Hayden's recovery is nothing short of miraculous.
Understand, I don't give grades until after a season is played. It is absolutely pointless to grade picks without any gauge of production or performance. It is also important to have a better understanding of the players with a little film study and idea of how they may be asked to contribute.
Oakland managed to turn seven picks into 10 overall with trades in the first, fourth and sixth rounds. With the huge chasm created by the team's roster turnover, there is a real possibility that multiple starters could have been found in this draft. Whether that speaks to the lack of options on the roster or Reggie McKenzie's drafting remains to be seen.
So from the top, let's start with the first pick.
If there is one thing that I like about this pick, it is that there will be zero doubt about Hayden's desire to play pro football. You all know the story. He almost died after a freak collision in practice while at the University of Houston. An injury that kills 95 percent of those who suffer it did not kill D.J. Hayden. Instead, he recovered, regained his strength and displayed great tools at the NFL combine.
Perhaps the best thing he has going for him on the field is that Hayden plays with great instincts. The Raiders have not drafted a player with these kinds of ball skills since Charles Woodson in 1998. The question is not can he play, because scouts are nearly unanimous in that belief.
No, the real question is how Hayden returns from his near-death experience. The odds of this happening again are so remote it is not even worth mentioning. So the idea that he might die on the field as some have suggested is patently ridiculous. What is important is will his great play in Conference USA and select games against teams like UCLA and Penn State carry over to the NFL?
Personally, I think so. Not as a homer, but because when I watch the film, he reminds me of Terry McDaniel. McDaniel, for those of you who don't remember, was a multiple Pro Bowler for the Raiders who used his speed as a way to bait throws from opposing quarterbacks. He played watching the eyes of the QB, and Hayden has similar instincts.
Quite simply, he does not take bad steps on the field. That is not to say he doesn't give up completions, but that for the most part, Hayden is near the ball in position to make plays. Assuming the mental element of his game will be there, Hayden will push for a starting spot in week one. That's how good I think he is.
The single most intriguing pick of this draft, Menelik Watson is in many ways a new-age NFL selection. Limited to less than a full year at Florida State, Watson shot up draft boards because of his production, despite inexperience, and his natural fluidity and physical ability at the tackle position.
Because he is raw, many immediately made the assumption that Watson was a reach. In actuality, the Raiders got good value for a player seen as a late-first-round to mid-second-round pick. The simple truth is, Watson likely has both the highest ceiling and the lowest floor of all the picks made.
The biggest positives Watson has are his speed (which helps him kick out off the line very fast to help offset speed rushers and also to help on sweeps), screen passes and getting to the second level.
On the downside, Watson has to improve his hand placement. They get wide, and while that doesn't always hurt you in college, in the NFL that could lead to a lot of holding penalties, something the Raiders have long endured with the incumbent right tackle.
If Watson does not beat out Khalif Barnes, I personally think it is not the end of the world. But after Robert Gallery's disappointment, Watson is only truly valuable here if he ultimately ends up playing at the tackle spot.
The pick that earned Reggie McKenzie the most praise was that of UConn linebacker Sio Moore. A confident linebacker, Moore has the ability to cover as well as rush the quarterback. That versatility could help him see the field despite the additions of Nick Roach, Kevin Burnett and Kaluka Maiava in free agency at linebacker.
As pointed out by fellow columnist Vincent Frank, Moore excelled at the combine. What stands out watching him on tape are his great instincts and his ability to tackle. Moore wraps up and gets guys down. He is also natural when playing in space as well as in the scrum of scrimmage.
Moore is projected as a weak-side linebacker in the NFL, which means he would be in competition against Maiava. However, if the Raiders do incorporate more 3-4 schemes, I would expect Moore in situations where he could blitz from the edges as well as inside on the A-gap.
After trading their fourth-round pick (100th) to acquire their fourth sixth-round pick of this draft, the Raiders chose Arkansas QB Tyler Wilson with the 112th overall selection. Wilson's projection varies, but he is consistently seen as the second-best West Coast offense quarterback in this draft behind USC's Matt Barkley.
Wilson's biggest strength is that he has tons of guts. Willing to get leveled to buy himself time for a throw, he is not skittish in the pocket. He is also a heady QB, someone who understood progressions very well while running a fairly intricate passing offense.
The biggest knock, and it is a legitimate one, is that Wilson's arm strength and lack of accuracy went hand in hand. On longer throws, the ball would tend to die, ending up short or behind the receiver. Wilson also has a propensity to be overly aggressive, which can lead to untimely interceptions.
On the whole though, the Raiders got good value at this spot. At the worst, Wilson is the third quarterback and the Raiders won't have to look outside for a more expensive veteran option.
The sixth round saw the selection of Colorado tight end Nick Kasa. Converted from defensive end in 2012, Kasa is raw, but has soft hands and the build to be a productive tight end. This pick helped to fill a real need for the Raiders, as holdovers David Ausberry and Richard Gordon are not likely starter worthy currently.
While Kasa is not as natural a receiver as the converted wide receiver Ausberry, he is a much better blocker. While not as good a blocker as Gordon, he is a much better route-runner and catcher of the football. That said, he may not be the draft pick to start, but I digress.
A pick that has quite a bit of intrigue is Central Florida running back Latavius Murray. At 6'3" and 223 pounds, Murray is built like a cross between Eddie George and former Raiders running back Harvey Williams.
When I watch the tape, I am reminded of a player who was a Raider nemesis in the early 2000s: Denver's Mike Anderson. Murray is a bit more finesse, but he is a north and south runner with surprisingly quick and subtle moves in tight spaces.
Most impressive is Murray's ball control. Over his last 407 carries, he did not commit a single fumble. Combine that with the ability to pick up blitzes in the passing game, his surprising ability in the screen game for a player his size and overall upside, the Raiders have another high-ceiling player at this position.
The Raiders' third pick of the sixth round was receiving tight end Mychal Rivera from the University of Tennessee. The tape displays a player who is comfortable in space and has good ball skills as a receiver.
Rivera is likely not an every-down tight end because of his lack of size relative to the position. He is not the best blocker, but will have the chance to contribute early in specific packages because he can be a matchup advantage for offensive coordinator Greg Olson in space. Definitely a situational type player initially until he is able to get comfortable in the offense.
For me, the only real head-scratching selection of the three days. McGee was not overly productive at the University of Oklahoma, and another late-round defensive tackle prospect in Everett Dawkins was still on the board.
While many others will lament over McGee's off-field issues, my concern is that there was an arguably better prospect at the same position without the baggage. This is where I defer my football knowledge to the player personnel group in Alameda, since they actually get paid to scout and assess these players.
Ultimately, if McGee is going to make the team, it will likely be as a rotational player who may be used to try a pass rush from the inside. The biggest issue is his perceived laziness at times, not his ability. If the Raiders can motivate a guy who admittedly doesn't have much leverage, then this could be a productive pick. I can't see it being much more than that.
With a pick Al Davis would have loved, the Raiders took San Diego State wide receiver Brice Butler. A USC transfer and the son of former Atlanta Falcons cornerback Bobby Butler, the younger Butler turned heads with a 4.37 40 time at his pro day (per NFLDraftScout.com) that would have been third-fastest at the NFL combine.
It will be interesting to see if Butler can stick because there will be competition. But if there is one thing the Raiders have done well recently, it is finding wide receivers late in the draft process (i.e. Denarius Moore, Chaz Schilens, Rod Streater).
The final selection may have been just as intriguing as the first. At pick 233, the Raiders selected Missouri Western defensive end David Bass. Dominant at the Division II level, Bass has great athletic ability and offset his lack of technique by essentially being the biggest fish in a small pond of talent.
Bass could stand to get stronger, as he only had 20 bench press reps at the NFL combine (per NFL.com). His best opportunity will likely be as a situational pass-rusher, which will require improvement in his secondary rush moves.
But for a pick used this late in the draft, a solid overall selection by the Raiders.
Which draft pick was the best in 2013?
So there you have it. Those are the 10 players drafted. Monday, the Raiders also released the 14 undrafted free agents signed to the roster as well (via San Jose Mercury News). The most noteworthy of those players is Connor Vernon, a heady, sure-handed wide receiver out of Duke. I truly believe he will earn a spot on the roster. Watching the Belk Bowl against Cincinnati as well as tape of Vernon, he reminds me of Miami's Brian Hartline.
I'd love to know what everyone is thinking. Did you like the picks? What would you have done differently? The one thing I'd say unequivocally is that Reggie McKenzie's philosophy is uniquely his own. Whether that translates into improvement on the field remains to be seen.