Raiders

McKenzie: Raiders will take 'different approach' drafting No. 24 overall

McKenzie: Raiders will take 'different approach' drafting No. 24 overall

Khalil Mack said atop Reggie McKenzie’s draft board back in 2014. While it probably felt like forever, the Raiders general manager only had to weather four picks before selecting the star edge rusher at No. 5.

McKenzie loved Amari Cooper in 2015, believing his athleticism and demeanor would pair well with quarterback Derek Carr. Cooper only had to survive three selections before McKenzie made him a Raider.

McKenzie shouldn’t hold his breath this year. The Raiders have the 24th pick. He’d pass out.

The Raiders now experience the downside of success, with lower selections than normal throughout the NFL Draft. They earned top 10 draft picks every year from 2004-15, when the Silver and Black became relevant again. McKenzie selected safety Karl Joseph No. 14 overall last year in his original draft slot, but a 12-4 record and a playoff birth pushed them way down in the draft order.

Thursday’s No. 24 pick will be the lowest since 2003, when the Raiders selected Nnamdi Asomugha 31st following a Super Bowl year.

That obviously turned out well. The Raiders need this deep-round pick to follow suit.

McKenzie likes several players in this draft, but there's no telling if they'll be available. NFL teams have a general idea who will make it down the draft board, but an unexpected move could turn the round upside down.

“The one thing that’s been more difficult, you have no idea who’s coming down at 24,” McKenzie said. “When you’re picking No. 4 or No. 5, you can have a clue, a few players that you can pick from. The draft is a funny thing. Players that you don’t think may be at the 24, could be there sitting right in front of your face.”

McKenzie certainly hopes a highly rated prospect falls in his lap, especially if the best available player fills a position of need. Or the cluster would be empty.

The Raiders must be ready for anything, with a draft cluster of players worthy of that particular pick.

“We’re going to study it continuously until that day,” McKenzie said. “Then you never know how trades go. It’s a different thing. But when you’re down that low in comparison to where we have been the last few years, it’s a different approach.”

Draft trades are always a possibility, especially as the round unfolds. The Raiders are in an interesting spot, a slot above the quarterback-hungry Houston Texans. Teams might want to leapfrog them to secure a coveted passer, giving the Raiders leverage in last-second trade talks to move down.

Reggie McKenzie hasn’t moved up in the first three rounds during his Raiders tenure, but this year might be an exception considering his roster is strong save a few important positions. He won’t leap all the way up the draft board, but a small move up is possible.

“I will not hesitate if I have to move up a little bit to get an impact player that we feel is on our board,” McKenzie said. “If we have to move up a little bit, I will not hesitate.”

Raiders, Jon Gruden coaching staff: Senior Bowl 'great tool' for team

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Raiders, Jon Gruden coaching staff: Senior Bowl 'great tool' for team

MOBILE, Ala. – The Senior Bowl has NFL coaching staffs run the annual college All-Star Game and NFL draft showcase. They’re typically offered to the worst team from each conference with a returning coach, and the Raiders fit that bill.

The invite wasn’t accepting begrudgingly, out of obligation. Head coach Jon Gruden jumped at the opportunity. The Raiders wanted to do it.

The Silver and Black coaching staff will lead the North squad during the practice week and in Saturday’s game at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.

“We are really excited,” Gruden said. “It will be the fourth time that I have done it. We have to do a good job in this draft and the best way to do it is to be as close as possible to the players."

The experience allows Raiders coaches to get their hands on invited prospects and see how they meet, absorb information and perform in practice against top competition looking to boost draft stock.

It will be a valuable evaluation tool heading into a pivotal NFL draft, one that could energize Gruden’s return to the Raiders.

While there isn’t a player here expected to be a Raiders target at No. 4 overall – Kentucky edge rusher Josh Allen would’ve been the only one and he backed out of a commitment to play – there’s quality at several positions of need that could be options when the Raiders select early at Nos. 24, 27 and 35 overall and further down the NFL draft.

The Raiders will get to know these Senior Bowl players as well or better than any prospects in the NFL draft. Most teams get to meet with these guys and watch them practice. The Raiders will get to work with the North squad, with the 49ers running the South.

“When you get to the Senior Bowl and you get the access to these kids and the opportunity to see both teams practice, how they practice, how they retain information, how they process information, both on an install basis and mechanics on the field,” general manager Mike Mayock said. “I think it’s just a huge advantage.”

A unique week’s interaction will draw the Raiders to certain players. It will also push them away from others.

“If we can eliminate two or three players by coaching the Senior Bowl,” Gruden said, “sometimes that is just as important as finding two or three guys that you really want.”

The importance of the Raiders’ three 2019 first-round picks can’t be oversold. They will be vital in this roster rebuild, and nailing two or all three could expedite an often painful reconstruction process.

Gruden hopes it helps find prospects and sell the coaching staff to college free agents and anyone watching this week’s work.

“We have three picks in the first round,” We also pick in every other round and we also have the potential to add players after the draft. It will give our coaches, I think, a chance to go to Mobile in front of the entire NFL and show what kind of coaching staff we have - show the energy and enthusiasm that we have as a staff. We are going to sell ourselves to the players.”

[RELATED: Raiders should be watching safeties at Senior Bowl]

The Raiders are happy to interrupt the offseason for this experience, which Gruden has done three times before. He led a Senior Bowl squad twice while with Tampa Bay and once in his previous stint in Oakland, back in 1999.

“The last time I coached the Senior Bowl as the head coach of the Raiders, we drafted Eric Barton and Rod Coleman,” Gruden said. “It was a great tool for us, in Tampa and in Oakland.”

Raiders playing Bears in London means no return of the (Khalil) Mack

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Raiders playing Bears in London means no return of the (Khalil) Mack

MOBILE, Ala. – The Raiders have been shipping home games abroad for years now.

The football people don’t love it. Jon Gruden’s a homebody, and prefers to stay put whenever possible. Jack Del Rio didn’t like it, either. Adding another travel date to the schedule makes a season harder. There’s no arguing that.

It is unofficially part of the team’s relocation efforts, conceding to play an extra game away from the East Bay and wherever the Raiders eventually call home in 2019.

This will mark the fourth straight season the Raiders have hosted an international game, and the fifth time in the last six years.

They’ll be going to London this time. The opponent was no surprise.

The Raiders will play the Chicago Bears in London, the NFL announced Monday morning. The exact date and venue will be announced when the schedule’s released this spring.

Playing the Bears far away from home prevents the return of Khalil Mack. Gruden traded the All-Pro edge rusher to Chicago on Sept. 1 for a compensation package that included two first round picks, an unpopular move that signaled the start of a complete roster rebuild.

Moving this game to London avoids the possibility of him wreaking havoc against his old team, pressuring good friend and former teammate Derek Carr in front of a home crowd that loved him so much.

Mack was immensely popular in Oakland and across the Bay Area, a market the Raiders could well play in despite not having a lease to play anywhere in 2019.

Mack’s return would’ve been a huge storyline, and may well have been a primetime offering. Moving the game to London eliminates that prospect as well, given the time difference between England and the United States.

Even still the focus will be on Mack playing the Raiders and a way-to-early progress report on the No. 24 overall NFL draft pick, who will be the first tangible part of the Raiders return in the Khalil Mack trade.

Changing the venue and keeping this an early game should dampen national focus and local passion for this one.

The Raiders and Bears matchup is part of a four-game series in London that also features Tampa Bay-Carolina, Houston-Jacksonville and L.A. Rams-Cincinnati. The L.A. Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs will play in Mexico City next season.

As it was in 2018, the Raiders, Rams and Chargers, teams playing in temporary venues while their stadia are being built, will all host games abroad.