Oakland Raiders 2014 NFL Draft: Will Reggie McKenzie Shock Raider Nation with the #5 Pick?


Apr 11, 2012; Alameda, CA, USA; Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports

Going into his third NFL Draft, Reggie McKenzie remains very much a mystery to Raider Nation. Looking back at his previous two drafts, we can get a glimpse into the mindset and draft philosophy of McKenzie. Judging on last years picks, Raider Nation may be in for a surprise in 2014. The question remains…Could Reggie McKenzie shock the NFL world with the #5 pick?

In the past, so-called experts and fans had a field day predicting the draft picks of the late, great Al Davis RIP. Although Al Davis was a rogue on draft day, he also became predictable when selecting “Height, Weight, Speed” guys he fell in love with. Remember his scholarship players?

Al’s philosophy was draft raw physically talented players and let the Coaches develop and bring out the talent. Problem is, when you change coaches every two years or bring in the wrong coaches, player development goes out the window.

Reggie has not followed suit with Mr. Davis in the coaching department. Despite rumors after the season, Dennis Allen remained the Raiders Head Coach, providing much-needed continuity in Oakland. Still, judging Reggie on his first two picks of the 2013 Draft, it appears he may have taken a page out of Al Davis’ book of drafting.

Last year I agreed with one of my favorite “draft guru’s” Mike Mayock, in naming DJ Hayden the best cornerback going into the draft. Hayden not only had the physical skill set to develop into a top flight cornerback, but he possessed a willingness to tackle and competitiveness in his gameplay. Check out this play from 2011!

Menelik Watson was another physical stand out, who many experts predicted could sneak into the 1st round. Reggie grabbed him in the second round and Watson was immediately pegged to replace Barnes on the right side. What Watson lacked in experience and football IQ, he more than made up for it with immense physical talent and potential. Watson athleticism coming out of college was his big selling point. A moldable player who projected as a future left tackle in the NFL.

Despite playing on the opposite sides of the ball, and having drastically different body types, there is one thing Hayden and Watson have in common….They were both raw Projects.

Hayden and Watson have potential to be great NFL players, but both coming out of college required time and patience for them to make an impact.

Hayden was coming off a devastating life-threatening injury, missing the end of his senior season. Not to mention making the jump from University of Houston into the NFL. Watson was raw coming out of college. Even if he had started for the Raiders in 2013, the Raiders knew there would be growing pains.

Apr 26, 2013; Alameda, CA, USA; Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Which begs the question….Why would Reggie McKenzie draft two players with his top two picks who would not be impact players in 2013?

Reggie showed he does not mind selecting a player who needs time to develop, and Reggie will pick “his guy” regardless of draft projections. Reports surfaced shortly after the 2013 Draft which indicated Reggie McKenzie and the Raiders were so high on DJ Hayden, that they would have selected him with the #3 pick.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Hayden and Watson and think they have the potential to be great players. But drafting two players who would not provide instant impact in 2013, was either a mistake by first time GM Reggie McKenzie, or a calculated move in a weak 2013 Draft. I’ll let you decide.

In the 1st and 2nd rounds last year, two players I projected to the Raiders were Star Lotulelei and Kyle Long. Obviously hindsight is 20/20, and I am no expert, but wouldn’t these players have had a bigger impact in 2013, than Hayden and Watson???

Long of course was long gone by the Raiders second round pick, indicating how much teams valued him. Still players like Kawan Short, Margus Hunt, Larry Warford and Tyrann Mathieu, players I was really high on were still available.

Once again I am “No” expert, this is just me playing armchair GM. Which I am pretty proficient at, at least on Madden, HaHa…

In the end the decision to select DJ Hayden and Melelik Watson does provide insight into the type of players Reggie covets in the draft.

The consensus according to most draftniks is the Raiders will either reach for quarterback or select the  “Best Player Available” with the #5 pick. The BPA variable includes the obvious choices, Sammy Watkins, Greg Robinson, and Khalil Mack.

But there is a third option….Can Reggie throw a curve ball and draft someone at #5 that no one has on their radar?

In the draft players fall and players rise, no one can predict it. In 2013 Shariff Floyd was all but certain to go to the Raiders at #3, instead teams including the Raiders did their homework and realized the value was not there for Floyd. He ended up dropping in the draft landing with the Vikings at #23.

The Raiders trade down, and the Dolphins surprising select Dion Jordan at #3, despite a huge need at Tackle. Jordan was rated high in the pre-draft rankings, but was still a surprise pick on draft day. Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland was desperate, and reached on a player. Ireland has since been fired.

Will Reggie get desperate at #5? If so, who could that player be? Who could be the pick no one saw coming?

Nov 9, 2013; College Station, TX, USA; Texas A& Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

The first name that comes to my mind is Mike Evans.

If Sammy Watkins is off the board, Evans could make a lot of sense for the Raiders. Matt Schaub had a big target in Houston with Andre Johnson, and adding a safety blanket and red zone threat like Evans could be magic. In most mock drafts I’ve seen Evans as high as #8, but I’ve also seen him as low as #18 to the Jets.

Evans is a perfect candiadate to shake up the draft and be that one prospect who flies up draft boards.  NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah is one person who believes Evans could have a bigger impact than Sammy Watkins in his rookie year.

Another name is HaHa Clinton-Dix out of Alabama. In a close race with Calvin Pryor as the top free safety in the draft, Clinton-Dix would be a welcomed addition to the Raiders secondary. Old Man Charles Woodson played well last year, but a replacement is sorely needed. Clinton-Dix has been rated as high as #10 to Detroit and as low as #24 to Cincinnati. Clinton-Dix is not considered a Top 5 talent, but if players like Watkins, Clowney and Mack are off the board, Clinton-Dix could be the man at #5.

A couple of other names to think about are Justin Gilbert, Kony Ealy, and Aaron Donald. Each of these players are rated either one or two in their position rankings. Gilbert is an athletic freak who needs to improve technique and physicality. Kony Ealy to me is the best DE outside of Clowney, and Donald is a dynamic DT who if is was not for his lack of height would be a top 5 prospect in my opinion. All three have top-ten potential, and could sneak into the top-five, especially if the quarterbacks fall in this years draft.

Whomever the Raiders select with the #5 pick, Raider Nation should prepare for all possible scenarios. Reggie McKenzie will not let outside influences dictate his decision, but hopefully he corrects what I view as a mistake from last year and lands an impact player for 2014…..Hey, if Reggie really wanted to shock the world, he could always draft Johnny Manziel.