The $16 million, $17 million or $18 million (depending on the contract) question that nobody could answer truthfully Thursday at the annual NFL draft luncheon: Which one of you top prospects wants to be a Raider?
Sadly for the once-proud Oakland Raiders, the answer is none of the five yet-to-be signed players in attendance (newly minted Dolphins offensive tackle Jake Long is the exception) at the Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers really wants to join the franchise.
Or as one agent put: "Sure, somebody is going to want to go fourth overall because of the money, but they're not going to like the prospects once they get there."
There is no greater indictment of a team than the stricken look that comes upon a player's face when he realizes he must go to the Raiders, the NFL's wasteland. Sure, plenty of players, such as safety Gibril Wilson, cornerback DeAngelo Hall, defensive tackle Tommy Kelly and running back Justin Fargas, lined up to take the money. That's why when the Raiders pick at No. 4 overall on Saturday, some player will manage a smile for the cameras. And if he smiles, he should get an Oscar with his Raiders jersey.
Draftees are probably thinking through scenarios where they can avoid becoming Raiders. Take running back Darren McFadden, who has drawn a lot of interest from the Raiders and the New York Jets, who pick No. 6 overall. The thinking in that camp is if LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey goes No. 2 overall to St. Louis, Atlanta at No. 3 might trade with the Jets at No. 6, giving New York a clear path to him.
Over where Ohio State defensive tackle Vernon Gholston was sitting, his camp was hoping that either he or Virginia defensive end Chris Long would go No. 2 to the Rams. Then Dorsey would go No. 3, McFadden No. 4 and Gholston would end up at No. 5 (to Kansas City) or at No. 6 to the Jets.
Even Long, the son of Hall of Fame Raiders defensive lineman Howie Long, really has no desire to follow in his father's footsteps. Part of that is the automatic pressure that goes with being a Raider Legacy (boy, is that an odd term these days), but much of it is because even his father knows that the Raiders just aren't run well anymore.
Or as one person close to Chris Long said mockingly in recent days: "There's no way you can tell what the Raiders are going to do because not even (owner) Al (Davis) knows what he's doing."
About the only player unconcerned with the fate of being No. 4 is Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan. He was asked to give a mock draft for the top six picks. When he got to No. 4 he said with comfort, "You know they're not taking me," an obvious reference to the fact that Oakland took quarterback JaMarcus Russell at No. 1 overall last year.
Ryan has the most uncertain Saturday of the lot. There's talk that he could end up with Atlanta, Kansas City or Baltimore at No. 8. When asked how he'd feel if he took an Aaron Rodgers- or Brady Quinn-type fall in the draft, Ryan took the moment in stride, giving a very professional response.
"Five years ago, if you told me I'll be a first-round pick, I'd take it and be happy. If you told me a year ago I'll be a first-round pick, I'll take it. Anywhere in the first round would be great," he said. "Hopefully, I'm not sitting too long, but I'll be excited with whoever takes me. It's going to be exciting, no question."
Whoever goes No. 4 to Oakland, it's hard to believe they'll feel the same way.