ALAMEDA, Calif. -- There was a certain vintage feel to the Oakland Raiders' first draft with Jon Gruden in the room since 2001.
There were small-school picks -- second-round defensive tackle P.J. Hall went to Sam Houston State and third-round offensive tackle Brandon Parker attended North Carolina A&T.
There were guys with red flags -- third-round defensive end Arden Key had his issues at LSU, as did sixth-round linebacker Azeem Victor at Washington. And, there were guys with injury and health concerns -- fourth-round cornerback Nick Nelson is recovering from meniscus surgery and fifth-round defensive tackle Maurice Hurst has a heart issue.
There were height-weight-speed guys -- first-round offensive tackle Kolton Miller is nearly 6-foot-9 and 309 pounds, fifth-round punter Johnny Townsend has above-average leg strength and seventh-round receiver Marcell Ateman is a big red-zone target at 6-foot-4, 220 pounds.
“Yeah, my mom called and she said that, ‘Maybe Mr. (Al) Davis was calling the picks down from heaven,’” Gruden said with a laugh. “It’s a philosophy that I have, it’s a philosophy that I learned here. Bigger guys can be a good thing, faster can be better.”
Indeed, this draft class has a boom-or-bust feel to it, and it will be on full display beginning Friday at the Raiders facility as they open a three-day rookie minicamp. And that includes Miller, even with UCLA on the quarter system that kept last year’s third-round selection, Eddie Vanderdoes, away from the Raiders until school was over.
“The rules are different now, so he’ll be good,” said Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie, who was also asked about “risky business” associated with the draft picks.
“When you say risky business, you’re talking about medical and a couple of character issues,” McKenzie said. “On the medical deal, we’re not going to, unless our medical people flat out rejects a guy, we’re not going to flunk them. If they feel like they can play this year, we’re going to pass them. If they’re going to be well at a certain point, we’re going to keep them on the board. If it’s something that will prevent them from playing forever, then we’ll take them off the board.”
Key reportedly was in rehab for marijuana in the spring of 2017 and Victor is awaiting a May 30 jury trial in Seattle on a DUI arrest for which he has pleaded not guilty.
“As far as character, we’re not going to condemn these kids for mistakes,” McKenzie said. “We’re not going to lower our standards. Ever. But we feel like we have a great system in place to help guys who have fallen.
“If they’re willing to stand up, own it and get better within themselves, we’re going to give them a shot. We’re going to hold them accountable and this staff is going to do a great job of holding them accountable and helping them.”