Reggie McKenzie has run the last six Raiders drafts. The general manager takes input from several, but was ultimately charged with making picks.
Things are different with Jon Gruden back in silver and black. He brings a new, louder voice in the room influencing roster construction.
That brings a different dynamic to the 2018 NFL draft, which starts Thursday evening and continues through Saturday. The Raiders have 11 picks. Gruden will have final say in who gets taken.
Gruden’s 10-year, $100 million contract suggested as much. Raiders owner Mark Davis made that plain in a conversation at the NFL owners meetings, saying that McKenzie’s role will be different moving forward.
“Now he has a head coach who’s going to be running this thing for the next 10 years,” Davis said. “His vision is going to be most important building what type of team we’ve got. That vision, and that direction is going to be helpful to Reggie more so than not. I think they’ll work together very well.”
McKenzie and Gruden’s working relationship has been a topic for months, and both parties have emphasized how well they vibe.
Believe them when they say roster construction is a collaborative effort. Believe them when they say have similar taste in players. Also know that, when/if there’s disagreement, Gruden’s going to have final say.
Gruden has immersed himself in draft prep (among so many other things on his plate), but is also reliant on the work McKenzie and his staff have done scouting this draft class over the last year.
“I’m really proud of the job he’s done, the coaches have done,” Gruden said. “The scouts and coaches have met together and collaborated. We’ll be prepared, and we’ll see how the board falls as Reggie always says.”
McKenzie says the draft board tells him where to go when on the clock. Will that change with Gruden’s influence in the room?
“The board will still be doing the talking,” McKenzie said. “It really will.”
Gruden has had influence on the draft board and the scenarios they’ve mapped leading into this crucial stretch of the NFL calendar. McKenzie has to help find players who fit new schemes. He’s listening to new people in the room, but says the transition has come without conflict.
“It’s going great,” he said. “I've got a feel for Coach Gruden. We like the same type of players. All this coaching staff and scouts, we’re just trying to get on the same page and get it together. That’s what we’re doing.”
McKenzie and Gruden have worked together well despite disparate personalities. The GM’s laid back, always easy going. Gruden’s got energy to spare. They both share a passion for the sport, and understand the importance getting this draft right.
“He’s a bowling ball of butcher knives. (laughter) He’s great,” McKenzie said. “I love the fire, I love the enthusiasm. We can talk football all day and watch film. I mean, it’s been really good. I’m excited to watch him on the grass and get out there and watch practice. It’s fun. That’s what I expected. He’s going to make it fun and not just for his players and coaches but it’s fun being around him and I like that.”