There are three stages teams typically go through when entering the draft. 1) Here are the players we really like. 2) Here are the positions we need most. And 3) Who is the best available. And according to Reggie McKenzie, the Raiders are pretty much skipping right to stage three.
"I'm gonna use the draft to make sure we draft the best available player. And if it's at a position we're strong at, so be it. If we feel like this is the best guy... it's the difference between adding solid starters and difference makers. If I have a chance to add a difference maker, we're gonna get him."
This approach is usually reserved for teams that are already stocked full of great players and has had success with them. To find those teams you need just start with the 32 pick New York Giants and work backward.
The Raiders are in that position because of their lack of draft picks. Sure, the team has needs at particular positions. But with their first pick not coming until the end of the third round, there is little room to be picky.
For instance, the one position the Raiders are in most need of, by McKenzie's own admission, he doesn't think is a very deep class.
"There's some good linebackers. Is it deep? I wouldn't say that but there are some good linebackers in this draft."
That is not a glowing endorsement of the quality of the linebackers in this draft. Then again, he could just be making his best poker face so as not to tip his hand about some quality linebacker picks he has up his sleeve.
But either way, there is something to what he said. If there is a first or second round product staring at you in the face at the end of the third round, how do you let him go elsewhere just because he doesn't play at a position of great need? When you are starting your picks that low in the draft, you have to pick the players who you think can be starters as opposed to settling for a player who has less potential at a position of need.
But if you ask me, this is mostly just Reggie saying what he needs to say to keep other teams from knowing what his intentions are. If he says "yeah, I am going to focus on this team's weakest areas", the teams around the Raiders in the draft will have a better chance of predicting who the Raiders will take and at what position.
It is all part of the smokescreens and the planning that goes into every word they say and every move each team makes as they attempt to keep the rest of the league guessing. And as McKenzie said:
"I've done this for quite some time. This is my show now so it's gonna be fun."