Since 2003, the Oakland Raiders have stumbled around the NFL basement. They’ve drafted poorly, gone through a carousel of coaches and haven’t had a winning season.
Yet as the start of training camp nears for the 2015 season, there is more optimism than usual in the Bay Area that the Raiders finally may be on the verge of seeing brighter days.
The reason is three days in 2014.
On those days, Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie orchestrated the franchise’s selections in the 2014 NFL draft.
It may be the moment the franchise looks back on 10 years from now as the turning point.
It certainly looks that way to one analyst as he looks ahead to 2015.
“One good draft can turn around a franchise, or at least start that process,” wrote Frank Schwab, for Yahoo Sports’ Shutdown Corner feature. “The Oakland Raiders are hopeful they’re experiencing that now.
“The Raiders made two picks last season that give them real optimism for the first time in a long time. They took outside linebacker Khalil Mack in the first round and quarterback Derek Carr in the second. And one year into their careers, they look like potential foundation players on offense and defense.”
That draft was fruitful in other ways, bringing starting guard Gabe Jackson, defensive tackle Justin Ellis and cornerbacks TJ Carrie and Keith McGill.
Now the Raiders have gone through another draft that may have another high-impact rookie in wide receiver Amari Cooper.
That, plus some young free-agent additions this spring – after a horrible free-agent class in 2014 -- and a new coaching staff, give the Raiders and their fans reason to dream after seasons of nightmares.
“The rebuilding process hasn’t made much progress in about a decade because of horrible drafts, ill-advised trades and the 2014 free-agency failure,” wrote Schwab. “… But it took one seemingly great draft, and the Raiders look like they are on a positive path.”
Carr, for one, agrees.
“I’m fired up,” he told a reporter recently. “I think that we’ve done a great job (this offseason). Our whole locker room feels that way. Our whole locker room felt going into the offseason, free agency and the draft, that we’re close. We became a team at the end (of 2014) and once we started playing like a team, we saw what we could do.”