ALAMEDA -– The Raiders pride themselves on employing players of character. They did so throughout free agency and the early portions of the 2014 NFL draft.
General manager Reggie McKenzie broke tradition and started taking some character risks.
The first was Utah cornerback Keith McGill, a fourth-round pick arrested in 2012 on suspicion of DUI and possession of stolen property. Then came seventh-rounder Shelby Harris who was dismissed from Wisconsin in 2009, transferred to Northern Illinois, was dismissed by that program prior to his senior season and hadn’t played a game since 2012. Final seventh round pick was dismissed by Florida before ending up at Western Kentucky.
The Raiders performed due diligence on these players and were confident mistakes would not recur.
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McKenzie explained his reasoning for taking chances with certain players.
“It’s twofold. One, the selection is always a chance for a player to redeem himself,” McKenzie said. “When we get a situation where you give a player an opportunity, a second chance, especially when, as of late, the issues have not been like it was in the past for them."
“The key is how you feel after you converse with the kid and meet with him and talk to all the people that you need to talk and try to get a better feel for that particular player. You come away from it saying, ‘I’m going to give him a chance, or I’m not.’ That’s when you make a decision. That’s why we made the decision on a couple of the guys today.”
McGill said that McKenzie looked him in the eye and believed his vow to follow the straight and narrow path.
Harris did the same with college area scout Trey Scott at his pro day.
“What made me respect the Raiders was that (Scott) talked to me like a man,” Harris said. “After talking a little bit, he said he could tell that I have matured over the years, which I have.
“I want to prove to them that I’m a better person. I’m not what the papers and everyone says I am. I am a good person with a great background and I’m a great team person, and that’s what’s important.”
Character concerns are often a reason why talented players slip in the draft. The Raiders tried to find value in quality athletes who can turn things around off the field. If they can’t cutting a seventh-round pick won’t hurt.
The Raiders invested more in McGill, but he was extremely impressive in meetings with the Raiders and the press.
Actions, however, speak louder than words. Like all new players, McKenzie wants to see them come in work hard, grind their way through the offseason program and show a football-first commitment.
“I just want all of those guys to show the staff, their teammates,” McKenzie said, “that they want to be here for the duration.”