Khalil Mack said atop Reggie McKenzie’s draft board back in 2014. While it probably felt like forever, the Raiders general manager only had to weather four picks before selecting the star edge rusher at No. 5.
McKenzie loved Amari Cooper in 2015, believing his athleticism and demeanor would pair well with quarterback Derek Carr. Cooper only had to survive three selections before McKenzie made him a Raider.
McKenzie shouldn’t hold his breath this year. The Raiders have the 24th pick. He’d pass out.
The Raiders now experience the downside of success, with lower selections than normal throughout the NFL Draft. They earned top 10 draft picks every year from 2004-15, when the Silver and Black became relevant again. McKenzie selected safety Karl Joseph No. 14 overall last year in his original draft slot, but a 12-4 record and a playoff birth pushed them way down in the draft order.
Thursday’s No. 24 pick will be the lowest since 2003, when the Raiders selected Nnamdi Asomugha 31st following a Super Bowl year.
That obviously turned out well. The Raiders need this deep-round pick to follow suit.
McKenzie likes several players in this draft, but there's no telling if they'll be available. NFL teams have a general idea who will make it down the draft board, but an unexpected move could turn the round upside down.
“The one thing that’s been more difficult, you have no idea who’s coming down at 24,” McKenzie said. “When you’re picking No. 4 or No. 5, you can have a clue, a few players that you can pick from. The draft is a funny thing. Players that you don’t think may be at the 24, could be there sitting right in front of your face.”
McKenzie certainly hopes a highly rated prospect falls in his lap, especially if the best available player fills a position of need. Or the cluster would be empty.
The Raiders must be ready for anything, with a draft cluster of players worthy of that particular pick.
“We’re going to study it continuously until that day,” McKenzie said. “Then you never know how trades go. It’s a different thing. But when you’re down that low in comparison to where we have been the last few years, it’s a different approach.”
Draft trades are always a possibility, especially as the round unfolds. The Raiders are in an interesting spot, a slot above the quarterback-hungry Houston Texans. Teams might want to leapfrog them to secure a coveted passer, giving the Raiders leverage in last-second trade talks to move down.
Reggie McKenzie hasn’t moved up in the first three rounds during his Raiders tenure, but this year might be an exception considering his roster is strong save a few important positions. He won’t leap all the way up the draft board, but a small move up is possible.
“I will not hesitate if I have to move up a little bit to get an impact player that we feel is on our board,” McKenzie said. “If we have to move up a little bit, I will not hesitate.”