ALAMEDA -– The Raiders had a short list of players they would draft No. 5 overall. It varied some based upon the trade-down proposal, but there was one absolute exception to the rule.
That was outside linebacker Khalil Mack, the guy they got. Trade offers be damned. They weren’t going to let this talent pass by.
Mack surprisingly fell to the Raiders at No. 5 overall in Thursday’s opening round of the NFL draft. The Raiders snatched him up without hesitation.
“We really wanted to add this guy to our football team,” Raiders head coach Dennis Allen said. “We felt fortunate that he was there at the fifth pick.”
A few thought Mack could go No. 1 overall. Most believed he wouldn’t make it past Jacksonville at No. 3. Then, in a surprise to most, the Jaguars took quarterback Blake Bortles.
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That left Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins and Mack available at No. 4. Then the Bills traded up and took the draft’s top receiver.
At long last, the Raiders finally exhaled. While they had listened to trade propositions earlier in the draft –- general manager Reggie McKenzie said no formal offer was made -– the Raiders stopped answering the phone.
“We got some offers, even before our pick came,” McKenzie said. “But no deal was presented, only interest. But once Khalil fell to us, we had a couple calls, but at that point, I wasn’t taking ’em.”
The Raiders had interest in Watkins and Texas A&M’s Mike Evans. They like some of the offensive tackles, but sources said that stockpiling picks by trading down was a realistic prospect.
Mack was a player the Raiders couldn’t pass up. The Raiders fell in love with a versatile defensive playmaker, an exceptional pass rusher with an ability to fall back in coverage, early in the pre-draft process.
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They enjoyed conversations with Mack at the NFL combine. McKenzie spoke with him at Buffalo’s pro day. His game tape, especially a standout effort against Ohio State, convinced the Raiders he was NFL-ready.
“We were very confident with not only the number of games but also in the league that he played in he was a real player on the field and he showed that,” McKenzie said. “We don’t see anything but upside with him. He’s going to get even better.”
There was concern that Mack showed too well, that he would be long gone before No. 5. The stars aligned, and the Raiders got their man.
“Anytime that you’re anxious and excited about getting a player, you’re always wondering if he’s going come to you,” McKenzie said. “I’m just extremely excited that Khalil Mack is a Raider.”