Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie didn’t wow anybody with his first two drafts in Oakland.
In 2012, McKenzie had no impact selections. And in 2013, his top two picks were a cornerback coming off a severe injury and an offensive tackle with terrific physical skills and little experience.
McKenzie hardly won any accolades for either.
But in 2014, McKenzie is being lauded from coast to coast for a seemingly very productive draft. He selected eight players, some of whom could make immediate impacts in 2014.
“Without question, this was one of Oakland’s best drafts top-to-bottom in recent memory,” wrote Chris Burke and Doug Farrar of Sports Illustrated, in giving the Raiders an “A” grade for their draft. Taking outside linebacker Khalil Mack with the fifth overall selection, gives the Raiders a player to build around, they wrote, while getting quarterback Derek Carr and guard Gabe Jackson with their next two picks was solid work. Adding players such as defensive tackle Justin Ellis, cornerbacks Keith McGill and T.J. Carrie and safety Jonathan Dowling also gives the team new talent in areas of need. “This is how you rebuild a team,” the S.I. duo wrote.
Gregg Rosenthal, the Around the League editor for NFL.com, listed the Raiders No. 2 on his list of draft “winners.”
While the Raiders have reached with their No. 1 picks in the past, Oakland was perceived to have struck gold with Mack.
“If Khalil Mack was in last year’s draft, he would have been the No. 1 overall pick,” Rosenthal wrote. “The Raiders finally got a premier talent to build their defense around." Rosenthal also praised the Raiders for adding “interior muscle,” as well as Carr, who could eventually take over for veteran Matt Schaub.
Nate Davis of USA Today, too, rated the Raiders among the most successful teams in the draft, picking them No. 10 among 32 teams.
Davis says Mack, Carr and Jackson could play huge roles in helping turn around the franchise.
“A good bet these rookies make or break the McKenzie era in Oakland,” he said.
Even McKenzie, after finishing his selections Saturday, said his third draft in Oakland felt much different than the drafts in 2012 and 2013.
“Especially the first two days, the way it went when guys fell to us that we liked,” he said. “When you get it like that, you feel, we felt really good to get Khalil, to get Carr, to get big Gabe. We were very excited because of the way it fell to us.
“And we felt like we wanted to make today just as good as the other two. And we felt good about today. So, does it feel any different? A little bit, especially early the way it fell. So, we were excited.”