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Oakland Raiders General Manager Reggie McKenzie Caps the 2016 NFL Draft


Q: Can you talk about trading up for Connor Cook?

McKenzie:"Can you believe I traded up? *(laughing) *It's a situation that you look at the board, and it was a good player that we still had up there. It was a great opportunity for us to explore trying to get up there. We found a partner and we made the deal. He's a good player. We just felt like he was too good of a player not to try."

Q: What's the importance of drafting a quarterback?

McKenzie:"Well it's always important to have depth. We usually kept three quarterbacks when I was in Green Bay for a long time. You can see the cycle, even as early as last year, guys went down [with injury]. So you want to make sure you have guys prepared. Like I said, he was a good player still sitting there Day 3. We had a good grade on him and we just wanted to seize the opportunity to at least try to get a good player in here."

Q: Are the reports about Cook's leadership less of a concern since you already have Derek Carr established as your leader?

McKenzie:"Derek's our quarterback. Whoever we bring in, we're just looking [at] can he help us? Can he add to the depth? Can he help our team? That was the only reason we went after him. That was of no concern. No."


Q: What did you like about DeAndre Washington?**

McKenzie:"He's the one guy that every time we watched him play, it was very difficult for the first guy to get him down. He had power, quickness and he had speed. He was the kind of the guy that can do it all. He's tough, instinctive. We just thought he was a really good football player. We think he's going to help our team a lot."

Q: Do you see the comparison others are talking about between Jihad Ward and Mario Edwards Jr.?

McKenzie:"Well you know, no. To me, they're totally different. Mario's been playing this position probably since he could walk. Jihad has been playing defensive line for a handful of years. You can count them all on one hand and still have fingers left. They're different. He's just so raw at the position. It's a little different some of the things they can do. We just thought he was a good football player with a great upside. We just jumped at the chance to be the team to have him, coach him up and see how far he can go."

Q: Can you discuss DeAndre Washington's strengths and weaknesses as a pass protector?

McKenzie: "Definitely getting out into an open space is one of his strengths – his ability to make guys miss and take it to the house. People want to pick on him because he's a hair over 5-foot-8. As far as blocking and all of that, he's playing tough enough. He understands the game. We're not worried too much about that."

Q: Can you talk about the future of Cory James as a player on the Raiders?

McKenzie: "I'm sure we're going to try to figure that out. He has played a lot of positions. We'll see. For the beginning, we'll let him play off the ball and see if he can play weakside linebacker, teach him both inside linebacker spots, and nickel. But he's definitely going to have to try to make his money on special teams. He has a lot of versatility because he's so athletic. He can run. He really loves playing football and you can really see that in his play."

Q: How important was it to find a running back during the draft process?

McKenzie: "You just can't go through the whole season with just one running back. With all the production, that can't happen. We felt like it was important to add someone and we think we got a really good running back in Washington."

Q: How fine is the line between drafting for immediate versus future need?

McKenzie: "Well, immediate need, you really don't want to draft for one year. You want to make sure whoever you draft is going to help you for the duration. So, I really do not want to draft for the immediate need. Now, I'll take a shot in the seventh round when we need a returner or something that's going to satisfy something quickly. But we still want that quick-need fix to turn into a long-term fix. To answer your question, the intent is to always look long term. When he gets on the field, it's up to him. But we want the guy to be here for a while." 

Q: Was Vadal Alexander a guy you were surprised was still around in the seventh round?

McKenzie:"Yeah, because big guys, they usually get taken. We felt really good about that and we like big people."

Q: Do you see Vadal Alexander as a guard or a tackle right now?

McKenzie:"He's going to work both. The versatility is what we liked about him."

Q: With no cornerbacks drafted, what does that mean for the future of DJ Hayden?

McKenzie:"For any of those guys, we felt like we had a good group. We wanted to add a veteran, and it would have been nice to maybe draft a guy too, but if we didn't like him at that spot, we didn't reach. We think we've got a lot of guys that can compete at cornerback. We're just going to throw them all out there and see who can take the job. It wasn't an intentional thing to do, to not take a corner. It just didn't work out that way."

Q: Are you going to exercise the fifth-year option on DJ Hayden?

McKenzie:"We'll probably make that decision soon enough."

Q: How do you see the inside linebacker spot right now? Will it be Malcolm Smith or Ben Heeney?

McKenzie:"Coach is going to figure that out. Malcolm [Smith] can do it, [Ben] Heeney can do it. We've got some guys that we can interchange. It depends who steps up at weakside if they want to move Malcolm. Heeney can really do both. We've got some guys that are versatile, so we'll just play that by ear. The key is just putting the best two inside linebackers out there. Which combination works best, that's who they'll go with, but they'll work through that." 

Q: What do you think of what Ben Heeney was able to put onto tape last year and also where is Neiron Ball in terms of his health? Is he going to be full-go for the offseason program?

McKenzie:"Yeah, to answer your question about Heeney, he's great. We felt like he's shown more than enough that he can play, at either spot, even nickel, so we like what Ben brings to the table. And Neiron, he's doing everything, he's good. We expect him to be ready to roll."

Q: Given the state of your roster in terms of depth, is it easier to draft players as a project in the second round like you did this year with Jihad Ward because your starting lineup seems to be full of pretty quality players? Are you more willing to look into those deep developmental prospects now than three years ago?

McKenzie:"Don't get me wrong, he's raw, but I don't want him to take a redshirt year. Our coaches are going to coach him up and we expect him to play. As far as taking chances, as far as the philosophy of it, that wasn't the intent – not at all. We were trying to get some guys who we felt like could help us in 2016."

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