Shunning past, Raiders execute draft plan perfectly

ALAMEDA, Calif. — In the past, one of the best parts of the NFL draft was listening to analysts go delirious over a selection by the Raiders.

A reach, a stretch or any other synonym for a bad pick was the norm when it came to the Raiders.

The only other suspense was wondering when Oakland would draft the player with the fastest 40-yard dash time at the NFL scouting combine.

There wasn't much of that at this year's draft.

General manager Reggie McKenzie made deals, trading down to pick up more draft choices, a must after the previous regime dealt away picks without care for the future.

"The past three days, the one thing we did is we stayed true to the (draft) board," McKenzie said Saturday evening. "And the board kind of dictated a lot of what we did, picking certain players, certain positions, whether it was moving back.

"We tried to assess the value of where we are and let the board help dictate what we do."

The Raiders didn't use their early picks to upgrade the defensive line as expected, but they did address a major need in the secondary by trading down to select cornerback D.J. Hayden.

Trading down was a reason the Raiders addressed so many positions of need.

Oakland began the draft with seven selections but picked up three more in three separate deals during the draft, with two trades coming on Saturday.

There were no moves up that cost the Raiders future picks, as they needed to value selections to rebuild the roster.

The plan was to take the best player available, regardless of position.

"From that standpoint, you just hope that it falls right," McKenzie said.

"If you get one need, one thing about it, we felt like we had a few needs, so I didn't think it was that hard to address certain areas, because we had needs at a lot of spots. We need to upgrade depth in a lot of spots. We knew if we stayed true to the board we would get good players, and that was the whole factor. Make sure we got good players with each pick."

That's especially important at running back, where Darren McFadden has been an explosive player. At the same time, his injury history means the Raiders needed to improve their depth at running back.

Latavius Murray might not be the long-term replacement for McFadden, but he adds a big back that the Raiders lost when Michael Bush left as a free agent before last season.

Without another back, fullback Marcel Reece was probably the best option behind McFadden.

The Raiders managed to address all the skill positions on offense and important areas on defense.

It could be argued that the defensive line should have been a higher priority — Oakland waited until the sixth round to select a defensive lineman. But with so many issues to address, there's plenty of nitpicking that could go on with the Raiders.

Of course, none of this matters today. It won't be known if the draft was a success until these players take the field.

But the Raiders clearly had a plan and executed it. That's a step in the right direction for a franchise trying to change the culture of losing that has dominated for more than a decade.

"The goal is to get guys in that locker room that are all working for a common goal and are on the same page," McKenzie said.

"That's the only way you're going to develop chemistry. Those guys have to come together. Once coaches send the right message and players try to implement it, you have a chance."

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