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Gruden says drafting Arden Key, trade for Maurice Hurst were all Reggie McKenzie

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Oakland Raiders Introduce Jon Gruden Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Although Raider Nation is hopeful about the development of UCLA tackle Kolton Miller, the selection was not a popular one at the time due to the perceived poor draft value of getting Miller at pick 15. The narrative from sources around the team is that Miller was the guy Jon Gruden and Tom Cable wanted, not necessarily Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie.

But some of the Raiders’ later selections were extremely good value considering where they were selected, and during a recent conference call with season ticket holders, coach Gruden was asked about the selections of defensive players Arden Key and Maurice Hurst, and whether they were huge draft steals who could seriously improve the Raiders’ pass rush. Gruden deferred that question to McKenzie.

“I’ll let Reggie do that. He was trading every single round to get these guys, so here’s Reggie McKenzie,” said Gruden.

A gleeful-sounding McKenzie then gushed over the selections of those two players.

“With Key, we know from a pass rush standpoint what he would give us. He’s a great off the edge guy, he understands how to get off the ball, bend at the corner, and get after the quarterback. We like what we saw in his sophomore tape. In his junior tape, he was hurt a lot, but the guy has great talent and we’re gonna feed off of that and let him learn from some of our veteran guys in Bruce and Khalil and he’s gonna enhance his game.

“The big fella in the middle, Mo Hurst, I mean it’s no question, the program that he came from he learned a lot on how to play the position, been there for five years, uses his hands the way he uses his hands in coordination with his speed, the guy knows how to get after the quarterback. With those two, I’m hoping that you’re right, that they become the big steals, but we don’t think they’re steals, we think they’re great players, so we expect them to play well for us,” said the Raiders GM.

Much has been made in recent years about McKenzie not getting good value for his draft selections and making huge reaches for players at high draft spots. But Arden Key was once considered a potential top-five draft pick, and Maurice Hurst was considered a top-ten talent this year before concerns over a heart condition caused him to fall. Even if we dislike the Miller pick, we have to admit that McKenzie got his mojo back with those two selections. It will be up to Gruden and his staff to develop those players and back up McKenzie’s confidence in them.