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McKenzie speaks on Raiders 2014 draft class, where team stands

Here’s what Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie had to say about the eight players he selected in the three-day, seven-round 2014 NFL draft last weekend, and more, in a question-and-answer session with local media:

Q: How hard was it after you made the first couple of picks to wait for a couple of hours and how hard did you push to get an added pick? Did you just sit there?
McKenzie: “No, I couldn’t just sit there. But it was extremely difficult. I never want to go through that again. We tried to see if we could get some movement, but had no takers. So, we made our picks. We had to wait until Round Seven.”

Q: By move, did you mean to move out of the fourth round to get some extra picks?
McKenzie: “Move out of the fourth to try to pick up some extra, yes.”

Q: You talk all the time about character and the type of players that you want on this team. Today, you went with some players who had some issues in college with their team or with the law. Is that just a case of getting to Day Three and there are no people left and you have to give up something?
McKenzie: “Well, it’s twofold. It’s always a chance to redeem themselves. When we get a situation where you give a player an opportunity, a second chance, especially as of late, the issues have not been like it was in the past for them if they learn from it or sometimes a player really feels remorse when he did make a mistake. The key is how do you feel after you have a conversation with the kid and meet with him and talk to all the people that you need to talk to as far who knows him and just trying to get a better feel for him, that particular player. And when you can come away from it saying, ‘I am going to give him a chance,’ or, ‘I’m not.’ That’s when you make a decision. That’s why we made that decision on a couple of the guys today. We did that. I know that you guys were asking about Stacy [McGee] last year. That was a situation that we felt after speaking with Stacy, speaking to all the people down there, we felt comfortable at that time to do that.”

Q: Specifically we Shelby, how difficult is it to evaluate a guy that doesn’t play at all this past year?
McKenzie: “It was hard from the standpoint that you don’t have current film, but he has a ton of film from the year before. So, you know what kind of player he is from his earlier years’ tape and we were at the pro day and we had that on film. We kind of notice conditioning and what he had looked like at the time and we knew what he played like. That’s the only reason we drafted him, because we liked the way he played. We were comfortable with him trying to grow from that situation.”

Q: Going back to Derek Carr, was there any thought to trading back up to try to get Johnny Manziel or Teddy Bridgewater?
McKenzie: “I wanted the picks. There were some teams calling and seeing if we wanted to move up, but I was OK with just sitting there and taking the best player.”

Q: What stood out for you as far as Carr goes? Why did you like Carr so much in the whole pre-draft process?
McKenzie: “In evaluating him, we thought he could definitely throw the ball. He was athletic. All the things that we were looking for in a quarterback, we felt like he had. He played different styles of offense. He played under center, and of course he played in the spread offense. Bottom line, he was an extremely smart football player, he knew how to read defenses. He was one of those guys that you knew he knew how to play the position. We had a chance to get a really good player, and we jumped at it.”

Q: You said that you can’t really judge a draft for at least three years. But does this year feel different at the end of the day as opposed to last year and your first year?
McKenzie: “From the standpoint, especially the first two days, the way it went when guys fell to us that we liked, may have not felt for other teams as far as they perceived the players we picked. From the players we picked, we had them on the board at that point, they were the best player. When you get it like that, we felt really good. To get Khalil, to get Carr, to get big Gabe, we were very excited because of the way it fell to us. We felt like we wanted to make today just as good as the other two. We felt good about today. So, does it feel any different? A little bit, especially early, the way it fell. We were excited.”

Q: You go by the board, but obviously you took five defensive guys today, you took Khalil with your first pick, you brought in a lot of defensive free agents. How much of a priority was that side of the ball?
McKenzie: “It was important. We wanted to upgrade both sides of the ball, but we really wanted to try to upgrade both fronts, which we think we did. We just want to be a better defense. We attacked that this offseason.”

Q: McGill, the corner that you took, played a little bit of safety, too. Do you envision him as a corner?
McKenzie: “Corner. He’s a big corner. That’s what we drafted him for.”

Q: The other corner, he returns kicks, too. Was that a part of why you drafted him?
McKenzie: “Yes.”

Q: Did you guys see Justin Ellis a long time ago, or was it something that this offseason that put him in your sights?
McKenzie: “We’ve evaluated him for quite some time. One thing with Coach Terrell (Williams), he gets to know the kids. Justin is not the only one that he got close to. He really took an interest in finding out more about him, because he didn’t know too much about him. He liked him from day one and so did we.”

Q: He said at one point he was near 390 in college and now he’s near 346. He says he tends to fluctuate a lot. How much of that is a concern?
McKenzie: “Keep him away from home. He’s home with mama and the family. These guys are young 22 year olds. He’s not going to go around eating salads all day. He’ll get here, he’ll get in a nutrition plan and he’ll be fine.”

Q: On the plus side of that, you’ve talked about the fact that you like guys with girth and power. When you had guys like he and Gabe , what does that do for you guys?
McKenzie: “It makes us a bigger and stronger, and hopefully more physical and dominant team. We want to do the pushing around. You do that with big people.”

Q: You didn’t take a wide receiver in the draft. Were you comfortable with the guys you have or what was your thinking there?
McKenzie: “We like who we have, but when the board falls to where the receivers at that time were not high on the board, we’re not going to reach down and take a receiver. I would have liked to have had a receiver, I would have. But it just didn’t fall that way.”

Q: He obviously must not have been on your board to take him, but what are your thoughts on Michael Sam being drafted?
McKenzie: “That’s one of those deals that, for one, the player, as far as we’re concerned, we evaluate every player one like the other. I was happy to see him get drafted. We just always stay true to our evaluation process. If we deem him this type of player, whether it’s free agent, first round or reject, we don’t care what his circumstances are. We evaluate the guy and that’s where we put him on the board.”

Q: In the past, undrafted free agents are something that you don’t normally address but in the case of George Atkinson III, can you confirm that signing?
McKenzie: “The one thing I cannot do is confirm the signings, because we’re in the process of trying to get all of the agreements done verbally. It’s a rat-race when it comes to that because the kids change their minds so many times. It’s a recruiting process where we may have thought we had a deal and then five or fifteen minutes later, we don’t. So, we tend to wait until we get the signed document and then announce it.”

Q: You probably have some good information on him…
McKenzie: “Yes. And he better not renege.”

Q: Carrie had a few injuries in college. Does that injury raise a red-flag for you even if he’s healthy now?
McKenzie: “It does. He was probably a better player than when we drafted him and that’s probably one of the reasons. He was rehabbing also, from the offseason injury during the season. We take that into account. He’s ready to go. He passed our physical.”

Q: Going back to Harris, what do you like about him?
McKenzie: “I did not scout him, but my college scout in that area and he really liked him. He was a football player. He’s one of those guys who knows how to use his hands and he finds the football. Some guys just have it. The instinct is to locate the ball and get there, and he did a very good job of that.”

Q: Once you see what he can do on the field, what do you want to see from him when you speak to him?
McKenzie: “Number one, I want to see the same thing on the field that I see on film. Now, off the field, I want him to be just as eager to learn, just as eager to get with his teammates and try to be the best practice player in the weight room, on the field, that he possibly could be. In the meeting room, learning and minimizing mistakes, I want all of those guys to show the staff, their teammates that they want to be here for the duration.”

Q: Was there anything specific about Harris that stood out to you?
McKenzie: “His instincts. It seemed like he was, for whatever reason, he naturally found the football. That was one thing that just jumped out.”

Q: If you take this draft as a whole with your initial impressions, do you think you’ve added depth that can help you in 2014?
McKenzie: “Yes. I’m hopeful for that. I felt like we got guys that can do more than just compete. They’re going to fight to try to win the job, whatever it is. Whether it’s a key backup role, key special teams role, a starter, or try to start. I think we’ve got some guys that are focused on doing that.”

Q: The Raider Nation has been following this draft the last three days. Do you have a message for them about the draft picks and what they can foresee?
McKenzie: “My message is from top to bottom, we felt like we got true Raiders. Guys who love football, guys who really want to be physical, we feel like we got some great size, guys who can play with some power and we got some guys that can run. We got a big corner, big offensive lineman, big d-lineman. We wanted to get bigger. We wanted to be more physical, because we feel that’s the Raider way. We feel we did that this weekend.”

Q: Were you reluctant in any way to use a second round pick on a player that you guys have said is not going to start?
McKenzie: “I wasn’t reluctant at all, because of the way we had the player graded. We thought he was a really good football player.”

Q: On that same note, did you come into this draft wanting to get a quarterback of the future and do you think you’ve done that?
McKenzie: “Not necessarily the quarterback of the future, but if a guy shows what we picked that we felt comfortable when that time came, we were going to pick them. Going into it, we felt like there were some good players, not only at the quarterback position, but at a lot of positions. That’s why we were ready to take some good players, especially in that first and second day.”

Q: With a guy like Mack, how will that affect the playing time of a Sio Moore?
McKenzie: “It’s going to affect it a little bit. One thing that our defensive staff can do, they know how to get the best player on the field. They know how to figure out different ways to move them around and put them in the best positions that they can make plays. We’ve got some good players, so let’s get them on the field and figure out where to position them.”

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Harris transcript from conference call with local media

Here is what defensive end Shelby Harris had to say in a conference call with Bay Area media Saturday after he was selected in the seventh round:

Q: Did you have an inkling that the Raiders were in on you?
Harris: “I had a feeling, but just to have my name called was a great feeling. Just knowing that it’s official, and I’m part of Raider Nation. I couldn’t be more excited.”

Q: Having not played last year, what were your thoughts going in to this weekend?
Harris: “I knew I had the ability to play, but also with everything that’s happened in the past, you never know. I just left it all up to God and prayed. My prayers were answered.”

Q: Did you watch?
Harris: “Yes definitely, I was watching the whole time.”

Q: Where did you meet with the Raiders?
Harris: “I met with them at the Northwestern Pro Day. I met with [college area scout] Trey Scott, the Raiders scout. What made me respect the Raiders was that he talked to me like a man. After talking a little bit, he said he could tell that I have matured over the years, which I have. I couldn’t ask for a better organization.”

Q: Do you feel like you have something to prove to try to show that you’ve moved on from your past?
Harris: “Definitely. It’s not necessarily something to prove, but to my teammates and to my coaches, I want to prove to them that I’m a better person. I’m not what the papers and everyone says I am. I am a good person with a great background and I’m a great team person, and that’s what’s important.”

Q: What can you tell us about the dismissal from the team?
Harris: “I’m not necessarily going to get into it. I’m just going to say that I made some mistakes and I’ve moved on. I’ve grown from them. In the end, it has made me a better person and made me who I am today.”

Q: Sitting out of football last season, did you have a self discovery during that team?
Harris: “It was heartbreaking. It was going to be my senior year and just knowing that I had been riding it out with those same guys for the last three years, and coming off the season we had, when we went to the playoffs, I was looking forward to my senior year. When everything went down and I was dismissed from the team, it hit me hard. It made me look at myself in the mirror and look at me as a person and think ‘what do I need to change as a person to be successful.’”

Q: Your bio says you weighed 250 your junior year and now it says you weight 288. Have you put on that much weight?
Harris: “I was around 255 my sophomore year. My last year I played, I was around 270-275.”

Q: You were a tackle your last year at Illinois State. Do you project as a defensive end with the Raiders as far as you know? Or did they not get that specific?
Harris: “We didn’t really go over specifics, but honestly, I can play wherever they want me to.”

Q: How did you stay in shape the year you weren’t playing?
Harris: “Well, I went to a community college that had a weight room and basketball helped out a lot. Also, I got a job, just keeping busy. But, I ran, played basketball and worked out every day. So that’s how I stayed in shape. Then, leading up into the draft, I went and trained in Indianapolis at St. Vincent Sports Performance. That’s really what helped me get into that next level, going to Indianapolis and training there.”

Q: What did you do for a job?
Harris: “I was a server at this Italian restaurant.”

Q: Did the tips come out pretty good there?
Harris: “Honestly, I loved the people I worked with. I had a great time working there. The only reason I left was because I wanted to go train in Indianapolis.”

Q: Would you say the teams that spoke to your before didn’t talk to you like a man? What does that mean?
Harris: “It’s not necessarily that they didn’t talk to me like a man. It’s just the fact that I feel like the Raiders organization in general is a very professional organization and everyone that I talked to in the Raiders organization were the most up worthy, classy people I met throughout this whole process. Everyone else I met throughout the process, they were all great people and they were all great organizations, but the Raiders from the beginning made it known that they were interested.”

Q: The Raiders have made it known the last couple of years to say that they want guys of high character. What do you think that says about taking you?
Harris: “I think that shows in general as me as a person how they can tell from talking to me that I am not a bad person. Even though I may have been through a lot, I’m still a good person and I’m willing to work and I am a good player.”

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535

Capsules on Raiders seventh-round draft picks

T.J. Carrie
Round: Seven, No. 219 overall
Position: Cornerback
College: Ohio
Height, weight: 6-foot, 206 pounds
Resume: Prepped at De La High School; started 12 of 13 games he played his senior season; returned two interceptions for touchdowns last season in one game; missed all of 2012 season with a fractured right shoulder that required surgery and all of 2009 with a torn labrum in his left hip that required surgery; played in 26 games in 2010 and ’11 combined; admirable size and strength for a cornerback; has a decent shot to make the roster as backup and special teams players; ran 4.49-second 40-yard dash.

Shelby Harris
Round: Seventh, No. 235 overall
Position: Defensive end
College: Illinois State
Height, weight: 6-foot-2, 288 pounds
Resume: Dismissed from the team before his senior season for conduct detrimental to the team; he transferred to Illinois State from Wisconsin and was suspended for behavioral issues at some point before his dismissal; earned first-team All-Missouri Valley Conference his junior season, when he recorded seven sacks and one interception; posted 14 sacks in 33 games overall.

Jonathan Dowling
Round: Seventh round, No. 247 overall
Position: Defensive back
College: Western Kentucky
Height, weight: 6-foot-3, 190 pounds
Resume: Began collegiate career at Florida, but he got kicked off the team in 2010 by coach Urban Meyer; transferred to Western Kentucky; intercepted six passes in 2012 and posted NCAA-leading six forced fumbles last season; has talent to be solid NFL player as long as he matures and works harder than he did in college.

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