Oakland Raiders 2014 Draft: The Good, the Bad and the Baffling
A quarterback of the future and a player who could make a big impact were both needed—in fact, there weren't many positions where the Raiders didn't have a need.
A great draft this year could truly be franchise-altering. Do well, and the Raiders may finally be on the right path. Do poorly, and the Raiders may be facing big changes in 2015.
2014 Draft Selections
Round 1, Pick 5 - Khalil Mack, LB
Round 2, Pick 36 - Derek Carr, QB
Round 3, Pick 81 - Gabe Jackson, OG
Round 4, Pick 107 - Justin Ellis, DT
Round 4, Pick 116 - Keith McGill, CB
Round 7, Pick 219 - Travis (Prefers T.J.) Carrie, CB
Round 7, Pick 235 - Shelby Harris, DE
Round 7, Pick 247 - Jonathan Dowling, SS
Khalil Mack, Linebacker (Round 1, Pick 5)
Coming into Day 1, a player of Mack's caliber was expected to be just out of the Raiders' reach. They got lucky when Mack landed in their laps at No. 5 overall. Mack is just the kind if instant-impact player the Raiders need to turn things around in 2014.
Head coach Dennis Allen will use Mack in the same role he created for Von Miller in 2011 as the defensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos. Mack will be listed as a SAM linebacker, but he'll put his hand in the dirt to rush the quarterback on passing downs. The Raiders could certainly use the extra pass rush in a division with Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers.
One of the great things about Mack is how he helps the whole defense just by the nature of the position he will play. The Raiders can take their worst pass-rusher and cover linebacker off the field on third down, take their worst run defender off the field on first down, and they will instantly have more depth.
Derek Carr, Quarterback (Round 2, Pick 36)
If the Raiders were going to draft a quarterback, he had to be talented enough to develop into a future franchise quarterback. By nature of having top-level talent, that quarterback would also be a hedge on the team's bet on quarterback Matt Schaub.
Carr is the kind of talent that serves both purposes for the Raiders.
The Raiders will be in no rush to make Carr the starter because they believe Schaub can get the job done for a couple years. In that time, the Raiders hope that Carr can develop into a franchise guy.
If Schaub falters, the Raiders can turn to Carr and let him learn on the fly. Carr might as well be getting the first-team reps and learning from his mistakes if Schaub is as bad as he was in 2013.
The Raiders have to feel a bit lucky they were able to get a player like Carr with the 36th overall pick without maneuvering to do so. Carr could be a franchise-altering pick if everything goes according to plan.
Gabe Jackson, Offensive Guard (Round 3, Pick 81)
Oakland spend a lot of resources trying to improve its offensive line this offseason. Donald Penn was brought in to replace Jared Veldheer at left tackle, Austin Howard to replace right guard Mike Brisiel and Kevin Boothe to compete with Khalif Barnes at left guard.
After trading down in the third and picking up an extra fourth-round pick, the Raiders added another player to the mix at left guard in Jackson. Barnes may now compete at tackle, but the Raiders have enough flexibility to put the best five on the field.
The Raiders now have great depth on the offensive line. If one player goes down, the Raiders shouldn't see a decline in production as the team did in 2013.
Jackson was also a superb value in the third round. He started 52 games in the SEC at guard and has prototypical size at 6'3" and 334 pounds.
While the Raiders still needed a wide receiver and a cornerback, it's hard to argue with grabbing Jackson in the middle of the third round.
Justin Ellis, Defensive Tackle (Round 4, Pick 107)
The Raiders re-signed nose tackle Pat Sims to a one-year contract this offseason. It was a move that caught many by surprise, so it makes sense that the Raiders would address the position in the draft.
At 6'1", Ellis is a little short, but at 334 pounds he is a perfect fit to occupy space in the middle of Oakland's defense. Ellis also has upside because he has quick feet, but he'll have to drop some weight.
"He has some short-area quickness; got some foot quickness," said NFL.com analyst Mike Mayock. "I feel like the Raiders have gone 4-for-4 with their draft selections so far."
It's realistic that Ellis could take over as the starter at nose tackle as soon as next season. He may even work his way into the rotation as a rookie to help stop the running attacks the Raiders will face by nature of a schedule that includes the NFC West.
Round 7, Pick 219 - T.J. Carrie, CB (Round 7, Pick 219)
The seventh round is where taking chances on great athletes from small schools can pay off. Carrie played at Ohio University, but he has decent size at 6'0" and 204 pounds. NFL Network Analyst Gil Brandt called him a Day 2 pick after his pro day in March.
Carrie ran a the 40-yard dash in 4.45 seconds and 4.51 seconds per Brandt, plus he had a broad jump of 10'3" and 41" vertical jump. Injuries were a problem for Carrie during his college years, which is why he didn't run at the combine.
There is a chance Carrie could even have an impact as a rookie on special teams. Carrie was first-team All-MAC on special teams as a punt return man. He also worked as a gunner according to his profile on NFL.com.
Oakland's return game was a major weakness in 2013. Carrie was also a team captain.
Round 7, Pick 247 - Jonathan Dowling, SS (Round 7, Pick 247)
Just as was the case with Carrie, Dowling is a good athlete and was worth a pick in the seventh round. He has the proper height to play safety in the NFL at 6'3", but he could bulk up a bit as he weighs in at just 190 pounds.
Like the pick of defensive end Shelby Harris, Dowling has past character concerns. Dowling transferred to Western Kentucky when then head coach Urban Meyer kicked him off the University of Florida football team.
Unlike Harris, Dowling didn't have any known problems after he transferred. The Raiders desperately needed depth at safety, and Dowling will have a chance to push Brandian Ross for a roster spot.
Round 4, Pick 116 - Keith McGill, CB (Round 4, Pick 116)
It's not that McGill was a terrible pick, but he was the worst of the Raiders' picks in the first four rounds. He's a big, athletic cornerback who could also transition to safety, but he'll be 25 during his rookie season.
McGill may be big at 6'3", but he recorded the worst 3-cone drill time at the combine. In other words, McGill lacks the good hip flexibility usually necessary to play cornerback in the NFL.
In some schemes, a player like McGill might be a decent gamble. To spend a fourth-round pick on McGill in a deep draft should mean he has starter upside. He may, but the Raiders are going to have to do some tweaking to their defensive scheme to make it happen.
Round 7, Pick 235 - Shelby Harris, DE
The only baffling pick the Raiders made was former Illinois State defensive end Shelby Harris. The 6'2" 288- pound defensive end didn't even play college football last year after he was kicked off the team. It wasn't Harris' first personal issue.
Harris does have talent, but he is the type of player the Raiders would have been better off pursuing as an undrafted free agent. The worst part about it was that the very next pick was small-school wide receiver Jeff Janis, who went to the Green Bay Packers.
Janis blew up the combine, and general manager Reggie McKenzie's former employer and mentor Ted Thompson was more than happy to scoop him up. Janis has the kind of talent and athleticism worth gambling on in the final round.