During the final days of the late (and it needs to be said, great) Raiders owner Al Davis, the Oakland Raiders often were the target of laughter after the NFL Draft as Davis’ scouting talent faded in the 00′s as several busts piled up and the stereotype of the Raiders as one of the worst drafting teams in the league marked their picks as easy ones to question.
Those perceptions of the Raiders carried over into general manager Reggie McKenzie’s first two years as a GM as a lack of first round selections and the bold moves in 2013 to take “project” players in DJ Hayden and Menelik Watson led many to paint the same old picture when it came to Oakland’s drafting. That hasn’t been the case in the aftermath of this year’s draft as the McKenzie is being lauded for a draft where the team has addressed many needs.
In fact Sports Illustrated has the Raiders as one of their highest graded teams in their recent recap of the 2014 Draft as writers Chris Burke and Doug Farrar lauded McKenzie’s draft, noting that the team added several players who can contribute right away in addition to their potential longterm answer at quarterback in Derek Carr. Those factors led to the Raiders being given an “A” grade by SI.com
Without question, this was one of Oakland’s best drafts top-to-bottom in recent memory. OLB Khalil Mack will be the face of the defense, while QB Derek Carr could carry the same mantle on offense. G Gabe Jackson, DT Justin Ellis and CB Keith McGill all ought to play early. Even Round 7 produced a couple of worthwhile projects in CB T.J. Carrie and S Jonathan Dowling. This is how your rebuild a team.
Draft grades are a rather meaningless metric of gauging future success, but it is a promising sign that most of the media (the same media Raider fans call biased all the time) is applauding the prospects the team has brought in for the future. With opportunities at playing time for nearly all of the team’s draft picks next season, there is a good chance that the hype being built up around Reggie McKenzie’s solid draft translates into successful on-field output from these 2014 rookies. Something that didn’t happen last season thanks to the injuries of DJ Hayden and Menelik Watson, already a deeper team in 2014 the Raiders could be far more competitive should they get some solid breakout performances from those praised rookie picks. For now, fans of the Raiders can bask in some rare praise being directed towards the team in the national media.