The Oakland Raiders came away from the first two rounds of the 2014 NFL draft with two of the top talents on either side of the ball in Khalil Mack and Derek Carr.
Mack and Carr, followed by a number of value picks, helped make this draft class not only one of the best of the year but also one of the franchise’s best in quite some time.
While training camp and preseason action still remain quite a few weeks away, reports out of rookie workouts and full-team OTAs give us some insight into how these players are coming along thus far.
Of the Raiders’ entire 2014 draft class, Mack has the best chance to make an instant impact, as he will be expected to start at strong-side linebacker from day one.
While preseason reports of his play won’t mean much until the team can get the pads on at training camp, Mack is already standing out to veterans such as Charles Woodson.
“I’ve watched him a couple of times come off the edge, and he’s a guy that can bend at the waist, he can get low,” said Woodson, per Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com. “He can get under tackles as he’s going around the edge. He’s quick enough to where he can get a guy in space coming off the edge. He can make movements in or out and go either way, and he seems to be put together pretty well, so we know he has some strength.”
Again, translating that ability to practices and games in pads is the key, but this kind of potential is what made him more than worthy of the Raiders’ first selection at fifth overall.
As head coach Dennis Allen said at rookie minicamp, per Rebecca Corman of the Raiders’ official website, “He’s exactly what we thought he was going to be. He’s got a lot of work ahead of him. He’s got a lot of getting better to do. But, he’s got a tremendous skill set and I would expect a pretty quick assimilation into the National Football League.”
The talent Mack possesses should see him earn a significant role early on, most importantly as a key contributor in what should be an improved pass-rush rotation up front.
Derek Carr could very well be the team’s future franchise quarterback, possibly ending a search that has gone on for years.
He may not start at all in the upcoming season, but with the confidence the Raiders have in Matt Schaub as their leader at the position, they may not need him to. Instead, Carr will likely be developed for his opportunity to come next season, and that may prove to be the better scenario for both sides.
Even so, all indications are that Carr has looked the part in team workouts since joining the Silver and Black after the draft.
There was little doubt regarding Carr’s physical abilities as a passer, and we can expect those to remain on full display moving forward.
Of course, doing so will become more difficult in game action, but his arm strength and accuracy should afford him that ability at the NFL level.
Ideally for the Raiders, Schaub’s veteran presence will help the offense improve, and Carr can develop the rest of his game as a quarterback until he is ready to take over permanently.
Overall, although minicamp and OTA reports can only tell us so much about a player’s performance, it seems as though Mack and Carr have impressed thus far.
Their ability to develop into the players the Raiders envision them becoming is key to the short- and long-term success of this franchise, and their progress will continue to be closely watched by all.