Grading a draft is more like grading a research paper than a math test.
There is generally no right or wrong answer when it comes to the draft as there would be on a math test. If there was, we should be able to label every draft pick a "reach" or "value."
Even the teams themselves don't know exactly what they have and the "hit" percentage is probably south of 25 percent.
A research paper is graded on the supporting evidence and the strength or weakness of that evidence will determine the grade.
I'll grade on the following three criteria:
– Did the team address a need? (Not to be confused with drafting for need.)
– Does the team have a role for the player?
– Does the player have developmental value in the long term?
The best picks usually support all three criteria.
The Raiders are now stuck with Palmer and were without a first-round pick in 2012.
It's hard to dispute that the Raiders overpaid for Palmer when you consider the value of the picks traded, but that's no reason to discount Palmer as a quarterback.
Assuming Jason Campbell gets hurt and the Raiders don't trade for Carson Palmer, they head into the offseason without a starting quarterback.
Outside of Peyton Manning, the free-agent quarterbacks were substandard.
Had the Raiders kept their pick, the best available quarterback was 28-year-old Brandon Weeden at pick 17.
In hindsight, the Raiders needed a quarterback and they needed one that would not be a project.
What's changed is the role of the quarterback: Palmer will not longer be in the asked to throw a lot of deep balls.
The trade was lopsided, but may have actually been a good thing for the Raiders from the perspective of addressing the position and giving the team a chance to contend for the playoffs.
The Raiders traded their second-round selection in exchange for picks in the 2011 draft. With those picks, the Raiders drafted Taiwan Jones and Joseph Barksdale.
Both players were reserves in 2011 and only Barksdale has the opportunity to start in 2012.
Typically, the team would like to get a little more out of a second-round pick.
Despite the current status of each player, the Raiders got exactly what they expected from both players.
Both players are a work in progress.
The Raiders needed a long-term plan at quarterback and gave up a third-round pick to select Pryor in the 2011 supplemental draft.
At the time the move was made, it made good sense. Campbell was headed into the final year of his deal and there was no Carson Palmer or other developmental quarterback on the roster.
Pryor has some work to do as a quarterback, but will enter his first training camp and has a lot of potential upside.
If Pryor can't play quarterback, he might also have an opportunity at tight end down the line.
The Raiders needed a backup quarterback to develop and Pryor comes with upside and flexibility for a reasonable cost.
It was assumed the Raiders would make the offensive line a secondary or tertiary focus in the draft because they re-signed Khalif Barnes and Cooper Carlisle.
That turned out not to be the case when McKenzie's first actual draft selection was Utah offensive lineman Tony Bergstrom.
The Raider Nation has been clamoring for a Carlisle replacement for years and finally got it when Mike Brisiel was signed. Carlisle was then released only to re-sign days later to play left guard.
Carlisle will now have to compete for the starting job with Bergstrom and the rookie could have the inside track.
The reviews of Carlisle's play have not been favorable over the last few years and the Raiders are switching back to the zone-blocking scheme that relies heavily on the guards.
Given the team's lack of depth on the offensive line and the new scheme, it only made sense to draft a guard that can potentially start and can also back up several positions.
Bergstrom is experienced in the zone scheme and does a good job pulling and getting to the second level, which are both necessities of the zone-blocking scheme.
It isn't a sexy pick and Bergstrom might never be dominant, but he should beat out Carlisle and become a solid member of an up-and-coming young offensive line in Oakland.
McKenzie had to make the wise decision and release Kamerion Wimbley, but that left the team without much of an outside pass rush. Additionally, the Raiders lack depth at the linebacker position and needed to add a player or two.
Enter Miles Burris and his 78 tackles, eight sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss in 2011 at San Diego State.
Burris can play inside or outside linebacker and has a nose for the football. He's athletic and strong with a relentless motor.
In addition to immediately becoming a pass-rush specialist, Burris will thrive on special teams.
Burris wasn't asked to drop into coverage in college; to become an every-down linebacker, he will need to develop in that area. Burris will also need to develop his pass-rushing arsenal, as he relied mostly on his speed and the bull rush in college.
Exactly the type of player the Raiders needed as a depth linebacker.
The Raiders traded back 10 spots in the fifth round and selected Penn State defensive end Jack Crawford.
This was the first of several surprises of McKenzie's first draft. Crawford is a size prospect at defensive end that is raw and needs some coaching to maximize his ability.
Crawford doesn't fill any immediate role on the team and was the first pick that indicated McKenzie was drafting the best player available.
If Crawford develops down the line, this pick will be worth it, but in the short-term the pick doesn't help.
The Raiders rotation of ends will make it difficult for Crawford to see action unless there are a couple injuries.
Overall, McKenzie drafted Crawford for what he might eventually become. Not every pick has to have a role and it is certainly necessary to take a chance on a player that could eventually become a starter.
The Raiders have a nice group of young receivers and will add Arizona receiver Juron Criner to the mix.
While the Raiders didn't need a receiver, they were missing a taller receiver with good hands to move the chains and become a weapon in the red zone.
Criner lacks elite speed, but plays faster during games. Scouting reports say he is a good route runner and also a good blocker.
Criner's "undisclosed" medical condition could be a concern, but it didn't seem to impact his production in college.
Some draftniks have compared Criner to New Orleans Saints receiver Marques Colston.
Seems like a good candidate to contribute early and could also develop into something more than a sub-package receiver.
The Raiders needed a defensive tackle to help stop the run and instead drafted a developmental tackle that projects more as a pass-rusher than a run-stopper.
Bilukidi, like Jack Crawford, started football late and has trouble with his pad level.
The sixth and seventh rounds are where the team will take more of a chance on a player because they aren't expected to become starters, but it seems odd to take the chance on a tackle when the Raiders have a good rotation at the position.
This pick could be McKenzie looking into a future without Tommy Kelly or Richard Seymour and hoping he can find a player that the coaching staff can develop and groom for a future role.
Too much unknown with Bilukidi and no defined role. The Raiders need isn't imminent.
Nate Stupar is a sneaky athlete that didn't start for Penn State until his senior year. He's a high-motor player that has adequate size for the position.
Stupar, although a seventh-round pick, will be an excellent depth linebacker that should spend most of his time playing special teams.
Stupar has a chance to continue to develop and could eventually push for playing time.
He is the nephew of ex-Raider quarterback Jeff Hostetler.
The Raiders needed depth at the linebacker position and Stupar is a good find to fill the need.
Aaron Curry is a starter for the Raiders and they got him from the Seahawks for a seventh-round draft pick in 2012 and conditional pick in 2013.
Curry immediately helped the Raiders defense and should continue to produce in 2012.
The Raiders casually picked up a extra seventh-round pick by trading down in the fifth round, making Curry basically free to this point.
Curry has been a very nice return on a very small investment that should continue to pay dividends for the Raiders.
McKenzie and the scouting department did a good job finding pieces that fit team needs. There were a few head-scratchers, but likely only because we knew so little about the prospects.
Not every pick was for a specific need, indicating McKenzie kept his word and stayed true to his board by selecting the best player available.
McKenzie was a handicapped by his number of picks, but was able to add several role players and developmental prospects.
For what he had to work with, McKenzie did well and will benefit from having five of the six players that cost the team draft picks in 2012.