When Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis hired Reggie McKenzie to be general manager, a large part of the reason was because of McKenzie’s philosophy of building through the NFL Draft. But after back to back 4-12 seasons spent fixing salary cap problems, the Raiders find themselves in a position where they cannot afford to build through the draft.
First, let’s take a look back at the first two drafts by general manager Reggie McKenzie. Of the 16 players drafted by McKenzie, one quarter of them are not longer with the team. What’s worse, no one drafted in the first two rounds has had much of an impact at all. While D.J. Hayden made the interception in the end zone to win the San Diego Chargers game, the three players taken in the first two rounds have not really done anything.
Menelik Watson spent most of his rookie season rehabbing injuries even though he showed some ability as an NFL tackle. However, despite the promise he showed, he has also shown he is incredibly raw since he had only played football for a couple of years before being drafted.
And then there is Tony Bergstrom, the first ever draft pick made by Reggie McKenzie. Bergstrom has had absolutely no impact on the team and may actually find himself looking for another team in the next year or two.
Of the players drafted, only two have really impressed, tight end Mychal Rivera and outside linebacker Sio Moore. Both guys looked really good as rookies last season, but neither was a game-changer and both may have limited ceilings. They are definitely good picks and will be contributors for the Raiders for years to come. But neither is anything to get overly excited about.
By the time the Raiders hit NFL free agency with the most cap space of any team in the NFL, McKenzie likely believed he would have less holes to fill than he does. But since very few of his draft picks have panned out, he finds himself in a rather difficult situation. After two years of absolutely terrible football, Mark Davis’ patience is being tested.
It is popularly believed that McKenzie and head coach Dennis Allen are facing a make-or-break season in 2014. Given that fact, McKenzie finds himself in the position where NFL free agency, not the draft, will need to be his saving grace.
Sure, the Raiders could very well get a playmaker or two in the NFL Draft this season. They have a top five pick and an almost full complement of picks. But the Raiders have more holes than draft picks.
When the NFL’s free agency period begins on March 11, the Raiders have to go in knowing they cannot simply fill holes with bargain-basement players while they look for stars in the draft. Regardless of McKenzie’s stance against overspending, his ability to draft, or lack thereof, has put him in the position where he needs to do a large amount of his rebuilding through free agency.