For Exhibit A of the Raiders’ draft strategy on the final day of the NFL Draft held Saturday, there is Miles Burris.
While Burris hardly was a household name in college football, he was the best player on San Diego State’s teams that went to bowl games the past two seasons, its top tackler and pass rusher.
He is athletic, hard-working, a strong pass rusher and strong in his Christian faith. Though he made some flashy plays at San Diego State – and in workouts for pro scouts when he did a standing back flip after performing well in a drill -- he’s not flashy off the field.
As he told the San Diego Union-Tribune Saturday, he drives a 1998 Toyota 4Runner and has no plans to trade up now that he’s about to come into some money after being selected by the Raiders Saturday in the fourth round.
“I don’t really need a new one,” he told the paper.
Burris, a 6-foot-2, 245-pound outside linebacker and former team captain, will compete for a job on defense and also is likely to contribute on special teams.
He is the perfect example of new General Manager Reggie McKenzie’s stated emphasis on stocking his roster with high-character, high-effort players.
Burris, like the other four defensive players taken by Oakland Saturday, has a strong religious foundation.
McKenzie told columnist Tim Kawakami of the Bay Area News Group that such a background for each is not a coincidence.
“I think when you talk about high-character guys, how they were brought up, work ethic, I think part of that is kind of reflective on your faith,” McKenzie told Kawakami Saturday. “At least I know it was with me. But did we go out and say we’re going to get faith-based players specifically? No. No. That’s not our intent.
“But I think just by nature, good-quality players have a strong foundation in their faith.”
We’re still a long way from knowing if McKenzie’s strategy will be successful.
Burris and the others taken by McKenzie are all mid- to low-round picks who will have to fight their way to the top of the depth charts against incumbents and free agents brought in since McKenzie took over operation of the Raiders in January.
But there’s no doubt McKenzie has a plan, and he’s sticking to it.
He focused on defense and work ethic as well as on-field production with the few picks he had this past week. Guys like Burris.
“At the end of the day, really, what we went off of was, when we looked at the tape, what players jumped out at us that were productive, quality football players,” new head coach Dennis Allen told Kawakami. “And I think every one of the guys that we were able to pick understood how to play the game. They were tough, they were smart, they were disciplined, they played the game with instincts.”
Now we’ll see if Exhibit A will produce A grades for McKenzie and the Raiders.