Reggie McKenzie reveals Raiders new draft approach

Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie at press conference at the Raiders practice facility.

On Wednesday the Raiders and Reggie McKenzie held a pre-draft press conference. And while typically the plan of any good general manager or coach in such a situation is to not tip their hands, Reggie McKenzie did let us in on his drafting philosophy as well as a bit of the Raiders' approach to this year's draft.

First and foremost, before he and the rest of the front office and coaching staff can really do their due diligence, the facility needed an upgrade across the board. McKenzie says that was an extremely important first step to making the process a success.

"Trying to get the building the right way, the facility, the computer system, for the information and the view of film and how we can better work within our personnel department. It's a lot of work that got done to get it the way we needed to get it done-to have a draft room ready for the meetings and also the draft. It's come along very well."

The Raiders have done things a certain way for a long time. And much of the draft process has surrounded Al Davis. And with the new regime, all of that has changed drastically.

"It's hard to sleep now. It's an exciting time. This is my first time drafting after a legend has been drafting for the Raiders for so long. So, it's huge. But I am excited about it and I am looking forward to it. There are still so many people in the organization, so I get to hear everything about how he used to do it."

As for the 2012 draft, he said the team has it's starters and will be focusing on depth at several positions.

"Well, at this point we're not looking at needs. Now when I get the coaches in and start banging heads with those guys and finding out what they really would like to have, then that'll come into play. But the decision from day one, when I talk to the head coach, we're gonna get the best player available.

"When we talk about who's better and how much are they better, it's a fine line there. And you probably look at the need a little bit, especially if you don't see any other players at that spot later on.

"But if there's a vast difference, we're going to get the best player. I'm not going to reach down to get a player because we need this position. That hasn't turned out good in my past years when that was done."

That certainly doesn't mesh with the philosophy of Al Davis who was known for trading up to ensure he got the guy he wanted. And whether he was interested in a player was usually dependent upon one criteria-speed.

"Speed is always going to be important. But if you're insinuating that speed only, No, we're not looking for just guys that run fast. Of course we love size, and we're going to emphasize size. But we're going to make sure they're good football players. Make sure they're tough, they understand the game, and size and speed will always matter.

"It is hard to find 6-6, 311-pound defensive linemen that are athletic. And then to top it off, that are good. So if you get a chance to get one, you take him. More so than the 6-1, 285 guy. There's a difference. Offensive linemen recognize the difference. But that's what I mean. It plays a part. But when it all comes down, can the guy play football? And when we're evaluating that, we make sure they're all good football players.

"But if we have him at a certain spot on the board, that's going to be our guy. We put him there for a reason. Speed and strength and size, it all has a part in putting the board together. Not going to try and alter it as we go.

McKenzie also said the Raiders will be shying away from high-risk, high-reward players in this draft. The team has just five picks and as McKenzie mentioned, they've got to make them all count.

When considering high-risk, high-reward players, usually character is the biggest concern. And McKenzie puts a high priority on the character of the players he scouts. The track record of the Green Bay Packers during his 18 seasons there bears this out.

"We feel (in Green Bay) like we were pretty good number one with character guys. We were not blind-sided by certain guys. The ones that we took that had a little bit of risk we knew about it. The key and we always talked about it is make sure they're good football players who want to play football. That holds true with me.

"You have to make sure they really love the game and make sure that they're good football players. Then all of the other stuff, how they test, how they play, what kind of skills they have, that all plays a part in how you evaluate them.

Another area McKenzie will be taking a more conservative approach is in trading picks. The reason the Raiders have such a depleted draft this year is because the Raiders traded many of them away to move up in previous drafts. That is something on which McKenzie didn't waver.

"I do not want to trade future picks. Usually, you consider that if it's a future seventh if you need a guy going into the season, something happens. But, I don't like to even consider trading future picks, especially high ones."

But while the decision making will be in his and the hands of the coaching staff, Mark Davis will not be out of the loop.

"I'm sure [Mark Davis] is going to be in the room and before that he'll want to know how the board is coming. He's going to be in a supportive role for myself and staff like he's always been. He's going to be there in support."

You can sense the excitement in Reggie McKenzie's demeanor about his first draft with his new team. And with his approach, the Raiders as well as the fans should be able to rest easy. Even if he isn't.

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