Oakland's first-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft likely would have been much different had the team not traded this offseason for Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub. With a competent veteran in place under center, the Raiders passed on the likes of Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel and Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater and chose outside linebacker Khalil Mack out of Mid-American Conference school Buffalo. Mack was widely viewed as the second-best defensive player in the draft after Jadeveon Clowney, and some clubs had Mack ranked higher.
The MAC Player of the Year and consensus All-American last year, Mack had 94 tackles, 10.5 sacks and three interceptions. True, Buffalo doesn't play a lot of top-notch competition, but Mack was the best player on the field when the Bulls visited Ohio State to open last season. He had nine tackles, 2.5 sacks and an interception in that game. Dennis Allen says Mack, who holds an NCAA record with 75 career tackles for loss, reminds him of Denver's Von Miller, whom Miller coached one season with the Broncos. Miller was the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2011 with 11.5 sacks under Allen.
Raiders badly need pass-rushers. They lost their best from last year, Lamarr Houston,
to the Bears in free agency. Oakland had only 38 sacks total, and just 12 when using
a four-man pass rush, which is four fewer than any other team. Mack is given an
'over/under' sack total of 8 on Bovada's NFL odds. Mack will likely play
defensive end on passing downs.
Quarterback of the Future?
Schaub is only on a one-year contract, so the Raiders took a quarterback with their second-round pick in Fresno State's Derek Carr. Perhaps ironically, Schaub replaced Carr's older brother, David, as starter in Houston. Playing in a spread offense last year, Derek Carr threw for 5,083 yards and 50 touchdowns with only eight interceptions. He is one of only 19 quarterbacks in FBS history to throw for more than 10,000 career yards and 100 touchdowns. Carr's ratio of 113 touchdown passes to 24 picks is the second best in FBS history for all QBs with at least 100 career TD throws. He hasn't taken many snaps under center as he was usually in a shotgun formation, so that will be a transition.
The Raiders haven't had much luck taking a quarterback in the first two rounds. Carr is the fourth such choice since 1981. The others: Todd Marinovich (1991) and JaMarcus Russell (2007) as first rounders and Marques Tuiasosopo (2001) in the second. Russell might be the biggest flop in NFL history. In a perfect world, the Raiders don't need to use Carr this season.
Neither Schaub, nor Carr has much to throw to, as Oakland's
receiving corps leaves much to be desired, led by the likes of Rod Streater (60
catches, 888 yards, four TDs) and Denarius Moore (46 catches, 695 yards, five
TDs). The Raiders did sign three undrafted free-agent wide receivers in Texas'
Mike Davis, Virginia Tech's D.J. Coles and San Jose State's Noel Grigsby. By
the way, Texas produced a selection in the NFL draft for the first time since
Full List Of Draft Picks
Khalil Mack, outside linebacker, Buffalo (Round 1, No. 5 overall); Derek Carr, quarterback, Fresno State (2, No. 36); Gabe Jackson, guard Mississippi State (3, No. 81); Justin Ellis, defensive tackle, Louisiana Tech (4, No. 107); Keith McGill, cornerback, Utah (4, No. 116); T.J. Carrie, cornerback, Ohio (7, No. 219); Shelby Harris, defensive end, Illinois State (7, No. 235); Jonathan Dowling (7, No. 247).
Free NFL Picks: Go 'over' 8 sacks for Mack for your NFL pick. The guy is a demon, and the Raiders likely will move him around to get in the most advantageous matchups.