Raiders phone lines ‘always open’ on draft trades

Jack Del Rio and Reggie McKenzie weren’t about to give away their big board, but they did discuss one of the bigger parts of the NFL Draft: Trades.

Draft day trades can throw a wrench into one team’s plans, and help another secure the best player available. Like when the Raiders turned the No. 3 overall pick in 2013 into cornerback D.J. Hayden and tackle Menelik Watson.

The player that drafted by Miami at No. 3 —  defensive end Dion Jordan — is quickly earning the bust label, with the Dolphins possibly even sending him elsewhere.

McKenzie verified that he’ll be listening to trade offers leading up to the April 30 draft, and said he is willing to accept one if it’s the right deal:

“My line is always open. … The thing about it with this draft, you never know. Any possibility of trade when the talk is so much on a couple of players, it’s hard to figure that part out. That’s what makes the draft what it is. That’s why everybody is excited and trying to figure it out, because you never know.”

While Jordan hasn’t produced, Hayden hasn’t done much better. Neither has Watson.

The two Raiders, though, are entering a phase — for the first time in their career — where they’re getting a legitimate shot at starting 16 games.

Hayden’s first two seasons included battling against veteran corners, and Watson failed to win a starting right tackle gig, even though his massive 6-foot-7 frame lends to bruising power.

Players like Jordan, Hayden and Watson, all with only two seasons accrued, are not ready for what McKenzie says offers a true evaluation:

“Year one is not the only evaluation. You want those guys to be continuously productive. So looking at guys’ rookie seasons is a good initial evaluation, but you want to see how they continue to be consistent year in and year out. That’s true evaluation. We have a tendency to try to figure out instantly what a player is. I think you’ve got to let these guys have a couple years under their belt to see what they truly are.”

That goes for some success stories in Oakland as well. The Raiders traded out of the 67th pick in 2014, again with Miami, for the 81st and the 116th pick. The swap became guard Gabe Jackson and cornerback Keith McGill.

Both played an important role in 2014, with Oakland’s final win of the season featuring a breakout performance from McGill, and Jackson becoming an instant starter.

But that success could always be short-lived, like that of former 49ers linebacker Chris Borland, who retired just one year into his rookie contract.

Del Rio, from what he saw on film, said Borland played like he loved football, but that his mind was just changed after a certain point.

That’s why the Raiders try to be as thorough as possible. Because even players who love football can shift their priorities around just enough, especially for their health or their family’s.

And if you’re trading up? That could be real trouble. But trades, like the few that have benefited the Raiders recently, can be an important part of the draft. If they happen.

Del Rio explained some of the intricacies:

“Some teams will trade up for a specific player, but will trade back to get into a clump of players. You have to feel good about where you’re landing spot would be if you do go back. There is a lot that goes into the trade element. … Everybody is trying to analyze them. At the end of the day, both sides have to feel good about what they’re acquiring.”

McKenzie has already received some interest in the fourth overall pick, and there could be some shifting around soon, especially if the Raiders like defensive lineman Leonard Williams a lot.

The Titans have the second pick, and are expected to draft whichever quarterback is there between Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston.

The Raiders run the risk of losing Williams all the same if they wait, but the Titans lose nothing by trading back with Oakland since Jacksonville drafted quarterback Blake Bortles third overall in 2014.

It’s a very real possibility, though the Raiders won’t do it unless they’re sold Williams is a game-changer in the long term. McKenzie said:

“If you’re trading up? You have to have a gut feel. If a team feels like that player will help them, you do it. That’s your gut. Whether it happens or not, when you trade, if that guy’s available or not, if you feel like doing the deal, you do the deal. There’s not a question in my mind, if I want to trade up and get a player, I’m doing it for a purpose.”


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.