For the second consecutive year, Reggie McKenzie let the draft play out and scored the player he wanted.
Last year, he collected outside linebacker Khalil Mack, who proved to be a gem. Thursday night, he got another one.
Picking fourth overall, McKenzie watched as quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota went 1-2, and then pass rush specialist Dante Fowler went No. 3.
That left him with a choice of Alabama wide receiver Amari Coooper and USC defensive lineman Leonard Williams. Many had believed the Raiders wouldn’t pass on Williams if he fell to No. 4, but McKenzie did.
He kept the pick – deciding not to trade down for more prospects – and selected Cooper, who many believe was the most polished and sure-fire receiver among a strong cast of wide receivers available in this draft.
As Chris Mortensen of ESPN tweeted, shortly after the pick: “At least two teams had Cooper as the top player on draft board. Derek Carr gets Cooper and (Michael) Crabtree added to uptempo O.”
Williams, meanwhile, fell down the draft board to No. 6, taken by the Jets. One report by Ian Rapoport of NFL.com suggested that some teams had “flagged him” because of a shoulder issue.
But even if completely healthy, Williams may not have been the guy McKenzie wanted. Cooper, after all, adds immediate pop to the Raiders offense and played well in big games. As ESPN Stats & Information noted, Cooper averaged 127.4 yards receiving per game over eight Iron Bowls (vs. Auburn), the SEC Championship and bowl games.
Former Raiders coach Lane Kiffin, the offensive coordinator at Alabama, tweeted: “Congrats to @Amari Cooper9. He’s one of my favorite players that I’ve had the privilege to coach. Best of luck Coop!”
Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle, meanwhile, reported that former Raiders great receiver Cliff Branch “was begging (team owner) Mark Davis to take Cooper, while former Raiders head coach Jon Gruden compared Cooper to “a young Tim Brown.”
Paired with Crabtree, James Jones and Rod Streater, the Raiders suddenly have a diverse and talented corps of wideouts to give Carr plenty of targets in a new offense directed by coordinator Bill Musgrave, who plans to run more spread formations and no-huddle.
Cooper is 6-foot-1 and 211 pounds. He was the winner of the Bilietnikoff Award, which goes to the nation’s top college receiver this past season, and was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy.
He had a nation-leading 124 catches for 1,727 yards and 16 touchdowns this past season.
The Raiders next pick Friday in Round 2, with the third choice, No. 35 overall.