By Zach Felder
The Raiders have been in a slump for a long time. 2002 was the last year that they were in the playoffs. I was ten years old then. For the years to follow, the Raiders progressively got worse and worse under the wing of Al Davis. A man who brought in Marcus Allen, Bo Jackson, Howe Long, and countless other amazing Hall of Fame caliber players, lost his touch. The best player drafted by the Raiders in the 21st century before the 2014 draft was Sebastian Janikowski, who is the highest scoring player in franchise history. He is an amazingly talented kicker that was taken in the first round. I don't even know why they drafted a kicker in the first round. Al Davis felt it was the best player at the time for the Raiders. The downfall of the Raiders started after the 2002 draft. The most consistent player drafted by the Raiders since Sebastian Janikowski was a 3rd round pick in the 2010 draft, Jared Veldheer, who now plays for the Arizona Cardinals. Al Davis based his draft picks on physicality, and that was his downfall.
In 2004, the Raiders selected Robert Gallery at second overall and missed out on Larry Fitzgerald, Phillip Rivers, Sean Taylor, Jared Allen, and a lot of other incredibly talented players.
In 2005, they drafted Fabian Washington (I don't even know who he is) picked one pick before, Aaron Rodgers. Do I need to say more? Other players of worthy mention are Logan Mankins, Frank Gore, and Darren Sproles.
In 2006, the Raiders drafted Michael Huff, safety from Texas, missing out on Tamba Hali, Brandon Marshall, Nick Mangold, and Haloti Ngata.
In 2007, the drafted JaMarcus Russell, who had a cannon arm but was horrible. The Raiders missed out on Calvin Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Patrick Willis, Marshawn Lynch, Darrelle Revis, Lawrence Timmons, Joe Staley, Greg Olsen, Marshal Yanda, and Ryan Kalil, all pro bowlers for large portions of their careers. The Raiders missed the best wide receiver in history (next to Jerry Rice), the most physical halfback known to man who most likely is an alien, and some the most talented players in the NFL today.
In 2008, they drafted Darren McFadden, who is injury prone and now is a backup on the Dallas Cowboys. The Raiders could have selected Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Aqib Talib, or Jordy Nelson.
In 2010, the Raiders drafted Rolando McClain. They missed out on Demaryius Thomas, Dez Bryant, Earl Thomas, Mike Iupati, Maurice Pouncey, and Devin McCourty.
In 2011, Al Davis’ last year as general manager before passing, the Raiders traded their first round pick to the New England Patriots, and not a single player has made a significant impact for the Raiders during their tenure.
In 2012, Reggie McKenzie’s first year was unimpressive; he drafted players that are not a part of the Raiders currently.
In 2013, Reggie McKenzie took a huge risk and drafts D.J. Hayden, who had a freak accident and had his heart stop during practice. He has been unimpressive so far.
In 2014, the Raiders finally hit on their draft! Drafting Khalil Mack, who has 19 career sacks in two years and was named All-Pro for two positions (DE/OLB) and Derek Carr, who has 53 touchdowns to 25 interceptions for 7257 yards and a Pro Bowl appearance.
The Raiders have been in a constant struggle to have any actual talent on their roster, but from hitting the nail on the head with the 2014 draft the Raiders made some changes. They started to make a change and in 2015, the Raiders drafted Amari Cooper, who made an immediate impact of 72 receptions for 1070 yards and six touchdowns. Not bad for a rookie.
In the 2015 season, the Raiders finished 7-9 and finished in third place in the AFC West. It was not their fault entirely; most games were close and not a single one was a blowout loss, the Kansas City Chiefs got hot and won their last 10 out of 11, and the Denver Broncos went on to win the Superbowl.
In the 2016 off-season, the Raiders finally started to make a better change by signing multiple high-profile free agents. They signed Kelechi Osemele from the Baltimore Ravens to a 5 year, $60 million deal, Sean Smith of the Kansas City Chiefs to a four-year, $40 million contract, and Bruce Irvin of the Seattle Seahawks for four years, $39 million contract. All will be contributors for the Raiders in 2016. There will be boosts to their secondary with first round pick Karl Joseph and free agent Reggie Nelson.
Expect the Raiders to make finally the transition that they needed to make for over a decade. Reggie McKenzie has not done the best job as general manager for the Raiders, but he has helped turn around the Raiders from a personnel standpoint. The real hero of the Raiders is Coach Jack Del Rio, who brought the Raiders a strong personality that can change the direction of the franchise. Oakland Fans believe this as well since the Oakland Coliseum has season tickets sold out for the first time in franchise history. Mark my words, this is the change that has been needed for years for the Raiders.
Prediction for the Raiders in 2016: 10-6 9th overall total defense, 14th overall offense.