With just a bit of luck, the Oakland Raiders were able to win big in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft on Thursday Night. Jadeveon Clowney, Greg Robinson, and Sammy Watkins went in three of the first four picks, and the Jaguars made Blake Bortles the surprise early QB of the draft. With Jacksonville deciding a signal caller was a greater need, and Atlanta unwilling to trade up, that left the Raiders in a position to grab a guy with first overall pick talent, linebacker Khalil Mack of the University of Buffalo.
For months, Mack has been a top option for the Raiders because of his versatile, talented skillset. With Clowney gone, he made the most sense since the team did not need a receiver or offensive tackle that high. Their only threat to Mack was Jacksonville or Atlanta scooping him before hand. The team would have probably gone with Mike Evans if Mack was gone, if a trade down could not be worked out, but luckily neither of those became necessary.
Fans will remember last season when the Raiders held the third overall pick and passed on players like Dion Jordan, Lane Johnson, Chance Warmack, Sheldon Richardson, and Kenny Vacarro, instead opting to trade back to the 12th pick and stockpile picks. This year, Reggie McKenzie stood pat, knowing he could land a difference making defensive player who will add so much talent to the team.
NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock, who said numerous times he would take Mack first overall, said that Mack can be an All-Pro addition to the Raiders, who haven’t had an All-Pro offensive or defensive player since Nnamdi Asomugha in 2010.
Allen and McKenzie said in their draft press conference that Mack was the exact player they wanted when the opportunity came, as well as the type of impact Mack can have from Day 1.
“He can do everything that we’re going to ask him to do. So, we’re excited about the versatility. He is a three-down player. He is going to be able to do a lot of the things that we’re going to ask him to do and have a huge impact on helping this defense and getting this defense where this defense needs to be,” said head coach Dennis Allen.
Allen sees many similarities between Mack and Von Miller, whom Allen coached in Denver. Mack can play strongside linebacker on base downs, where his run defense instincts and pass coverage will be a nightmare for offenses. In subpackages, Mack can put his hand in the dirt and wreck havoc similar to how he treated the offensive tackles of Ohio State in the 2013 season opener.
Mack also brings in questions the type of defense the Raiders will run. Although he can easily flourish in a Von-Miller role in a 4-3, with the other talent they brought in this offseason, the Raiders might be transitioning to a 3-4 with Mack and Lamarr Woodley as bookend rush linebackers.
Either way, Mack is a great signing for the Raiders, and possibly the best pick made by Reggie McKenzie so far.