When the draft is held in April, the Oakland Raiders won’t be the life of the NFL’s annual talent-picking party.
The Raiders have traded away most of their picks in deals over the past two seasons. A team that hasn’t been to the playoffs in almost a decade won’t have a pick in the first round. In fact, Oakland will have to wait through the second, third and fourth rounds, too, before getting a chance to pick once each in the fifth and sixth rounds.
Still, new General Manager Reggie McKenzie is at the NFL Combine this week in Indianapolis. For any NFL executive, it’s the place to be this week – even for a team with few opportunities to get better via the draft.
With player agents, other executives and scouts congregating at the Combine, McKenzie is getting a chance to do some brainstorming and scouting of his own as he continues to remake the Raiders in his own image. His is a different philosophy than that of former longtime owner Al Davis, who died in the midst of the 2011 season.
One thing is certain: the Raiders of McKenzie won’t be infatuated by the pure-speed players who annually turn heads in the Combine’s 40-yard dash. He wants football players, not track stars.
“If he’s not good on film, then no, I’m afraid not,” McKenzie told the Bay Area News Group’s Jerry McDonald. “It’d be nice to have a whole bunch of fast, good players, but that’s not the No. 1 thing we’re looking for.”
As McKenzie evaluates his own roster and free agents, as well as the rookies at the Combine – deciding which to keep, which to jettison and which to put on his wanted list – he’ll continue to “measure all the intangibles” to put together a team that can win and produce in crunch time.
Last season’s Raiders collapsed late in games several times in 2011, committed egregious defensive lapses, were the most penalized team in the NFL and went from being 7-4 and an almost-certain playoff team to 8-8 and out of the playoff picture once again.
McKenzie already has released starting cornerback Stanford Routt – who since has signed with Kansas City – and told McDonald more such releases are in store. Other players may have their salaries readjusted to relieve the pressure on the team’s salary structure, which is reportedly $11 million over the cap.
McDonald noted that players who could be in line for release or salary cuts include linebackers Kamerion Wimbley and Aaron Curry, safety Michael Huff and defensive tackle Tommy Kelly.
“We’re looking at some things,” McKenzie told McDonald. “A lot of agents are in town (Indianapolis), so we’re looking to sit down with some of these guys and work some things out. Without being specific, there are things we’ve got to get done and we’re in the process of doing that now. So yes, we can expect some things to happen.”
McKenzie told McDonald that some of the most important information he and his scouting staff can get at the Combine comes from the interviews of potential draftees, not the workouts. Interviews and film study will be more important than 40-yard dash times.
Though the Raiders go into the draft with just two picks, it is possible the team could receive some additional compensatory picks for lost free agents.