Which Raiders rookies look to have immediate impact?

Thearon W. Henderson

There is no denying the Raiders are in win now mode. That doesn't mean they have to have a winning record but they must improve upon their 4-12 record the past two seasons for Dennis Allen to have a chance to return as head coach, and Reggie McKenzie is under a lot of pressure as well.

The question heading into the draft was whether the Raiders draft approach was that of finding instant starters - to which the answer was no. The draft is where a team plans for the future. But that doesn't mean they can't have both in some cases. And with a few of the team's picks, they may have gotten just that.

1. OLB Khalil Mack (1st round pick)

This is a no-brainer here. The fifth overall pick who very easily could have been a top two pick. The most flawless defensive prospect in this draft from a size, talent, and character standpoint. He not only has a chance to start immediately but it is pretty much expected. He is a pass rush specialist. No need to ease him into the lineup. Put him out there and let him go after the quarterback. In addition, as an outside linebacker, he is no slouch in coverage. He could come in day one and start at outside linebacker and be an instant upgrade over incumbent starter, Kevin Burnett. Mack offers the flexibility to play 4-3 defensive end as well. The Raiders signed Lamarr Woodley in the off-season who has struggled with injuries in recent seasons. Mack could not only share snaps at defensive end to keep Woodley fresh but in case of injury, Mack would easily step in as the starter. But regardless of starts, Mack is sure to see the field a great deal of the time.

2. OG Gabe Jackson (3rd round pick)

The play at guard last season for the Raiders was atrocious. Mainly that was Lucas Nix who was the starter for the first ten games of the season. Things improved greatly when Khalif Barnes took over for the final six games but he is a tackle who was out of place at guard. The team signed Kevin Boothe from the Giants in the off-season. He is a capable starter but the team would very much like Jackson to be the new starter with Boothe as a contingency plan. It was a great find getting Jackson in the third round as he was rated as a second round talent with the top three guards ahead of him all coming off the board by the 35th pick. He is a big, physical guard which very much fits Tony Sparano's style and the power blocking scheme the Raiders deploy. Jackson's emergence would offer a considerable upgrade to what the Raiders had at the position last season.

3. DT Justin Ellis (4th round pick)

He may not start ahead of Pat Sims at nose tackle right away but expect him to be in a rotation. Sims had never been a fulltime starter prior to last season and had only played an entire season once. The odds are good he will need replacing at some point next season. Even when he is healthy, having Ellis to rotate in and out with will keep both of them fresh and the Raiders with a strong presence in the middle of the defensive line.

4. CB/PR T.J. Carrie (7th round pick)

It's unlikely Carrie will see much if any time on the field this season as a cornerback, but that's not where his best value lies. He was an All-conference punt return specialist and that's what the Raiders would like him to bring to the table. They don't currently have anyone they really like to return punts. If Carrie can do it, the job could be his. Technically, return men don't have "starts" but they are critical just the same. It's the reason they have a Pro Bowl slot for it.

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