Raiders' GM McKenzie: 'We will be better'

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie held his pre-draft media availability with Bay Area reporters Thursday and while he did not reveal his wish list or more than a cursory draft strategy, the owner of the No. 5 overall pick did offer hope to a frustrated fan base.

"The foundation has been laid," McKenzie said. "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," McKenzie added, "we will be better."

Got it? It's not Joe Namath-guarantee-in-Super-Bowl-III territory, but after consecutive 4-12 seasons in the Raiders' "deconstruction" phase, McKenzie said they will be improved in Year 1 of their "reconstruction," even if they face the toughest schedule in the NFL.

Obviously, every general manager wants to nail every draft pick they make, so I asked McKenzie if there was any additional pressure this year, especially after going a combined 8-24 the previous two seasons.

"It's my goal and the Raiders' goal to hit on my picks, and to be right in everything we do," he said. "This year, I'm more excited. I can't call it pressure. I'm more excited because of the foundation that we've built this offseason. It's much more exciting. Yes, I do want to hit on every one of these guys."

There would seem to be a delicate balance between drafting for immediate impact and for down the road, yes?

"You draft for the future," he said. "You don't draft for right now. That's not the way you do it. That's not the way I do it."

The Raiders' picks currently reside at No. 5, No. 36, No. 67, No. 107, No. 219, No. 235 and No. 247.

Would McKenzie be surprised to exit the draft with those same selections?

"I wish I had the answer to that," he said. "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. I'm open to anything."

McKenzie did say he has been fielding calls, but no actual offers.

"It's going to heat up later," he said.