It’s been a long time coming for the Oakland Raiders, but something has to give…
Since getting beat by Jon Gruden and the Buccaneers in the Super Bowl what feels like a lifetime ago, the Raiders have been the worst team in the NFL. Something needed to change, and after some underwhelming draft classes with Reggie McKenzie as general manager, Oakland needed a really strong offseason to get back into contention as soon as possible.
Oakland was aggressive in free agency, and actually came away with some pretty big-named players. Matt Schaub was acquired via trade, and they also re-signed Darren McFadden and brought Maurice Jones-Drew back to California (where he played college ball) to be their backfield tandem.
The Raiders also signed Kevin Boothe, Donald Penn, and Austin Howard to revamp their offensive line, which was not good a year ago, and similarly made some huge changes on the defensive line by bringing in Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley.
Perhaps Oakland’s biggest move was snatching James Jones away from the Green Bay Packers to be their new top receiver.
Regardless of what anyone thinks of the moves, the Raiders at least brought in a bunch of guys who have ‘been there, done that.’ Whether or not it will translate to wins remains to be seen, but it will be intriguing to say the least. Here’s how Oakland supplemented those moves with their draft picks, and what each player brings to the table.
1. Khalil Mack, DE/LB, Buffalo
Big time athletic pass rusher who was a steal even at the fifth overall pick. Mack is a productive, physical, strong player who will be a DRotY candidate.
2. Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
Possibly the best arm in the draft, Carr reminded me on tape of Jay Cutler a little bit. He has the ability to operate a high tempo offense and make all the throws.
3. Gabe Jackson, OL, Mississippi State
Powerful, nasty offensive lineman who has great size and should compete to start immediately at offensive guard.
4. Justin Ellis, DL, Louisiana Tech
Wide-bodied defensive lineman with good feet who has great initial pop and quickness. He’ll compete to get in the rotation as a rookie.
5. Keith McGill, CB, Utah
Developmental DB with size/speed, McGill is a player who could contribute on special teams right away. Great length for the position.
6. Travis Carrie, CB, Ohio
Another phenomenal athlete at the CB position with size/speed/measurables, and he’s got ‘em in spades. He’ll be a developmental player, but this is a good pick for the later rounds.
7. Shelby Harris, DE, Illinois State
Shorter defensive lineman with long, long arms to give him an edge with taller tackles, Harris is a guy who will compete for a roster spot at the bottom of Oakland’s DL rotation.
8. Jonathan Dowling, S, Western Kentucky
Very intriguing selection in the 7th round and a guy who has all the measurables you look for in a safety and a big hitter who is a former top recruit to Florida. Some character concerns but an interesting pick here.
I think Khalil Mack will be a rookie of the year candidate defensively, but I also think the Raiders might have found two immediate starters in Derek Carr and Gabe Jackson.
Since Matt Schaub is who he is, and Derek Carr is a rookie, I think obviously Schaub will start for the Raiders right away. Carr has a lot of upside, however, and the Raiders will likely want to see what they’ve got there sooner rather than later.
Gabe Jackson is a guy who plays with some nastiness and has an ability to overpower defensive linemen in phone booth situations. I think he can be a day one starter as well depending upon what the Raiders are looking to do up front.