The Oakland Raiders have seemingly been stuck in a constant state of rebuilding for over a decade now. The franchise made moves in free agency that may have raised some eyebrows, but saved its best work for the 2014 NFL Draft. Last week, general manager Reggie McKenzie, coach Dennis Allen and the team's personnel department made great use of their picks, bringing in one of the draft's more talented crops of prospects. The Raiders hope that this can be the draft class that helps spark a proud franchise back on the right path to finding a return to the glory days. Here's a look at Oakland's picks and how we graded them: The future: LB Khalil Mack
1st Round - Khalil Mack
The absolute right choice at number 5 for the Raiders. Some thought Mack, the 2013 MAC defensive player of the year, was talented and worthy enough to go first overall to the Houston Texans. Owner of an NCAA record 16 forced fumbles and 75 career tackles for loss during is time at Buffalo, Mack is armed with elite athleticism and a skill set that should see him contribute instantly to a Raider defense that looks to improve against the pass in 2014. Mack's arsenal of unique pass rush moves along with his natural skill and toughness should assist in that regard. In Mack, the raiders have a player they can mold their defense around for years to come.
2nd Round - Derek Carr
The Raiders kept it local with their 2nd rounder, taking Fresno state's Derek Carr. The two-time Mountain West offensive player of the year has a great arm and good athleticism for the position. He may not be ready to play from the get-go, and should spend most of his rookie campaign learning the ropes behind Matt Schaub and competing with Matt McGloin for backup duties. The Raiders hope Carr can be their Quarterback of the future, and in order to give him a fair chance at succeeding, spending a year focusing on developing his skills and pocket awareness should be beneficial. Preseason will give Carr a chance to see where he stands at this level of competition, but his long-term outlook looks good if he can shore up some mechanical issues when throwing under duress.
3rd Round - Gabe Jackson
Another excellent pick by Oakland. Jackson is a potential plug-and-play option right out the gate for the Raiders. Oakland finished 2013 with exactly 2,000 total yards on the ground as a team, good enough to finish in the top half of the league. They will look to run the ball at an even more efficient rate in 2014 in order to take pressure off of Schaub and their defense. Jackson, a first-team All-SEC selection in 2013, is a load up front and also brings upside as a plus pass protector. Jackson started over 50 games at Mississippi State for a balanced offense, and is one of the more game-ready offensive line prospects coming out of college.
4th Round - Justin Elis
The former Louisiana Tech nose tackle figures to help plug the middle against the run for the Raiders' defense. Ellis is a bundle at 6-1 334, havng dropped nearly 20 pounds from his college playing weight in order to maximize his athleticism and conditioning ahead of the combine, which displays a quality work ethic. A three-year starter at LA Tech, Ellis will have a chance to develop into an early down run-stuffer for Oakland. A good value pick for this stage.
4th Round - Keith McGill
The former Utah corner was one of our favorite DB prospects in this draft. Possessing terrific size at 6-3 211, McGill fits the mold of the new-era tall, ball-hawking outside playmaker that teams are in search of to man the corners. He played both Safety and corner at Utah, but projects best as a fit in a press cover scheme, which should suit him and Oakland well. McGill is already 25, but has the tools to develop into a potential starter for Oakland over the next couple of seasons. Raiders coach Dennis Allen, who has a strong background of coaching up young DBs, will enjoy working with the talented McGill.
Rounding Out The Grades...
7th Round - Travis Carrie (CB-Ohio) A versatile player who has had to overcome some injuries. Should compete for a role on special teams. B
7th Round- Shelby Harris (DE-Illinois St.) Started his career at Wisconsin, will have a chance to help fill in the void left by Lamarr Houston. B-
7th Round- Jonathan Dowling (SS-Western Kentucky) One of the better picks in the draft's final round, great athlete with terrific size (6-3 190) who should have a shot to make the final roster. B+
The Raiders also did well in the undrafted free agent market, bringing in players such as Notre Dame RB George Atkinson III, Texas WR Mike Davis, and Virginia Tech WR DJ Coles. All three players are talented enough to have a realistic shot at challenging for a roster spot.
Overall Grade A-
A very successful haul for McKenzie and the Raiders. The next step is cultivating the talent over the summer and hoping to see it integrate with the veterans on the team to come together as a unit and contend for more wins in 2014. The Oakland Raiders won just 4 games last season, and if they are to improve that margin by 3-5 wins and challenge for a potential wildcard spot, this group of draftees must stand up and deliver. The talent is surely there.