When Reggie McKenzie selected D.J. Hayden with the 12th overall pick in 2013 there was a collective “Oh no!” moment with a side of “here we go again” for many Oakland Raiders fans. Many people were surprised of McKenzie’s selection and thought it to be a bad sign of things to come, in fact as recently as of 2014, experts and fans believed McKenzie to be in the hot seat.
McKenzie’s proved us wrong in spite of this, and turned what was a talent-deprived roster into an AFC contender in a couple of years. Knowing that, here are the top moves in Reggie McKenzie’s tenure as a general manager.
- Charles Woodson – McKenzie decided to take a chance on fan favorite Charles Woodson who was past his “prime”. Despite his age Woodson was still an excellent veteran safety that helped stabilize the Raiders’ secondary back in 2014 and 2015 respectively. More importantly Woodson retired where it all began for the future hall of famer; in Silver and Black.
- David Amerson – Voted “Pro Football Focus’ Most Improved Player in 2015” David Amerson was signed by the Oakland Raiders after a disappointing year with the Washington Redskins in 2014. McKenzie gave Amerson a change of scenery and he returned the favor with 13 passes defended, four interceptions, and one of those was returned for a touchdown. A bargain that turned out great by giving the team an effective player that McKenzie quietly acquired, a recurring theme on this list.
- Michael Crabtree – Once the victim of a verbal tirade by Seattle Seahawks’ star Richard Sherman, wide receiver Michael Crabtree signed with the Raiders in 2015 after two unproductive years with the San Francisco 49ers. After signing a one-year contract, Crabtree’s tenure was extended when he signed a new four-year contract worth $35 million dollars. Crabtree has shown to be a reliable receiver by posting 1,925 receiving yards in two seasons with the Raiders.
- Donald Penn – The now premier left tackle gave up just one sack in 2016, unfortunately for him it led to Derek Carr getting his fibula broken. Obviously for Penn it was unintentional it wasn’t as if he grabbed a crowbar and struck Carr, so it wouldn’t be fair to have Penn’s hard work undone due to one accident. Looking back ever since he joined the Raiders in 2014, Penn has been nothing short of Pro Bowl force at his position, look for that to continue for another couple of years.
- Amari Cooper – Derek Carr needed some reliable targets after showing promise his rookie year and James Jones was not going to cut it; so McKenzie selected Cooper at the 2015 NFL draft. How important is to have adequate receivers in today’s NFL? Well, just ask New England Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady if the outcome of the AFC Championship in 2006 would have been different had he had a receiver other than Jabar Gaffney. After two solid, Pro Bowl seasons under his belt the sky’s the limit for Cooper as he continues to improve on his already stellar route running and reliability.
- Derek Carr – After a rookie year of dump-offs, screens, and a mediocre yards-per-attempt number of 5.5, Derek Carr developed into a MVP candidate last season. Likewise, he is positioned to improve even more and become the franchise quarterback the Raiders have needed since the beloved Rich Gannon retired. So why is it that Derek Carr isn’t higher on this list? Because of the next fella who’s named..
- Khalil Mack – Mack was the fifth pick at the 2014 NFL draft but more than that he played his college years at football “powerhouse” Buffalo; suffice to say it took McKenzie to pick a player that high from such an unlikely origin. Yet in spite of this, Mack along with Carr have been the foundation that McKenzie has built this new culture around which in turn has led to a return to “excellence” for the Silver and Black.