ALAMEDA – Reggie McKenzie didn’t realize it at the time, but he may have been drafting for his job back in May. No one could’ve expected the season’s first-half to mushroom cloud as it has, with the Raiders steamrolling on without a win.
Dennis Allen’s been fired and money dropped on veteran free agents was, generally speaking, poorly spent. That’s two demerits for McKenzie, who is 8-32 since being named Raiders general manager.
While he might be fired at season’s end, his 2014 draft might save his job.
The Raiders mined four starters and a heavy contributor out of eight picks. Look back a year and you’ll see hits, misses and potential remaining.
Let’s break down McKenzie’s picks and how they’ve fared. You can decide if they can be McKenzie’s saving grace.
OLB Khalil Mack, First round, 2014 draft: Mack doesn’t have a sack, but he’s been exceptional most of the season and has been considered the draft’s best player. Mack hasn’t yet reached his full potential, but is already ranked among the NFL’s best linebackers. He has 10 tackles for losses in eight games and 30 quarterback pressures. The kid’s on the road to stardom, flying under the radar because his team has struggled and his sack total is low.
QB Derek Carr, Second round, 2014 draft: The Raiders believe Carr is a quality quarterback in the making. He’s smart, has high character and a cannon arm, the combination you want in a face of the franchise. The Raiders haven’t had a long-term solution under center in over a decade. Carr could be the guy.
LG Gabe Jackson, Third round, 2014 draft: Jackson has proved to be a mauler on the interior, someone they had to get into the starting lineup before opening day. He’s a player you don’t have to worry about, a consistent presence who will continue to get better while piling up starts.
[RELATED: Jackson misses practice with knee injury]
WLB Sio Moore, Third round, 2013 draft: Moore has developed into a solid run defender and cover man since a move from the strong side this offseason to make room for Mack. He’s become a quality performer who the Raiders count on to make big plays and tackle well.
NT Justin Ellis, Fourth round, 2014 draft: Ellis has moved into the starting lineup over veteran Pat Sims with solid knockback on the line of scrimmage. He plays an unheralded position that makes other players better.
CB TJ Carrie, Seventh round, 2014 draft: Carrie gave the Raiders tremendous value in the seventh round. He’s already become a regular player in the secondary and has given the return game a spark by bringing back punts and kickoffs. The Raiders believe he can be a starter for a long time in this league.
TE Mychal Rivera, Sixth round, 2013 draft: Rivera had a slow start to the season, but has really picked up his production over the last two weeks, an encouraging sign for those expecting him to build off a solid rookie year. He’s not much of a run blocker, but Rivera is a quality receiver in the middle of the field.
Untapped potential or draft disappointment?:
DJ Hayden, First round, 2013 draft: Hayden hasn’t been on the field enough to evaluate his progress. The one thing you can say is that he’s injury prone. If he’s hurt all the time, Hayden will be considered a draft bust after being selected No. 12 overall last year. If he shows improvement and stays on the field, his slow start will be long forgotten.
OT Menelik Watson, Second round, 2013 draft: Watson missed most of his rookie season with injury, but has been healthy this season. He’s produced uneven results in a few starts, which came after losing the top job to Khalif Barnes late in the preseason.
DT Stacy McGee, Sixth round, 2013 draft: McGee should be a rotational player, but he’s dropped down the depth chart with Ellis’ emergence. He needs to do better.
RB Latavius Murray, Sixth round, 2013 draft: Fans always ask the Raiders to test Murray’s effectiveness and are always rebuffed. There must be a reason why he’s mired down on the depth chart on the NFL’s worst running game. Is he a bad practice player? Is he technically deficient? It’s uncertain where or if Murray fits into the Raiders’ plans.
WR Brice Butler, Seventh round, 2013 draft: Butler is an explosive player who, like Murray, doesn’t see a lot of snaps. He makes plays when targeted, but that doesn’t happen often.
S Jonathan Dowling, Seventh round, 2014 draft: Dowling is a developmental prospect not ready for steady NFL game action. The Raiders wouldn’t have re-signed Brandian Ross if he were.
CB Keith McGill, Fourth round, 2014 draft: McGill’s been hurt most of the year, but didn’t show much before he got injured.
DE Shelby Harris, Seventh round, 2014 draft: Harris is on the practice squad, left there for Denico Autry when a roster spot came open. That’s not a good sign.
TE Nick Kasa, Sixth round, 2013 draft: Kasa hasn't done much on offense, and will miss the entire 2014 season with a knee injury. They'll give him time to get right next year.
Swings and misses:
QB Tyler Wilson, Fourth round, 2013 draft: McKenzie’s worst pick. He was the highest draft pick cut last season. He bounced around some after spending time on the practice squad and is now out of football.
DE David Bass, Seventh round, 2013 draft: The Raiders cut him in favor of Ryan Robinson. Sometimes seventh round picks don’t pan out.