2014 NFL Re-Draft: Carr 1st Overall, 3 Raiders in Top 16

Drafted in 2014, Derek Carr and Khalil Mack are the young franchise cornerstones of the Oakland RaidersMandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Drafted in 2014, Derek Carr and Khalil Mack are the young franchise cornerstones of the Oakland RaidersMandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

The Oakland Raiders are climbing back into contention thanks in large part to their success in the 2014 NFL Draft, including Derek Carr.

It’s widely accepted that it takes about three years to get a good, accurate picture of a draft class. But revisiting the past, even the recent past, and seeing what teams may have done differently – the old “if I’d only known then what I know now,” game – is always fun.

Bleacher Report featured columnist Kristopher Knox decided to apply that thinking to the 2014 draft and speculate what would happen in his 2014 NFL re-draft. These are always fun, subjective, and the cause of much debate in the comment sections.

From a Raiders perspective, this re-draft is pretty sweet. It shows just how far Reggie McKenzie knocked it out of the park with his first three picks – in this re-draft, Derek Carr, Khalil Mack and Gabe Jackson all go in the first round.

It also shows how one great draft can really alter the course of a franchise.

Carr has had a great start to his young career, and his demeanor, work ethic and growth from year one to year two have him poised to join the ranks of the elite. Before grabbing Brock Osweiler this offseason the Texans struggled for years to find a signal-caller – and Osweiler, with a tiny sample size in NFL games, is no guarantee himself.

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The marriage of Carr to the Texans #1 overall is a match made in Heaven on paper, as long as both had no issues overlooking the disastrous era of Carr’s older brother David in Houston. Winning solves many things, and with Derek Carr at the helm it’s safe to assume the Texans could have won more games over the past two years and be feeling good about their future.

Instead they have floundered at the position, and as such ended up overpaying for an unproven player with little practical experience and a hope that his few moments of excellence were the rule and not the exception.

The biggest debate in the comment section focused on Khalil Mack and whether  he was re-drafted too low. In the re-draft he again falls to the Raiders at pick #5, with Knox having the Bills still taking Sammy Watkins at #4.

That’s nonsense. Watkins has been injured much of his first two years, and hasn’t produced enough when healthy, apart from one or two big games in 2015. Watkins has talent and began showing it last season, but Mack is the first player in NFL history to make the All-Pro team at two separate positions in the same year. It’s not even close at this point.

I can understand the pick of OBJ for the Rams at #2 and the Jags keeping Blake Bortles at #3 – but Watkins over Mack? I guess need was the rationale – it’s the only thing that remotely makes sense.

The other debate raging was whether Mack or Aaron Donald should have went higher, and who is the better defender? That debate is far more sound than whether the Bills should’ve stuck with Watkins over Mack.

The Dallas Cowboys selection of guard Gabe Jackson at pick #16 shows just how much value McKenzie got for the big mauler from Mississippi State. That Jackson has played well enough in his first two seasons to vault from being a 3rd round pick, 81st  overall to the first round of this and many other re-drafts is a testament to his NFL readiness and overall abilities. He is a mauler in the run game and didn’t allow a single sack in 2015.

In fact, Just Blog Baby’s own Pete D. Camarillo rightly named Jackson a franchise cornerstone in this excellent article back in December 2015, and the addition of Kelechi Osemele should only make Jackson and the line as a whole better.

While no other Raiders made it into the first round in the 2014 re-draft, having three players in the top 16 is the major reason the Raiders not only made great improvements last season but are ready to take that next step to perennial playoff contender.

As impressive and important as these three picks were, the Raiders front office wasn’t done stealing players in 2014.

They grabbed Justin “Jelly” Ellis at DT  in the 4th round, who became of paramount importance for depth and production after the retirement of Justin Tuck. Ellis immediately became an important run stopping piece along the front line and has started 23 of 28 games in his career. Not bad for a 4th rounder.

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Also in the 4th round was Keith McGill, who hasn’t really done anything of significance but has been good enough to stay on the roster and provide depth on the back end of the defense, preferably at safety as he’s beaten outside to often.

Without a 5th or 6th round pick, the Raiders had three in the 7th round. They whiffed on one, hit on another and absolutely nailed the third.

Jonathan Dowling is gone and much forgotten. Shelby Harris has been a nice rotational piece along the defensive line, getting a little pressure on the QB from the interior. He has a good motor, and his work ethic is proven by his efforts in moving from the practice squad his rookie season to the active roster in 2015.

The gem of the 7th round, though, is T.J. Carrie, a California kid from small-school Ohio University. Players drafted in the 7th round rarely make the team let alone become starters. Yet Carrie has not only started, but started at both corner and safety, a versatility much needed as the Raiders have struggled with both a dearth of talent and an abundance of injuries on the back end of the defense.

Mack is already one of the best at his position, and Jackson and Carr are on their way. Ellis and Carrie have been consistent starters and performers at multiple positions, and add in contributors McGill and Harris and you have a draft for the ages, and the main reason the Raiders have turned a corner and are looking like perennial playoff contenders.