ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Arden Key has a specific goal in mind for his rookie year, besides racking up sacks and stats for the Oakland Raiders. It has more to do with separating perception from his reality.
"That I'm not the guy that the media portrays me to be," Key said Friday night after the Raiders selected the former LSU defensive end in the third round of the draft, 87th overall.
"Football is not the question. Everybody knows, talent-wise, if we're just talking talent, top-five pick, automatic."
Key, though, fell into the third round and into the Raiders' lap because of off-the-field issues that clouded his past year. In the spring of 2017 he checked himself into rehab for marijuana, and then appeared in just eight games last fall because of injuries. This after he set the LSU single-season sacks record with 12 in 2016. Key had 26 1/2 sacks during three seasons as a Tiger.
"Well, he's not a finished product," Gruden said of Key. "He's made some mistakes. He's had some difficult times in his young life, and I know where he's been for the last several months, and I know what he's been through in his career. We've done a lot of research on him and he has a lot to prove ... but at the end of the third round, we feel like it's a gamble worth taking and this young man has some qualities that are rare.
"We do think he's a very good kid ... but this is a young person that needs some help right now, and we're going to help him."
Key said he acknowledged his mistakes to teams in pre-draft interviews and felt his honesty helped him. Even if, as he said, he went later than his talent should have had him go in the draft.
"I know I'm not a third-round pick; I'm a first-round talent, top five," he said. "I went through some situations that caused me to be a third-round pick. I've learned from those things and this is the consequence of me going through what I went through. I'm a better person now than I was prior to it. I'm just happy to be at the right place.
"I feel the Oakland Raiders is the right place for me. That was the best visit I went on out of all eight of my visits. Being on the other side of Khalil Mack, learning things from him and that sort, him taking me under his wing [would be helpful], if he wants to do that."