New Oakland GM Reggie McKenzie (left) will be drafting players for new Raiders coach Dennis Allen (right). (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
As the Raiders emerge from the dark ages into the modern world of pro football, they have put their trust in one man: Reggie McKenzie.
McKenzie, the team’s new general manager, has been tasked with modernizing the Oakland Raiders organization from top to bottom.
This offseason, he’s been busy paring payroll, reorganizing the front office and his roster and signing free agents to fill holes.
Now, with the NFL Draft beginning Thursday, McKenzie will get his first chance to make an impact in evaluating college talent.
It is, after all, how he made a name for himself with the Green Bay Packers, first as a scout then as director of player personnel.
“Reggie’s a tremendous evaluator,” Ron Wolf, the former Packers GM, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel after he was hired by the Raiders. “He can tell you who can play and who can’t play. That’s what it’s all about. Some can write reports but can’t tell you who can play. Whatever that is, he has that. He has a feel.”
But when the NFL Draft begins Thursday with Round 1, McKenzie will be on the outside, looking in – unable to pick any of the prospects available.
The Raiders don’t have a pick until the bottom of the third round – the 95th overall -- and just five overall (one in the fourth, two in the fifth and one in the sixth).
McKenzie, however, was part of a Packers organization that was able to find good players in mid to late rounds of the draft and in free agency.
McKenzie said this week he’d love to be able to pick in the higher rounds, but has to be patient.
“It’s hard to sleep now,” he told the San Francisco Chronicle. “It’s an exciting time. … I am the new guy. This is my first time drafting after a legend (Al Davis) has been drafting for the Raiders for so long. So, it’s huge. But I am excited about it, and I am looking forward to it.”
McKenzie, in talking about his philosophy of selecting talent, says he looks at the total package, not just speed or strength or combine workouts, but productivity, heart and love of the game.
“You have to make sure they really love the game and make sure that they’re good football players,” McKenzie told Jerry McDonald of the Bay Area News Group. “Then all of the other stuff – how they test, how they play, what kind of skills they have – that all plays a part in how you evaluate them.”
McKenzie hasn’t ruled out trying to move up in the draft, but says he won’t trade future picks – “especially high ones” – to do it. And, because he’ll be picking low, he’ll be looking for good players – not good players at specific positions.
“We need some depth, regardless, to compete and hopefully win jobs,” McKenzie told McDonald. “And that’s what we’re targeting. When we say best player, whether it’s D-line, O-line, tight end, it doesn’t matter. We want a good player.”