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Judging Raiders’ 2013 draft is all about context

D.J. Hayden is hurt again. Menelik Watson is not a starter. And the Raiders’ fourth round selection of 2013, quarterback Tyler Wilson, was cut before the season began.

None of these facts are disputable, none of them are positive. More importantly, none of them make the Raiders brass look good.

But a few facts are being overlooked by haters of Reggie McKenzie and Dennis Allen. And the facts that are being ignored by the mass of Raider Nation are probably the most pertinent.

The first four picks of the 2013 draft included three tackles, Eric Winston (Chiefs), Luke Joeckel (Jaguars) and Lane Johnson (Eagles). The other was defensive end Dion Jordan, who was selected by the Miami Dolphins after Oakland traded the third overall pick, moving down to pick 12 yet adding a second rounder that they wouldn’t have otherwise had.

Neither Winston, Joeckel or Johnson have made a direct and noticeable impact to their teams, and Dion Jordan is currently serving a four-game suspension for a substance abuse violation.

Two other tackles were taken in the first round  D.J. Fluker by the Chargers and Justin Pugh by the Giants. Neither have lived up to their billed talent. In fact, even though Fluker played over 1,000 snaps during his rookie season, Pro Football Focus issued him a -8.6 pass blocking grade.

Pugh played nearly the same amount, and finished his rookie campaign with a -7.1 pass block grade.

Watson, though he seldom saw the field in comparison to the others, finished with a -2.8 pass block grade. Sure, that’s bad also. But when put into context, it’s safe to consider the pick a decent one.

Especially since he was taken in the second round, not the first like the aforementioned.

Hayden hasn’t done much, and has hardly been healthy since being drafted 12th overall. But neither has Dee Milliner, drafted by the Jets at ninth overall, three picks ahead of Hayden. And Milliner has a lot more help up front.

Milliner also doesn’t play in the best division in the AFC, he plays in the worst.

Regardless, it’s not right to pick on rookie corners. That’s because opposing coaches and quarterbacks do, and usually win. The job of cornerback is arguably the toughest in football, shadowing receivers who know where they’re going and do everything they can to disguise it.

Players like Keenan Allen, who Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers must be eternally grateful to. During the Chargers’ Week 5 trip to Oakland, Rivers threw to Allen all night long.

And in the red zone, with the game on the line, the Rivers to Allen combo was in full effect.

But on an inside slant play to Allen, Rivers hesitated. Hayden saw his chance and took it, sealing a Raiders victory against a division rival.

The Undisputed

Before we get to Wilson — for whom there is no argument — Raider Nation might want to thank Sio Moore. He’s undoubtedly the best outside linebacker to come from the class of 2013, and really does care about working harder and harder, until he collapses onto the floor after challenging Justin Tuck to a push up contest.

Moore posted 4-1/2 sacks in 11 2013 starts, and was in coverage more than he was rushing the quarterback. And it’s not like he had the help of a defensive front like Seattle’s.

So please, before hating on the class of 2013, send Moore a tweet about your appreciation as a fan.

Now, Tyler Wilson. He was cut in favor of an undrafted rookie. Sure, that’s not a good look. It’s not, end of story. But consider that McKenzie was also the one who brought in Matt McGloin, the team’s best quarterback of 2013.

Context is key.

Oakland was without a fifth-round pick, though they seemed to have made the most of their four sixth rounders, tight end Nick Kasa, running back Latavius Murray, tight end Mychal Rivera and defensive tackle Stacy McGee.

Murray was the only one to not receive a whole lot of playing time. This year, though, he’s looking like a more-than-capable backup and quite possible he could turn into a decent starter. In the sixth round.

Wide receiver Brice Butler beat out the competition again during training camp after being selected in the seventh round. Last year, the competition wasn’t heavy. This year, the team brought in Greg Little, who has been a consistent underachiever. But don’t take that away from Butler.

The Raiders’ last pick of 2013, defensive end David Bass, didn’t make the team. But that’s relatively normal. Even with a loaded 2014 draft class, all four of the St. Louis Rams’ seventh round picks were cut.

Just for context.

So sure, after some mediocre 8-8 seasons in what was a weak AFC West, one without Alex Smith or Peyton Manning, the Raiders have posted two consecutive 4-12 records. And that doesn’t appear to be changing as quickly as they’d hope.

Sure, with every bad play that the team makes this year, Allen’s job as head coach looks less certain.

But expect Mark Davis to compare and contrast the roster moves and draft selections for a baseline of what good and bad is before he’ll consider removing McKenzie from his post.

Because it’s context that provides clarity in defining whether decisions are good or bad.

Follow @SFBay and @JLeskiwNFL on Twitter and at for full coverage of the Oakland Raiders.

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