Raiders’ draft lands playmaking talent

The Raiders didn’t fare well in 21st century drafts up until they added a number of quality starters in 2013.

2014 was another home-run draft, as the Raiders are being recognized nationally with the best draft of all 32 teams.

While it’s a bit presumptuous to call the class a grand slam, the team has dramatically improved on paper.

And though there’s no telling just how good this class will be, SFBay has given Oakland solid grades.

The team is being graded on these factors:

Filling needs, finding value, identifying upside and conversional talent.

Khalil Mack, OLB/DE, Fifth overall

  • Needs: A+
  • Value: A+
  • Upside: A+
  • Conversional talent: A+

Grade: A+

Anyone who paid any attention to the draft process knows all about Mack. He was considered by several analysts to be the best player in the draft, so for Oakland to land him in the first round is huge.

A bonafide play-maker, Mack’s primary trait is to get to the quarterback — or whoever else has the ball.

With Sio Moore having the best year of any rookie 4-3 OLB, and young Nick Roach also playing top ball, the addition of Mack makes the Raiders front something to be reckoned with.

Derek Carr, QB, 36th overall

  • Need: A
  • Value: A+
  • Conversional Talent: N/A

Grade A+

The Raiders traded for Matt Schaub nearly to months before the draft, but at 33, he’s only got so long before retirement. Oakland hopes that Carr can be the quarterback of the future, and plans to groom him for the immediate future.

Carr was considered by a number of teams to be the second best quarterback in the draft, behind Blake Bortles who was selected third overall, and for the Raiders to get him in the second is incredible.

Gabe Jackson, OG

  • Value: A+
  • Needs: A
  • Upside: A+
  • Conversional Talent: A

Grade: A+

Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie has maintained a certain devotion to the offensive line during his tenure in Oakland. This pick is no different, and Jackson was touted as the top guard in the draft, by several analysts.

The fact that the team brought in Maurice Jones-Drew and a number of other offensive linemen screams that the identity of the 2014 Raiders will be power football — which is exactly what head coach Dennis Allen has wanted.

Justin Ellis, DT

  • Value: A
  • Needs: A
  • Upside: A
  • Conversional Talent: C

Grade: B

Ellis, nicknamed “Jelly,” is a defensive lineman that provides plenty of intrigue. Weight issues have plagued him, though he contends that losing weight is just as easy as putting in on. McKenzie agrees, and says that he’ll be put on a nutritional program.

If he stays with the nutrition program and a professional fitness routine, he’ll quash any concerns. The addition, barring injury, could be the start to a very long NFL career.

Keith McGill, CB

  • Value: A+
  • Needs: A+
  • Upside: A+
  • Conversional Talent: A+

Grade: A+

Oakland brought in McGill to play cornerback, though his size fits the mold of a prototypical free safety. That’s where the upside comes in, six-foot-three, McGill has the speed and transition to play both positions. For the 2014 season, he projects as a backup in either position.

That noted, the Raiders hope that he can be another version on Nnamdi Asomugha.

Travis “TJ” Carrie, CB, 219th overall

  • Value: A+
  • Needs: A+
  • Upside: A+
  • Conversional Talent: A

Grade: A+

Carrie is a player with Bay Area roots, growing up with current Raiders corner-convert Taiwan Jones in Antioch.

Llke the Raiders’ first pick of the 2013 draft DJ Hayden, Carrie comes with heart questions. Carrie underwent open heart surgery in his sophomore year at Ohio and returned to play later on. He also suffered a torn labrum in his shoulder after that.

Clearly, there is amble injury concern. But the Raiders fell in love with his own love for football. That’s been the team’s mantra since McKenzie arrived, they want true football players.

Shelby Harris, DE/DT, 235th overall

  • Value: A+
  • Needs: A+
  • Upside: A
  • Conversional Talent: A

Grade: A

Harris was drafted with Oakland’s second-to-last pick in the seventh round, so he’s the definition of a flier. Passed up by everyone else, Harris has comes with character concerns, though the Raiders spoke with him and believe he’s over that.

Harris been kicked off two different teams, for reasons he wouldn’t disclose to the media, and may also have weight issues. But his upside is there as well.

He’s got incredibly long arms for his height, 6-foot-2 with 34-inch arm length. He’s also shown glimpses of tremendous athleticism, though inconsistency has been his calling card.

McKenzie is giving Harris a chance to succeed, and given the proper mentorship and coaching, he certainly stands a chance. Think Stacy McGee.

Jonathan Dowling, SS/CB, 247th overall

  • Value: A+
  • Needs: A+
  • Upside: A+
  • Conversional Talent: A+

Grade: A+

It seems everyone in the football world agrees, McKenzie hit a homer with this one. A 6-foot-3 strong safety who ran one of the fastest 40 times at the combine at 4.52 seconds.

Rangy and raw, Dowling is a hard hitter that will need to remember to wrap up and take the sure tackle.

He’s really the Willie Brown type of Raiders, he’ll knock the socks off any opponent in front of him and have no remorse. It’s actually something that earned him an ejection and one-game suspension in college. Classified by analysts as a project player, Dowling still provides exactly what the Raiders are drafting for: the future.

The Big Picture

The Raiders hit a home-run in every round. It’s the first time since the draft became televised, that Oakland (or L.A.) has been declared the biggest winner in the draft. Gone are the days that the Raiders fail in multiple rounds and sign the fastest players available. McKenzie is building a team that outmuscles and bullies opponents into submission.

Based on current information, the 2014 Oakland Raiders depth chart looks like this:

 

Oakland Raiders Depth Chart – 2014
Regular Offense
STARTER 2ND 3RD 4TH
WR James Jones Denarius Moore Brice Butler Andre Holmes
TE Mychal Rivera David Ausberry Nick Kasa
LT Donald Penn Menelik Watson
LG Gabe Jackson Kevin Boothe Lamar Mady
C Stefen Wisnewski Gabe Jackson
RG Austin Howard Gabe Jackson Kevin Boothe
RT Menelik Watson Austin Howard Kevin Boothe
WR Rod Streater Denarius Moore Brice Butler Andre Holmes
QB Matt Schaub Derek Carr Matt McGloin
FB Marcel Reece
HB Maurice Jones-Drew Darren McFadden Latavius Murray Marcel Reece
Base 4-3 Defense
STARTER 2ND 3RD 4TH
LDE Lamarr Woodley Jack Crawford Khalil Mack
LDT Stacy McGee Pat Sims Justin Ellis
RDT Antonio Smith Ricky Lumpkin
RDE Justin Tuck Jack Crawford Khalil Mack
WLB Khalil Mack Kevin Burnett Miles Burris
MLB Nick Roach Kaluka Maiava
SLB Sio Moore Kevin Burnett Miles Burris
CB DJ Hayden Carlos Rogers Keith McGill TJ Carrie
SS Tyvon Branch Brandian Ross Jonathan Dowling
FS Charles Woodson Usama Young Jonathan Dowling
CB Tarrell Brown Carlos Rogers Keith McGill TJ Carrie

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