Does Reggie McKenzie need home runs to save Raiders job?
The Raiders need starters from this draft -- difference-making starters. Three of them would be a nice start.
This is an unreasonable expectation for any single draft class, but these are unreasonable times in Oakland. In a year-to-year league, the Raiders are asking fans to buy into a long-term rebuilding plan.
Their roster has been ravaged by poor draft picks and bad contracts. General manager Reggie McKenzie has cleaned house, but not much is left standing. The five best players on the Raiders' roster probably would include tackle Jared Veldheer, safety Tyvon Branch, wide receiver Denarius Moore, running back Darren McFadden and ... Lamarr Houston? Even that list includes some major question marks and projections.
Let's examine it another way: The Raiders signed a number of smart, low cost bargain pickups in free agency. On most teams, these are guys that compete to play. And there are only a few of them. On the Raiders, they probably need to start. There are nine of them on defense alone. That group, which includes Mike Jenkins, Kaluka Maiava, Nick Roach and Tracy Porter, very likely will comprise the majority of defensive starters this season.
McKenzie needs to find long-term solutions to replace some of these players. Most of the free-agent signings are in Oakland on one-year contracts, and the Raiders want to find some core pieces to build around. McKenize has started to build the team with one hand tied behind his back. He didn't have a pick in the first two rounds of last year's draft. He doesn't have a second-round pick this year. He's spent a lot of energy getting out of salary-cap hell.
McKenzie would love to trade down from the No. 3 overall pick to grab extra selections, but this is a tough draft to pull off that kind of move. Perhaps an NFL general manager will be willing to move up for one of the top offensive tackles in the draft.
It's unreasonable to expect McKenzie to fix all of his team's problems in one draft, but he needs to start. The Raiders likely won't win many games in 2013.
McKenzie's scoreboard will be the 2013 NFL Draft. He'll need some "wins" to keep his job in 2014.Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.