As the Oakland Raiders prepare for the 2013 NFL Draft, no person will be more scrutinized and under the microscope than Reggie McKenzie. The former Raiders linebacker now turned General Manager, has the tough task of evaluating this year’s draft class. In McKenzie’s first year as the general manager, McKenzie took on a new approach to drafting players, rather than the “workout warrior” philosophy the late Al Davis loved.
McKenzie’s philosophy was to draft the best player available, a principle he developed under Ron Wolf. Now entering his second season, many people are eager to hit the panic button, should McKenzie’s draft choices not pan out. So the question I ask, is whether or not McKenzie should be on the hot seat after his second season. And if it was up to me, I would say absolutely not!
First of all, the Raiders team was in shambles when McKenzie took over the franchise. There is no quick fix to their problems and definitely will not be solved overnight. The role of the general manager to succeed in the NFL is a three to five year process and McKenzie should be given at least three years in order to prove his worth. After inheriting huge contracts already given to Tommy Kelly, Carson Palmer, Rolando McClain, and Michael Huff, McKenzie will need to see if those players are still worth those deals. In addition, determining which players McKenzie keeps or releases will be a great indicator of whether or not he is a good talent evaluator.
Also, McKenzie and his college scouting department will need to determine what they want to do with the third overall selection in this year’s draft. Do they target offensive tackle, defensive line, or linebacker? Those are all questions that will stir debate on whether McKenzie can get the job done. Does he know his players, which free-agents to target, and how they fit the scheme? We all can speculate on who the Raiders may or may not select, but understanding other factors such as free-agency or scheme specific players, will determine if he has what it takes to bring the Raider Nation back to the promise land.
So far, I believe McKenzie has done a decent job up to this point. He drafted linebacker Miles Burris out of San Diego State University, a great find in the fourth-round. He took a chance on wide receiver Juron Criner in the fifth-round, who I liked coming out of Arizona and picked up a solid free-agent in outside linebacker Phillip Wheeler. They may not be popular moves but they were in fact the right moves.
As McKenzie prepares for his second go around with the team, it will be interesting to see how the Raider Nation treats him after this year’s draft. The public perception is that the draft is what makes or breaks a franchise, and although that may not be true, McKenzie will have to deal with the consequences from the Raider Nation, should he fall short with the third overall selection.