Oakland Raiders: Revisiting Reggie McKenzie’s laughable NFL Draft history

Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images
Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images /
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Oakland Raiders
Photo by James Chance/Getty Images /

2018 – Kolton Miller, P.J. Hall, Brandon Parker, Arden Key, Nick Nelson, Maurice Hurst, Johnny Townsend, Azeem Victor, Marcell Ateman

And enter Jon Gruden. We’ll never know exactly how much input McKenzie actually had into this year’s draft class, but the smart money is saying little to none. This seems like a Gruden class, top to bottom.

And you know what? While he may not have knocked it out of the park, he did put together a class that could turn out to be the best one Oakland has had in years.

Though Miller and Parker have both had their ups and downs this season, both have flashed an ability to be solid tackles. Particularly Miller. With one of the best interior lines in the game, a left tackle who could develop into a capable replacement for Donald Penn and a right tackle who could develop and shore up a position that’s been a glaring weakness on the line for years, it might become hard to argue with both picks.

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Hall and Key clearly need more development, but both have flashed some ability and appear to possess high upside. Ditto that with Nelson, who could be a mainstay in the slot for years to come.

Hurst has not only been one of the best rookies in Oakland’s draft class, but one of the best rookies in all of football and has the upside to be one of the most dominant defensive linemen in the game. Ateman needs some work and polish, but he’s looking like he has the potential to be a solid, reliable target for Carr to utilize – especially in the red zone.

Through 14 games, Gruden has already gotten more out of his rookie class than McKenzie got out of most all of his classes after 2014. The guys Gruden took in 2018 could be the foundation for this team’s sustained success.

And if he can replicate that feat with the abundance of draft picks in the coming years, the Raiders could well be on the path to not being just relevant, but potentially dominant for years to come.

Now, let’s not get it twisted here. This is not to diminish or denigrate McKenzie’s contributions to the team. Far from it. McKenzie deserves applause, love, and credit for a lot of the good things he did as the GM for the team. He took a moribund franchise with no direction and more problems than answers and guided them back onto the right path. And for that, the Raider Nation owes him a big debt of thanks.

This is simply meant to serve as a reality check to those who’ve become so disillusioned with Gruden, that they’ve elevated McKenzie to the role of a saint and savior who got a raw deal.

He didn’t.

He was given very nearly seven years to stock the Raiders roster with talent to keep them competitive and he failed. The number of holes on Oakland’s roster were legion and there were talent deficiencies everywhere.

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With what looks like one solid draft in the books, now Gruden must build upon that and plug some of the holes this roster is replete with. And, with a ton of draft capital to use, the hope is that he can do just that and (re)build a winner.