall.

The Raiders haven't won. But it's now conceivable that beneath their flawed, outdated and subjective approach to running this franchise, there is a plan to assemble a team capable of contending.

Contact Monte Poole at mpoole@bayareanewsgroup.com.