Getting into the nuances of draft strategy for the Raiders

Best player available! Draft for needs! Compile picks! Trade up for elite talent!

When it comes to the NFL Draft, there are a lot of different strategies used by the various general managers in the league. And when it comes to the Oakland Raiders, we are still trying to figure out exactly what Reggie McKenzie’s draft tendencies are.

So let’s take a look at some of what we’ve seen since the big man took over.


Early on it was a trade back bonanza with McKenzie stock piling picks like a mad man. But looking back, that may have been more about circumstance than it was about McKenzie being the type who prefers to trade back frequently. In his first draft as the general manager of the Raiders, he didn’t have a first or second round pick. Without those picks, it’s hard to do a whole lot. In his second year, the draft class was seen as one of the weakest classes to hit the NFL in years so taking a lot of players made it more likely that you’d hit on some of them.

Plus, it’s worth noting that when McKenzie took over the Raiders, the roster was in such bad condition that you could see why one would just want to add as much new talent as possible. Plus, McKenzie threw a huge monkey wrench in this idea when he actually traded up to grab Connor Cook last year.


Speaking of Connor Cook, it was a shocker for Raiders fans when they took Cook despite the franchise already having a clear starter in Derek Carr. No, a fourth round pick isn’t a high price to pay, but it’s still pretty high considering you already know who your starter is and there is no question about it.

But it makes more sense when you consider McKenzie comes from Green Bay. Much like the New England Patiorts, the Packers have been able to take backup quarterbacks and turn them into valuable draft picks through trades. Hell, one of the biggest discussion topics this offseason has been whether or not the Patriots will trade Jimmy Garoppalo.

Whether Cook was just seen as an upgrade at the backup position or if McKenzie had bigger plans in mind, it’s clear he values the quarterback enough to invest picks in the position even when he has a young stud for a starter.


Many like to talk about the fact that McKenzie doesn’t like guys with character issues. But while that is true early in the draft, he has shown the willingness to ignore that issue later in the draft. He’s taken guys with at least perceived character a number of times late in the draft. Stacy McGee, Jonathan Dowling, Andre DeBose and Shelby Harris are all guys who had red flags as far as character concerns go and were taken by the Raiders in the sixth round or later.


The Oakland Raiders have brought in three different running backs as rookies during McKenzie’s tenure and all three came in the fifth round or later. DeAndre Washington in the fifth, Latavius Murray in he sixth and Jalen Richard as an undrafted free agent.


In back to back drafts, McKenzie used his second round pick to take a defensive lineman with huge upside when it came to athleticism and size but who lacked experience and production in college. One of those guys, Mario Edwards, Jr., looks like an absolute stud who can be a game changer if healthy. The other, Jihad Ward, looks like a project who has a lot of work and a long way to go before he lives up to what one expects from a second round pick.


We’ve watched Reggie McKenzie draft players for a few years now and yet we still can’t tell for sure what all of his tendencies are. Why? Because in that time period, we’ve seen a Raiders team that has gone from one of the worst rosters to one of the most talented young rosters in the league. Such dramatic changes of circumstance can often impact draft strategy. The way McKenzie drafted back when the roster had no one on it could be dramatically different than how he will draft moving forward. Only time will tell exactly what kind of drafted McKenzie is but for now, this is a pretty good list.

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