Oakland Raiders Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

Solid Starter

Gabe Jackson, G, Oklahoma – Round 3
The Raiders needed a starting guard from the 2014 NFL Draft and were able to land their top-rated guard in the third round. Jackson was in consideration for Oakland’s second-round pick, and the team was fortunate to land him a round later. Jackson should come in and compete immediately.

The 6-foot-3, 336-pound Jackson was a road-grading guard for Mississippi State. He was an All-SEC selection and thrived against good competition. Jackson has the power to move defenders in the ground game and is well suited for a man-blocking system like Oakland’s. Over his years as a starter, Jackson steadily improved his pass-protection skills. He played well as a senior when he went against speedy defensive tackles like Ego Ferguson, Anthony Johnson and Kelcy Quarles.

Jackson will compete with Tony Bergstrom and Lucas Nix for a starting job in Oakland, but it shouldn’t be long before Jackson is a mainstay in the Raiders’ offensive line. He could be an impact player as a rookie for running backs Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew. In the years to come, Jackson looks like a safe bet to be at least be a solid starter and could develop into a potential asset.

Most Likely To Bust

Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State – Round 2
This was a hard selection because there wasn’t a pick that I disliked in Oakland’s draft. Since I have to pick one, I’ll go with Carr because the Raiders may not be conducive a organization to have a quarterback pan out. Oakland is fortunate to have one of the best quarterback coaches in the NFL with offensive coordinator Greg Olson, but the staff is under pressure to win now while taking on one of the toughest schedules in the NFL. Last year, the Raiders overachieved under this coaching staff in a four-win campaign. That could happen again, but not be enough of an improvement to return in 2015. The front office and coaching staff could all be fired at the end of the season.

Without continuity, Carr could easily end up being a bust. A new staff next offseason would likely want to bring in its own quarterback. That would put Carr on the bench and not be the focal point of the practice reps needed to develop a young quarterback.

If Oakland’s ownership is patient and allows for some continuity under Olson’s direction, Carr could blossom in the years to come. The AFC West has old teams at the top, and if the Raiders build their roster well, they could be positioned to take control when Denver loses Peyton Manning. Unfortunately for Carr, it appears that a lot of his NFL future could be out of his control.

Potential Boom Pick

Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo – Round 1
The Raiders have lacked a franchise player on defense since the young Charles Woodson was a force for Oakland. The lack of pass rush has been a problem for the Raiders for years, and landing an edge defender like Mack could make a huge difference for Oakland in the years to come. Coming from Buffalo, Mack has a big jump in competition, so it will be important for the Raiders to be patient with Mack as he develops.

The fast and strong Mack is a downhill defender who makes lots of plays in the backfield. He is adept at shedding blocks with his strong hands and has the speed and athleticism to be an edge rusher in the NFL. The 6-foot-3, 251-pounds has excellent instincts to defend the run and make plays in the backfield. With Justin Tuck, Antonio Smith and Lamarr Woodley there to teach Mack how to beat NFL offensive linemen, he could end up being a special pass-rusher.

In 2011, Raiders head coach Dennis Allen was the defensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos, and he was able to get an immediate impact out of rookie edge rusher Von Miller. While Mack is a different type of player, he could play the same role in Oakland’s defense as a linebacker and pass-rusher. Mack has the potential to be a special player for the Raiders.

Future Depth Player

Keith McGill, CB, Utah – Round 4
This was a hard selection because the Raiders looked like they nailed a lot of future starters in the first four rounds while their three late-round picks don’t look very promising. Fellow fourth-round pick Justin Ellis was a great selection and could be a starter quickly. He also should be a good run-stuffer and help free up Oakland’s edge rushers and linebackers. Ellis could factor into a rotation with Pat Sims and Antonio Smith from Day 1.

McGill, on the other hand, will challenge for nickel duties. He won’t start over D.J. Hayden, Carlos Rogers or Tarell Brown as a rookie. Both Brown and Rogers have some football left in them and are on 1-year “prove it” deals to keep their careers alive. It wouldn’t be surprising if they’re upgrades for the Raiders over last year’s secondary. Hayden also has talent if he can stay healthy.

In time, McGill could develop into a starter with Hayden on the other side. Landing McGill in the fourth round was a steal for Oakland as he easily could have been selected in the second or third round. McGill could use some development, but the big and physical cornerback should at least be a good depth player for the Raiders.

Walt’s 2014 NFL Draft Grades:

5. Khalil Mack, DE/OLB, Buffalo: A+ Grade
Absolutely love this pick. Khalil Mack was the No. 2 prospect in the 2014 NFL Draft, so the Raiders are getting great value with the fifth pick, thanks to Jacksonville’s incompetence. Reggie McKenzie signed a bunch of aging pass-rushers this offseason, but they need young blood at the position. Mack might even have a bit of a chip on his shoulder after falling to No. 5, so that makes this selection even sweeter.

36. Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State: C- Grade
I don’t understand this pick very much. It’s not terrible because there’s good value with Derek Carr here, but he’s not going to help the Raiders win now. That’s exactly what they need to do though because Reggie McKenzie and the coaches will be fired otherwise. I get the feeling that incompetent owner Mark Davis stepped in and made this selection for the team, because it doesn’t match what McKenzie has done this offseason. Plus, it’s not like Carr is a great talent anyway. He was absolutely awful against USC.

81. Gabe Jackson, G, Mississippi State: A- Grade
Gabe Jackson was the top guard on some teams boards – I thought the Raiders would take him in the second round in my re-mock – so it’s pretty remarkable that they were able to land him in the middle of the third. With Jackson in the mix, Austin Howard can play right tackle, and that should completely shore up Oakland’s offensive line.

107. Justin Ellis, NT, Louisiana Tech: B Grade
I don’t feel very strongly about this pick either way. There were some better players available, but Just Ellis fits the range and fills a need for a team that has some major defensive tackle issues.

116. Keith McGill, CB, Utah: A Grade
This is a steal. Keith McGill easily could have gone in the second round. He’s a big corner who has great athleticism, and it’s not like he didn’t play well throughout his college career. The Raiders wanted to add to their cornerback corps, so this selection just makes so much sense.

219. Travis Carrie, CB, Ohio: C Grade
The Raiders added another corner, which is hardly a surprise. They were better players at the position available, however.

235. Shelby Harris, DE, Illinois State: C Grade
Another undraftable player, Shelby Harris will provide depth on the defensive line if he makes the roster. There were many better players available.

247. Jonathan Dowling, S, Western Kentucky: B Grade
The Raiders hadn’t addressed the safety position yet, so they might as well do that now. Jonathan Dowling was seen as a late-round prospect, so this choice makes a lot of sense.

2014 NFL Draft Team Grade: B . Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

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