Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie always talks about his draft philosophy as taking the best player available. In the 2014 NFL Draft, McKenzie did a nice job of blending that philosophy while addressing the Raiders need positions. It is too early to evaluate the draft because the players are yet to be one the field in any capacity but potentially this could be a standout class.
It seems that McKenzie hit his stride in his third year of drafting. Oakland also had some luck on their side as the prospects they coveted were still available when they selected. They were not forced to maneuver around to grab their guys. The end product is a draft that brings talent and need to Oakland.
With their first selection, the Raiders grabbed standout linebacker Khalil Mack. That was not an area of need, but a best player on the board. It gives the Raiders loads of depth at linebacker as well as the chance to mix and match several different options. With Mack and third-round pick from 2013 Sio Moore on the edges, the Raiders have two guys who can get after the quarterback. Mack has versatility in coverage, so he will be a three down linebacker. Mack will also allow the Raiders to shuffle Nick Roach, Kevin Burnett, and Miles Burris at the middle linebacker and outside linebacker positions depending on run or pass situations.
In the second round, Oakland grabbed their future quarterback in Derek Carr. The Raiders had eyes on Carr and after taking in his solid Pro Day, it escalated into a nice match. This was a need pick. While Matt Schaub will be the starter entering training camp, he is only a stop gap option at 32-years-old. This is a spot where need and best quarterback on the board meet. Carr can sit and learn from a veteran while beginning his developmental process.
With the Raiders third round choice, they snagged massive guard Gabe Jackson. This is a situation where the Raiders grabbed the best player available. McKenzie loves the build from the offensive and defensive lines out. Jackson is a nasty run blocker who can hold up in pass protection. Jackson is a potential starter on the first day of the season. He adds to a revamped offensive line that is upgraded significantly. Now the free agent moves that McKenzie made to bolster the line gives them depth and insurance against a situation like last season were injuries were prevalent.
In the fourth round, McKenzie grabbed two players to fill need positions. Monstrous defensive tackle Justin Ellis and rangy cornerback Keith McGill filled two serious needs. Again, McKenzie brings in competition and depth to make the free agent signings even more useful. Ellis can become part of the rotation at defensive tackle with Pat Sims and Stacy McGee. It is going to be difficult to run on the Raiders in 2014. Sims and Ellis are 340 pounds each. McGill will compete with Tarell Brown, DJ Hayden, and Carlos Rogers to earn playing time. Both Rogers and Brown are on one year deals, giving McGill a chance to develop and be ready for the future.
The Raiders also added three seventh-round picks. Safety Jonathan Dowling and Travis Carrie are more secondary help and depth. Both will have to go the special team's route to show their value. Carrie is a very good returner and Dowling is a talented, but has some character questions. The third seventh-round pick is another risk/reward type in Shelby Harris. He had issues in college like being kicked off his team, but fills another pass rushing need.
Tags: 2014 NFL Draft, Derek Carr, Football, Gabe Jackson, Khalil Mack, Matt Schaub, NFL, Oakland, Oakland Raiders, Reggie McKenzie, Sio Moore