To Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie, draft picks are precious. In the process of rebuilding the roster of a once-fallen franchise over the past few years, McKenzie didn’t trade them away in search of quick fixes.
In fact, he took the opposite approach, trading down to gather more selections.
As Austin Gayle of Raiders Wire noted recently, McKenzie traded down five times from 2012-2015 to collect more picks, two of which produced guard Gabe Jackson and running back Latavius Murray (now departed in free agency).
But now, as the Raiders head into Thursday’s first round of the NFL draft, McKenzie may take a different strategy. Because of their 12-4 record in 2016, the Raiders have dropped much lower in the first round. After picking 14th in 2016, fourth in 2015, fifth in 2014 and 12th in 2013, the Raiders will pick 24th Thursday, meaning they’ll have to be patient. And that may mean they’ll have to wait as they see players they want – players McKenzie believes could be difference-makers – come off the board.
Because of that, McKenzie says he could be more aggressive in this year’s draft and take a very unMcKenzie approach, according to Kevin Boilard, who covers the NFL for 24/7 Sports.
“Reggie McKenzie: #Raiders 'will not hestitate' to trade up in 2017 NFL Draft, if opportunity to get impact playmaker presents itself,” Boilard tweeted.
If they do move up, it’s hard to predict which direction McKenzie would go. The Raiders need help at inside linebacker, the defensive line, running back and cornerback, specifically.
With greater depth now on the roster, and more specific needs to improve the team – especially on defense – McKenzie could sacrifice a pick or two to add someone he believes could be an immediate difference-maker, perhaps among the top 12 picks.
Said McKenzie: “We really want to add players, good players, and this is a good draft to add players, but I will not hesitate if I have to move up a little bit to get an impact player that we feel is on our board.”
The only clue McKenzie gave might have been his answer about upgrading at inside linebacker, when asked how he and head coach Jack Del Rio – like McKenzie, a former NFL linebacker – evaluate players at that position.
“We both love good football players, No. 1,” McKenzie said. “We want good linebacker play and Jack and I know what a good linebacker is supposed to look like. We’re going to get us a couple, I hope, at some point before we play in September, whether it’s in this draft, or post-draft, or trade, or somebody gets released. We’re going to do everything we can to upgrade our team, every position, including linebacker.”