- Paul Gutierrez, ESPN Staff Writer
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ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie spoke with reporters Thursday in his lone media availability before the NFL draft next week. Following are highlights from McKenzie’s 25-minute news conference.
On if he could rank he top-5 players in the draft: Absolutely…not. (laughter).
On if Johnny Manziel is harder to evaluate than other quarterbacks: I’m not going to say it’s harder to evaluate. You put on the film and you evaluate like any other quarterback. Now, does he do things different? You could look at every quarterback and you’re going to find a different thing that they do. So to say that he’s totally different, no.
On if he’s impressed with Blake Bortles, and if so, in what ways: Well, Blake is a, he’s one of those guys that came on at the end as far as committing as an underclassmen. So, a lot of work has been done, not only with him, but with all these underclassmen. We had 100 or so underclassmen come in. But with Bortles, just like all these quarterbacks these guys are talking about, you guys are talking about, we did everything that we had to do as far as his background and all the due process that we do. But, guys, it’s really no different than any other underclassman, any other quarterback. We evaluate him just like the rest of the guys.
On if it’s harder to evaluate a guy like Khalil Mack because he did not play against a high level of competition: It’s been done in the past. There’s a lot of good players that come from small schools and they do well, just like big schools. Now, he can’t help who he plays against. But he’s played against some good competition.
On if he’d be surprised to end the draft with the same seven picks with which he entered the draft: I wish I had the answer to that. Knowing that these are the picks I have going in, whether I lose one or two because I move up, or I gain a couple, this draft thing is, when you've got 31 other teams, you have no idea who they want at a certain time. That’s what makes it fun -- the uncertainty. But I cannot plan that at all. I can just be hardheaded and stubborn and say, ‘I’m not moving.’ But that’s not my style. My phone line stays open on draft day.
On if he could say what the Raiders’ greatest areas of need are: Then I’d be telling you what I’m going to go after. I can’t tell you that … you won’t tell anybody? (laughter) We’re just going to try to add some impact players, just add to the foundation that we’ve built. We want some good players, some playmakers. And whoever’s available at the spot that we’re picking, that’s what we’re going with. We’re going to and some impact players. This is a good draft.
On if he’s open to trading down in the first round: I’m open to anything. Whether I stay at this pick (No. 5) depends on so many things. I cannot say what I’m going to do without a doubt right now.
On how much stock he puts in 40-yard dash times: It’s important. But like I always said before, so is being a football player. And you talk about instincts, and your ability to read and react. It’s being a football player, more so than the 40 time.
On if he feels extra pressure to draft guys to help win right now, rather than getting guys for the future when you’re potentially not here: You draft for the future. You don’t draft for right now. That’s not the way you do it. That’s not the way I do it.
On if when taking the best player available, how much he takes into account depth at that position, say receiver? If it’s deep, does he consider taking someone later on or is it strictly by the board? No, it really depends on how good that receiver is. It really does. If I feel that this receiver is close to the next, yeah, I’ll be more inclined to say, 'OK, we can wait.' We feel like these two guys are similar. But if I feel like this guy is an impact player, I’m not going to bypass him just because there’s some other good, solid receivers. When you’re comparing great to good, I’d rather have great.
On if the Raiders being seemingly set at QB with Matt Schaub means they don’t have to draft one: What it does is just give us some stability at that position, and we needed that. Because we traded for Schaub does that mean we’re going to bypass a guy that we’ve got graded a certain way? No.
On how easy or hard it was to trade QB Terrelle Pryor to Seattle: It’s always hard when you not only try to trade a player but to release a player. That, to me, is the toughest part of my job, is to let a player know that he’s no longer a part of the team, however that happens. It’s a difficult thing. It was difficult.
On if there was ever a thought or discussion about changing Pryor’s position: It was always, as long as he was here, he was going to be a quarterback.
McKenzie’s closing statement: Guys, you know we have talked about the team. The foundation has been laid. We’re working toward progress, continuous progress. There’s progress that began, really, the foundation, since I got here and working to get things, the culture right, the chemistry. This offseason it’s starting to come to fruition. We brought in some players to compete, to make us better. When you bring in some good players it fosters competition. Competition makes us better. This year we will be better.