So it’s agreed – the Raiders won Draft Day by picking someone all the punditomaniacs like. And that’s all that anyone can be sure of now.
With the connivance of the Jacksonville Jaguars (who took quarterback Blake Bortles) and Buffalo Bills (who traded up to get wide receiver Sammy Watkins), the Oaklands ended up with one of the players they were unequivocally enraptured with – linebacker Khalil Mack from the University of Buffalo.
And when general manager Reggie McKenzie resisted the impulse to pick up his phone when the Raiders’ turn came, the Raiders got themselves a potential franchise pillar, someone who can play both with a hand in the ground and upright, rush the passer and drop back into coverage.
“We got some offers, even before our pick came,” McKenzie said in his only-dogs-can-hear podium voice of his. “But no deal was presented, only interest. Once Khalil fell to us, we had a couple calls, at that point I wasn’t taking ’em.”
In other words, they got a win (or at least a day’s reprieve from the grim reaper references) when McKenzie and head coach Dennis Allen needed one. And all they needed to do was sit back and let the world come to them for a change.
And maybe with that, they no longer have to be what Mack said they were on his post-selection media conference call:
“I know the Oakland Raiders are nasty, man, they like to play nasty. I’m a football player that likes to . . . yeah, I’m a football player that likes to get in there and be a little nasty but in a good way.”
Yeah, sure. Why not?
Plus, he’s ambitious, as he showed when he was asked for approximately the hundredth time if in fact he was the best player in this draft.
“I think that I am,” he said, “but even then I’m at the point right now where I’m tired of talking and I want to go out and start proving a little bit of this stuff everybody’s been talking about. I can’t wait. I cannot wait."
And what he’d prefer, hitting a quarterback or a running back.
“Does the quarterback have the ball? I want to go get the ball out of his hands; he’s not holding it tight. I’m going to be smart about the situation, but I wouldn’t mind blowing both of them up.”
The key to Oakland’s good fortune was the selection of Bortles by the Jaguars, who was a surprise in the three-slot. Buffalo’s decision to trade up to four was almost irrelevant, because Watkins and Mike Evans, the wide receiver from Texas A&M who went seventh to Tampa Bay, were both players the Raiders prized highly.
In other words, they weren’t forced to trade down, and they were in position to say no to other teams rather than trying to make other teams say yes. This (a) represents a change for the Raiders and (b) represents a positive change, which is even better.
[RELATED: Raiders feel fortunate Mack fell to No. 5]
And that’s as far as it goes, as we all know. The Raiders’ draft will not be defined merely by Mack, because they need to succeed Costco style – in bulk. Days two and three are where McKenzie must deliver the solid doubles to go with the apparent triple that is Mack.
And no, we don’t mean with the kind of scoring the media does, but the kind that gets done on the field. McKenzie and Allen are on short leashes, results-wise, and Mack is the start of what they get to enjoy if they last beyond this year.
“He plays very well on the line of scrimmage. And as far as what I look for in the linebacker is the physicality. He can play strong and he can play with good extension, he uses his hands, and the fact that he’s big and he can run, that just added to his value. He’s a football player and I think he’s the total package.”
And then Allen interrupted. “I think he’s a little bit better than Reggie does.” And he smiled, which is unusual for him. And smiles on an NFL coach are not easy to come by, so an Allen smile is a blue moon sighting.
As for the “nasty” thing, well, that is a work in progress. The Raiders haven’t actually been nasty in a long time, at least not in that we-really-don’t-want-to-play-them kind of way. Mack is one of those players who could change that, but the Raiders will need more of them if the turnaround that saves McKenzie and Allen is to even be considered.
But at least they bought themselves a day, just by letting good luck come to them instead of contorting themselves to grab at bad luck. And since their tenures in Oakland are just one day after another at this point, Mack represents a good day.