Reggie McKenzie took over the Oakland Raiders general manager job on January 5th, 2012, a little less than three months after Al Davis’ passing. The franchise was a mess and to make matters worse, McKenzie had basically no draft picks in the 2012 draft to fix anything.
The highest pick he had was a late 3rd round pick, due to Hue Jackson trading a first round pick for Carson Palmer and Al trading that year’s second round pick for Richard Seymour. In the third round McKenzie selected guard, Tony Bergstrom, who never really panned out, but after all he was a late 3rd rounder. He followed Bergstrom up with Miles Burris, Jack Crawford, Juron Criner, Christo Bilukidi, and Nathan Stupar, none of which are on the active roster.
In the 2013 draft McKenzie took D.J. Hayden from the University of Houston with his first round pick. D.J. never figured it out with the Raiders, but had a fairly successful season with the Lions in 2017.
With that being said, McKenzie did hit on a few picks in this draft. Latavius Murray, who was a 6th round selection turned out to be a really solid pro for the Raiders and now with the Vikings. Also, depth guys like Brice Butler and Mychal Rivera played pretty well for the Raiders, relative to their expectations. But the Raiders finished with a record of 4-12, and the pressure was starting to mount on McKenzie. He really needed to answer the bell in the 2014 draft, and did he ever.
Khalil Mack, Derek Carr, and Gabe Jackson, and Justin Ellis in rounds 1-4 have all been great players. McKenzie finally gave this organization a solid quarterback and one of the best players in the league with Khalil Mack.
In 2015 McKenzie drafted pro bowl receiver Amari Cooper with the 8th overall pick. Then, he followed him up with Mario Edwards jr. in the second round, who has proven to be a good player when healthy. In the 7th round McKenzie drafted cornerback Dexter McDonald who has performed well for the Raiders, given the expectations people had for him.
That season is where things started to come together. Derek Carr showed all the signs of an elite quarterback and everyone knew that this franchise had been resurrected and it was done through the draft. Sure, free agents like Michael Crabtree, Donald Penn, Reggie Nelson, have certainly helped, but the core foundation of players has been formed through the draft.
In the 2016 draft McKenzie drafted Karl Joseph with his 1st round pick, mainly because of how terrible the secondary was for the Raiders in 2015. Joseph has played well for the Raiders, but a larger sample size is definitely needed. Also selected in that draft was running back, Deandre Washington, who has been a nice scat back for the Raiders. Defensive lineman like Jihad Ward and Shilique Calhoun have yet to figure it out, but they still remain on the roster.
Last year, McKenzie took a risk by selecting cornerback Gareon Conley, who at the time was under investigation for rape, it turned out that no charges were filed against Conley. Conley battled injuries in all of 2017 and only played in a grand total of two games. He caught some people’s eyes with a terrific pass breakup against the Jets. The jury is certainly still out on whether Gareon Conley will be a successful player or not.
In the 2nd round of last year’s draft McKenzie took safety Obi Melifonwu, from UCONN. He, like Conley, suffered from injuries and was put on IR before the regular season began. He played for only six games and then got hurt again, putting him on season-ending IR. Eddie Vanderdoes, the third round pick, showed some promise throughout the year, but he also got hurt, tearing his ACL in the final game of the season. Many, including myself, were puzzled by his decision not to take a linebacker higher than he did. The first linebacker he took was Marquel Lee in the 5th round, who hardly saw the field in 2017.