Oakland Raiders: Complete 2014 NFL Draft Wrap-Up and Analysis
The NFL draft weekend has wrapped up and the Oakland Raiders along with the Raider Nation should be very excited about the 2014 Raiders' draft class. Raiders fans have had to deal with too many bad experiences on draft weekend. Rarely are they ever excited about their draft class and then they have to hear how bad their drafting and team is in the media. That's not the case in 2014.
This draft class for the Raiders has a solid mixture of players that can make an immediate impact right away and players that will be a part of their foundation for years to come. The Raiders came into this draft with many short-term and long-term holes on their roster that needed to be filled. It was important for them to be true to their board and always pick the best player available.
When your team has a lot of needs, like the Raiders did, a lot of the players you draft will fill needs anyway. So taking the best player on your board is the only way to go. As you fill your roster and have certain positions set, you can focus more directly on drafting for need later. However, with free agency and injuries it's always a good thing to have some good players buried in your depth chart.
When I looked at the Raiders roster heading into the draft I felt that they needed to find a quarterback and bulk up on both sides of the line of scrimmage. They also needed to add some depth at the secondary position, especially at cornerback. This draft just happened to fall in a way that gave Oakland almost exactly what they needed.
Many felt the Raiders needed a wide receiver, but the draft never fell in a way that allowed the Raiders to take one. I also have confidence in their current group of wide receivers. Rod Streater, James Jones, Denarius Moore and Andre Holmes should have good years for Oakland. Now that the Raiders have added Matt Schaub and Derek Carr as well as improved their offensive line and running game, they should see better production from their receivers.
This is an exciting time for the Raider Nation and the Raiders franchise. Their top two picks from 2013 missed the majority of the offseason and the season last year due to injuries. So in 2014 they'll have two first-rounders and two second-rounders entering their first offseason healthy and ready to contribute. They've also added several veterans that can come in and produce in 2014. This team isn't as bad as some people out there want you to think. Watch out for the Raiders in 2014.
Let's recap the draft and what it means for the team moving forward.
Round 1, Pick 5: Khalil Mack, Outside Linebacker, Buffalo
Round 2, Pick 36: Derek Carr, Quarterback, Fresno State
Round 3, Pick 81: Gabe Jackson, Guard, Mississippi State
Round 4, Pick 107: Justin Ellis, Defensive Tackle, Louisiana Tech
Round 4, Pick 116: Keith McGill, Cornerback, Utah
Round 7, Pick 219: Travis Carrie, Cornerback/Kick Returner, Ohio
Round 7, Pick 235: Shelby Harris, Defensive End, Illinois State
Round 7, Pick 247: Jonathan Dowling, Safety, Western Kentucky
The Raiders passed this draft with flying colors. The biggest issues for the Raiders the last two years, aside from being a talent deficient team with no depth, have been no consistency at quarterback, a poor offensive line and a weak front seven. This draft alone addresses a lot of those key points.
Mack will come in and be a full-time starter right away. Head coach Dennis Allen and defensive coordinator Jason Tarver will use him in multiple ways. Mack was one of the draft's elite pass-rushers and he'll give Oakland's pass rush a boost in 2014.
Carr gives the Raiders a plan at quarterback beyond the 2014 season. Prior to 2014 under Reggie McKenzie, the Raiders have used fourth-, fifth- and sixth-round draft picks to acquire quarterbacks. A second-rounder is the highest pick that McKenzie has used on a quarterback so far.
There was no Andrew Luck in this class. There were several quarterbacks in the class who all had some talent, but needed more development or lacked ideal size. Carr was considered to be the best pure passer in this draft and also comes into a situation where he doesn't have to start right away. He can take 2014 to work on his weaknesses and improve at his craft.
Oakland may have found their starting guard in the third round. The interior of the offensive line for the Raiders has been a mess the last couple of years. Only Stefen Wisniewski has been a bright spot. Jackson is a beast and should find himself in the starting lineup the first week of the season. Jackson and Austin Howard are most likely to be the starting guards for Oakland in 2014.
The fourth round brought two players that will see playing time in 2014 on a rotational basis. Ellis will probably get the second-most snaps out of any defender taken in this class. The Raiders depth is thin at defensive tackle and Ellis has the size, strength and ability to make an impact for the Raiders.
McGill is a big cornerback who will probably find himself playing special teams to start. He may work his way onto the field more later in the season or if there is an injury to one of the starters at cornerback. I love his size and his confidence.
The seventh round brought in some interesting players for the Raiders. Guys like Dowling and Harris had some issues with their college teams. Dowling was kicked off the Florida Gators and Harris was dismissed from his team in 2013. Had they not had issues in college, we could be talking about these guys being taken in the top half of the draft.
McKenzie did well picking these players up and giving them a second chance. If they can put any off-field issues behind them and play football then the Raiders found themselves some talent in the seventh round. Carrie may be the only player that makes an immediate impact from the seventh round. He'll get an opportunity to field kicks and his athletic ability may get him more playing time on special teams.
Best Pick: Derek Carr
Derek Carr was the Raiders' best pick in the 2014 NFL draft for several reasons. Carr was one of the top quarterbacks in this draft. He was one of the best pure passers and he was also one of the most athletic quarterbacks in the 2014 draft class. Oakland addressed one of their top needs and they didn't have to reach or trade away any picks to get him.
Khalil Mack was the obvious pick at number five. He was the best player available on most people's boards and more importantly he was the best player available on the Raiders' draft board. Carr just happened to be the best player available on Oakland's draft board when they were up in the second round. Reggie McKenzie loves his draft picks and he was not going to try and trade up for any player.
The draft happened to fall in a way that allowed Oakland to draft the quarterback of the future. Carr will be a starting quarterback in the NFL. He has a better arm than some current starters in the league. There are just a few things about his game that he needs to work on. Oakland will start Matt Schaub in 2014, so Carr will have time to develop and there won't be any added pressure on him to start right away.
Carr has enough talent to beat Schaub for the starting spot, but McKenzie has stated that he would like to sit a rookie quarterback for a year until they can surround him with weapons. Mack is going to be an All-Pro one day, and I believe Carr will be too.
Worst Pick: Shelby Harris
I don't think the Raiders had any bad picks. If I had to pick one I would choose Shelby Harris only because he didn't play in 2013 so I don't know where he is compared to 2012. In 2012 Harris was a beast as a defensive tackle recording 85 tackles including 16 for loss. If the 2014 version of Harris is better than 2012, then Oakland got themselves a steal with Harris.
I just don't know where he is at right now. When a player is dismissed from a team it is cause for concern. Reggie McKenzie felt comfortable enough giving Harris a chance to play for the Oakland Raiders. Now Harris will have to prove he's up for the challenge.
As I said earlier, I'm only choosing Harris because I had to pick someone. I liked the entire class of 2014.
Undrafted Free Agents
Notre Dame RB George Atkinson III
The versatile Atkinson could make the team as a kick returner. The Oakland Raiders are currently trying to find a replacement for Jacoby Ford, who left via free agency.
Virginia Tech WR D.J. Coles
The Raiders love big receivers and D.J. Coles is exactly that. He is 6'4" and weighs 235 pounds. Many think receiver is a position of need for the Raiders and Coles could be the guy.
Texas WR Mike Davis
Mike Davis, out of Texas, is another receiver who will be competing for a job. He is a long-armed receiver with good speed who had some success playing in a major conference.
Winston-Salem State LB Carlos Fields Jr.
The 6'1", 238-pound Carlos Fields Jr. is big and fast and could use his athleticism to help him find a spot on the team as a linebacker.
San Jose State WR Noel Grigsby
Grigsby is one of the best wide receivers to come out of San Jose State. His reliability and playmaking ability gives him a shot to make the team.
Montana OT Danny Kistler
Kistler is a left tackle out of Montana. He faces an uphill battle as the offensive line is the deepest group on the team.
Utah TE Jake Murphy
The Oakland Raiders currently have three tight ends on their roster. Murphy plays a role that is similar to Mychal Rivera and can make the team if he shows a strong ability to block.
Assumption College TE Scott Simonson
Simonson also has an opportunity to make the team as a tight end if he is a strong run- and pass-blocker. The Raiders currently don't have a proven strong blocking tight end.
Utah FB Karl Williams
The Oakland Raiders currently have Marcel Reece, who is a Pro Bowler, and Jamize Olawale, who is one of Reggie McKenzie's favorite younger players. Williams could find himself on the practice squad or finding more success at another position.
What's Next for the Oakland Raiders
The Oakland Raiders have improved significantly this offseason. They have added veterans that can come in and produce for the immediate future. They have drafted several young players that can develop into solid players.
Not only did the Raiders improve, but they also got bigger and stronger in the trenches. The offensive line may be the most improved unit, along with the quarterback position. The Raiders have added Maurice Jones-Drew and James Jones to the offense along with Matt Schaub.
The Raiders already have some talent on offense with Marcel Reece, Darren McFadden, Rod Streater, Denarius Moore, Mychal Rivera and Andre Holmes. With a rebuilt offensive line, this Raiders offense is much better than last year's.
The Raiders will see a major improvement on the defensive side of the ball. This offseason they got more talented, bigger and stronger along the defensive line. Khalil Mack will add to a defense that is already full of new pass-rushers. Mack will be paired with Sio Moore for several years and they will make a great pass-rushing tandem. Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley and Antonio Smith are three sack-specialists at their respective positions and they are now on the Raiders defense.
After missing the majority of last season, Tyvon Branch will be back healthy to play alongside Charles Woodson. 2013 first-round pick D.J. Hayden will get to play with former 49er cornerbacks Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers. Hayden will also have two new cornerbacks that were just recently drafted.
This is a team that had over $60 million in salary cap room heading into the offseason. Instead of chasing after overpriced free agents, they went and found several capable veterans that are hungry and have something to prove. When you look at the Raiders' draft picks and all of their free-agency moves, you can see this team has improved tremendously in a short period of time.
Their quarterback of the future, Derek Carr, may not start this year, but the team is equipped to win now.