The 2012 NFL draft has officially come to an end and the Oakland Raiders have welcomed six new members to the Silver and Black. Entering the off season, the Raiders new general manager, Reggie McKenzie, was looking at only having two picks in the NFL draft. However, after receiving three compensatory picks for the departure of key free agents before the 2011 season along with an additional pick that the Raiders received in a draft day trade and McKenzie wound up with a legitimate chance to show his worth as the head man in an NFL draft room.
Here is a list of the six picks that the Oakland Raiders made in the 2012 NFL draft:
While McKenzie was able to ensure through free agency that the Raiders had a player capable of starting at every position, the Raiders were severely lacking in quality depth all over the team. In addition, there are a number of positions that can and should be upgraded at some point, and need players who will push and challenge for the starting spot. Despite not having a pick until the last pick in round three, McKenzie was able to find quality depth at a large number of positions while also finding guys who should push for playing time this season.
McKenzie was incredibly smart with his picks. Not only did he draft to needs, he also took guys with versatility who can play at more than one position. This gives the Raiders significant depth by having a guy who can back up more than one spot. It also gives that player more opportunities to succeed at the next level. If they are not be able to play their primary college position at the next level, the ability to play multiple positions will allow coaches to figure out the best fit for them in the NFL, giving them a better chance of succeeding.
McKenzie also likely found some guys that will be able to play this season and potentially have an impact on the Raiders. In particular, outside linebacker Miles Burris and wide receiver Juron Criner are two guys that I could easily see pushing for playing time as rookies.
In the case of Burris, it is due to his quality as an overall player and his ability to play at any of the linebacker positions. Linebacker is also the Raiders weakest position, so if he plays well, Burris could easily take snaps away from any of the three starters on the Raiders, Aaron Curry, Philip Wheeler and even Rolando McClain.
With Criner, the Raiders pick up a guy who fills a key need in the Raiders pass offense. The receiving corps of the Raiders is full of young guys, but they are primarily speedsters with smaller bodies. The Raiders were seriously lacking a big bodied receiver who can play the possession role in the Raiders offense. In Criner, the Raiders may have found their guy. He has good hands and runs good routes and will likely fight to see playing time next season.
Almost more important as the guys who can contribute on offense and defense, are the guys who can contribute on special teams. The Raiders lost their two best special teams players in Rock Cartwright and Hiram Eugene this off season. The Raiders clearly have the best kicking tandem in the game with Sebastian Janikowski and Shane Lechler. But without quality special teams players to cover punts and kickoffs and to block on kick and punt returns, the special teams would be very limited.
When coming to my grade for Reggie McKenzie's first ever draft, I am taking into consideration the fact that the Raiders came into the draft with no pick until the very end of the third round, and that they only had five picks to start the day (I credit him for getting the extra pick).
Taking the disadvantages that McKenzie faced and finding depth, special teams players and players that could contribute in their rookie season is just plain impressive. Obviously, we will not know exactly how good or bad this draft is for a number of years, but the first impression is most certainly a positive one.
All of that noted, I am giving the Raiders a B+ for this draft. I was tempted to go a little higher, but I think there were a couple of guys who though risky, would have been great value where they were taken, such as Vontaze Burfict and Josh Chapman, both of whom fell lower than their on the field talent would suggest they should have. Normally, I'm not a huge advocate of risky picks, but given the situation McKenzie was faced with, taking a risk would not have been a bad idea.