Raiders leaders look towards NFL Draft

The Oakland Raiders’ fourth-overall pick of the 2015 NFL draft has been the topic of speculation for months, and now it’s beginning to heat up. Offense or defense? Receiver or offensive line?

Derek Carr needs weapons to throw to. Sio Moore and Khalil Mack could use a little more help.

On the last evening of April, the Raiders will make their pick, and two of the most important players have their opinions, though they won’t be pushing any agendas. Carr said:

“If we don’t take a receiver, that guy is going to know my expectations. I don’t care who it is. I’ll be thankful for anybody that we get, but I’m not sitting there pounding the table, ‘We need a receiver!’ like this, because I love the guys that we have. A lot of those guys have made a lot of plays for me.”

Mack said:

“I know (McKenzie) is cooking up something. I don’t know what it is, he won’t tell anybody.”

Mack trusts McKenzie, and the fourth-year Raiders general manager has done fairly well since getting their draft picks in order; 2014 was the first year the team had a full bounty of picks since before Al Davis died in 2011.

Oakland’s offense was marred by run deficiencies on both sides of the ball that made the team a little more difficult to evaluate. The offensive line needs more help, and man-zero blitzes will come until the Raiders prove they can beat them.

Rex Ryan threw pressure at Carr in his first NFL game, and kept on the gas. The Raiders had no answer.

Oakland General Manager Reggie McKenzie doesn’t have to take a receiver in the first round to be successful. During his time as a personnel executive with the Packers, Green Bay had exceptional success finding playmakers in the second round and later.

Carr, being the player that he is and playing quarterback, has some obvious bias for an offensive lineman to open the run game and keep him on his feet or a receiver to get open downfield. Maybe even a running back, even though the Raiders seem to be fairly well stocked after an offseason with plenty to spend.

Carr said:

“People have asked me, I get the question a lot throughout town, Amari Cooper or Kevin White? My answer is, the best player available. I don’t mind who it is. Again, I want whoever we pick to come in here and help us win Super Bowls.”

The decision is a real one, with draft analysts split on the two players. Cooper has more experience, a larger sample size. White has one year of extreme production, bigger size, and a better 40 yard dash time.

NFL draft expert Mike Mayock is one of the people who has gone back and forth. He called Cooper the safest pick, and then added something more. Mayock likened Cooper to some of the guys with St. Louis in the early 2000’s like Kurt Warner, Tory Holt, Issac Bruce and Marshall Faulk.

The squad was nicknamed “the greatest show on turf.” And Mayock’s praise for Cooper is real.

Mayock was big on linebacker Khalil Mack, who the Raiders drafted with the fifth overall pick in 2014, and became a defensive rookie of the year candidate. He was the best 4-3 linebacker in the NFL last year per Pro Football Focus.

Oakland’s 2014 class may have been the cream of the crop for any team, and was certainly one of the best in franchise history. Their 2013 class has looked pretty good, though no players have stepped into the upper echelon of their respective positions.

Carr said he believes the team is close to being a good one, adding:

“I’ll be fired up to see whoever we get. I’m going to be paying close attention to picks one through seven, and I’m going to welcome all of those guys to our team as soon as they get picked.”


Jason Leskiw is SFBay’s Oakland Raiders beat writer and member of the Professional Football Writers of America. Follow @SFBay and @LeskiwSFBay on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of the Oakland Raiders.