Back in the 2014 NFL draft, the Las Vegas Raiders had the fifth overall pick. Let’s take a look at the results and what might have been.
One of the most popular picks after the draft, the Raiders selected Khalil Mack with the fifth overall selection. Mack would go on to leave a mark not only in Oakland but on the entire league as well. He would end his tenure in Silver and Black when he was traded to the Chicago Bears in 2018, after threatening to hold out. Head coach Jon Gruden, who was vocal about wanting Mack on the team, held true to his character and traded the All-Pro linebacker after it was clear that the team would not be able to reach a deal with him.
Mack was a questionable top five pick for some. He was a linebacker from a relatively small college in Buffalo that hadn’t won more than one conference title ever, taking the MAC championship in 2008. Still, most draft trackers had him going top 10.
What Might’ve Been…
So, let’s take a look at what might have been if the Raiders had drafted differently. There was no shortage of positional needs for the 2014 squad and having just come off a 4-12 season, the team needed a push in every direction. Mack at five was a solid and reasonable pick. One could say that it wasn’t a “Reggie McKenzie pick,” seeing as most of the general manager’s selections didn’t last long on the team or in general. He had a knack for screwing it up. Thankfully, the Raiders had a rare solid draft in 2014. However, given the amount of talent in that draft, it would’ve been hard to mess things up.
Let’s pretend for a second that another defensive player struck the team’s fancy, a defensive tackle by the name of Aaron Donald. In 2013, the Raiders defense finished 29th overall and any kind of improvement was welcomed. They did, however, rank 19th in sacks, so that was something. Now, let’s replace one Vance Walker with rookie Aaron Donald going into 2014, instead of signing Antonio Smith, no other changes. All things being equal, of course.
Mack Vs. Donald
Donald racked up nine sacks in his rookie year, along with 48 tackles, two forced fumbles, a defensed pass, 13 quarterback hits and 18 tackles for loss. Compare that to Mack, who had three passes defensed, one forced fumble, and 16 tackles for loss and it looks like a wash but Mack had just four sacks and 12 quarterback hits. While it is true that Mack was in coverage much of the time, he started four more games than Donald and racked up less than half his sack total. It doesn’t seem like much but those five extra sacks would have tied the Raiders for 10th.
It’s hard to think about swapping those two out but sometimes a small adjustment can make a huge difference. I personally can’t imagine a Silver and Black world without Khalil Mack in it but it’s interesting to wonder if Donald would still be in Silver and Black playing under Gruden had he been the one asking for a contract. The two signed very similar contracts, with the big difference being guaranteed money, primarily the signing bonus. Mack ultimately got more guaranteed money but his signing bonus was less. He was reportedly offered $50 million guaranteed with $22.5 million annually, which he turned down. Donald signed a contract for (wait for it) … $50 million guaranteed with $22.5 million annually, while Mack held out for an additional million a year and $10 million guaranteed. Ultimately, his contract over six years is worth about $6 million more.
Given that information, would the Raiders be in a better position with a defensive tackle who may have broken the bank but would still be around for another six years? We’ll never really know the answer to that question, but the fact remains that Donald is still producing for the team that paid him handsomely and Mack saw his second season with the Bears bring tepid results, not only for him personally but as a team as well.
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