The return of the Raiders reclamation projects

Late Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis was known for his desire to bring in former first round draft picks who had never lived up to expectations. In some cases like with Jim Plunkett and Rich Gannon, it worked out brilliantly for the Silver and Black. Of course, sometimes it didn’t work out and the Raiders simply ended up with some dead weight on the roster.

In many ways, Reggie McKenzie, the man who was chosen to take over football operations for the Raiders when Al Davis passed, is very different than Davis. While Davis was constantly up against the cap, McKenzie stays far away from it. Davis loved free agency and was a wild card in the draft. McKenzie loves the draft and supplements through free agency.

But four years into the Reggie McKenzie experience and we are beginning to see that McKenzie takes after Davis in at least one way: McKenzie loves him some first round busts.

Guys taken in the first round are typically among the better athletes in a draft class. Because of that, Davis and McKenzie like the potential that remains in first round picks. Like Davis, McKenzie knows that if his coaches can develop former first round picks, they can get great talent at a relatively cheap price.

This year, it’s Cordarrelle Patterson and E.J. Manuel, two first round picks who never quite lived up to their draft status.

With Patterson, we heard in depth how the Raiders have plans to develop him into a well rounded wide receiver. With Manual, you know he is being brought in to compete with Connor Cook in the hope that he can regain the form that landed him in the first round.

But these aren’t the first reclamation projects for McKenzie. His two most famous reclamation projects came from just across the Bay with Michael Crabtree and Aldon Smith. Both of these guys failed to live up to expectations with the Niners so the Raiders decided to give them a shot.

In the case of Crabtree, the reclamation was a huge success. While Crabs may not be playing like a high first round pick, he has been a very good number two receiver and has shed the “bust” label. For Smith, the problem was never talent on the field it was problems off of it. Sadly, this was a reclamation project that doesn’t appear it will be successful for the Raiders.

It’s smart by McKenzie to make cheap investments in athletic talent in the hope of developing it into NFL talent. After all, there’s a reason these guys were at one point seen as first round prospects. But the major difference between McKenzie’s reclamation projects and Davis’ is the fact that McKenzie is bringing these guys onto a talented young team who really doesn’t need them. Unlike with Davis where these guys were hoped to be saviors, with McKenzie, they are afterthoughts that we hope can be more than that. But if they aren’t it’s far from the end of the world.

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