Raiders go for basketball players in draft

Associated Press Modified: April 28, 2012 at 9:16 pm •  Published: April 28, 2012
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ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) — When Al Davis was in charge, the Oakland Raiders seemed to come out of the NFL draft each year with a track team full of sprinters.

New general manager Reggie McKenzie looked to another sport in his first draft, taking two converted basketball players who are relatively new to football among his five picks on Saturday's final day of the draft.

The Raiders took Penn State defensive end Jack Crawford with their first of two fifth-round picks and Georgia State defensive lineman Christo Bilukidi in the sixth round, hoping to hit big with two potential projects.

"It helps when you talk about how athletic especially big men are," McKenzie said. "Do we go in and look for guys who played basketball? No. But when we research and get down into the scouting part of it, yes. That's part of the process."

Oakland also took San Diego State linebacker Miles Burris in the fourth round, Arizona receiver Juron Criner in the fifth and Penn State linebacker Nathan Stupar in the seventh.

The Raiders previously took Utah guard Tony Bergstrom with a compensatory pick at end of the third round on Friday as McKenzie had few picks to work with after previous deals had cost Oakland it's top three picks and two others.

The Raiders are also targeting a potential backup quarterback in free agency, having scheduled a visit with former Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart for next week.

"We set out to try to upgrade the team and by the end of the day we felt like we did that," McKenzie said. "It remains to be seen just how good they will be, but we anxiously will await their presence here in Oakland and also into camp. We're excited. It was a good weekend. We feel good about where we've come so far."

Much of the day was spent bolstering depth with Bergstrom likely the only player with a strong shot to earn a starting job in training camp. Burris and Criner figure to be immediate contributors but the two converted basketball players likely need time to develop.

Crawford, who grew up in England, moved to the United States to play basketball in high school and picked up football in his junior year. He then went to Penn State, where he started the past three seasons. He had 6.5 sacks for the Nittany Lions last season.

"It's a little emotional right now, everybody is crying," Crawford said. "It's so unlikely. I told myself coming into this situation that I wasn't going to get upset if I didn't get drafted. I have come so far already. I am just so happy. This is one of the best days of my life."

Bilukidi, whose father was an Angolan diplomat, has even less experience.

He didn't start playing football until his last year of high school in Canada. He then went to junior college at Eastern Arizona and finished his college career at Georgia State where he had 10 sacks and 16 tackles for loss in two years.

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