Athlete Profile: Brian Orakpo

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I remember back in high school when I discovered Final Fantasy 7 and my life changed forever. 10 years later I’m better than all my friends at riding chocobos and using potions. Hooray. I suppose we could compare my gargantuan accomplishment with Brian Orakpo’s if I try really hard. Seems Orakpo started as a mere basketball star, and by the time he matriculated, had discovered he was in fact one of the best defensive football players in the country. Big whoop.

Facetiousness aside, it takes a hell of a lot of work to reach the level that Orakpo has, especially in so short a time. According to Orakpo’s high school teammate Drew Kelson in an article on Inside Texas.com:

“Freshman football was merely about playing in front of all your classmates right on the campus football field. Simply having a uniform and getting a chance to play was cool.”

That is not the kind of atmosphere I have been led to expect from Texas high school football. Shame on you Friday Night Lights. No, I take it back; I can’t stay mad at you.

So Orakpo spent his first couple of seasons at Lamar High School in Houston impressing the ladies and looking good. Not too shabby. But there came a time for the young Orakpo when he realized that he could actually make something out of this football thing, perhaps a big something. By the time high school was over, Orakpo had been recognized throughout the country as a defensive prospect and had been recruited to play for the University of Texas.

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Offseason Blueprint: Oakland Raiders

Notable Free Agents: Nnamdi Asomugha (re-signed), CB; Shane Lechler (re-signed), P; Chris Johnson (re-signed), CB; Jake Grove, C; Cooper Carlisle, G.

Projected 2009 Cap Space: $4,000,000

Draft Order: 7

Top Needs: Not unlike other teams selecting at the top of the draft, the Raiders are mostly in need of offensive line help. Defensive line, wide receiver and linebacker could also be addressed.

Offseason Outlook: The Raiders’ top priority was to ensure that cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha didn’t hit the open market, and they accomplished that by inking him to a new three-year, $45 million contract. Asomugha’s deal is complex and you can read more details here, but the bottom line is that he’ll once again anchor the Raiders’ secondary in 2009.

Al Davis also re-signed punter Shane Lechler to a four-year, $16 million contract. That might not be big news to some, but considering how much the Raiders punt during the regular season, re-signing Lechler was a wise move.

The biggest challenge Davis now faces is how will he free up enough cap space to address other needs. The Raiders were sitting at $4 million under the cap before the re-signings of Asomugha and Lechler. Are cuts coming? If so, who will be shown the door?

One name that has recently come up in trade speculation is defensive end Derrick Burgess, who the Raiders are rumored to be shopping. Burgess becomes a free agent after the 2009 season so it would make sense that Oakland would trade him now in order to gain compensation. If they were able to trade him, they would free up $3.5 million in cap space, which isn’t a huge amount but it would help.


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