ALAMEDA (AP) — Reggie McKenzie had to wait through almost two entire days and three rounds before making his first draft pick as Oakland Raiders general manager.
After watching some promising names come off his draft board, McKenzie trusted his preparation and took Utah guard Tony Bergstrom with the 95th overall pick in the Raiders' first draft without longtime owner Al Davis at the helm in a half-century.
"I didn't get consumed by that, but it was definitely known that it was going to be my first pick," McKenzie said. "To be an offensive lineman, one of those unsung-hero type of positions, it's not too fancy, like if you grab a quarterback, or the receiver, someone who scores touchdowns. This is a blue-collar position, and he was the best player that we had up there."
McKenzie's first draft was an agonizing wait at times as the Raiders had previously traded their first-round pick to Cincinnati for quarterback Carson Palmer, their second-rounder to New England for running back Taiwan Jones and Joe Barksdale and used their third-rounder to take quarterback Terrelle Pryor in last summer's supplemental draft.
With few assets available to trade, McKenzie had little chance to move up and had to spend most of the first two days waiting and hoping that one of the players he wanted would still be available.
"It was extremely difficult," McKenzie said. "I mean, to see all the names fly off the board, you know, it's not like you have a boatload of names up there. Especially when you get to the middle of the third round because they're falling off the board. It was very hard to just watch good players that you like come off the board."
As the third round got going, Bergstrom was one of the names still left on McKenzie's list of hopefuls and he finally got that chance with the final pick of the third round with the first of Oakland's three compensatory picks.
McKenzie and coach Dennis Allen passed up a chance to bolster a defense that was porous last season and went for a physical interior offensive lineman instead that McKenzie praised for his toughness, intelligence and versatility.
"He's a guy that fits the type of scheme that we're going to be here, with some of the zone-blocking stuff and his ability to get to the second level," Allen said. "When you watch tape on him, I think you can tell not only by watching tape that this guy loves football, but he also has the athleticism that you need to run our type of zone-blocking scheme. So we're excited about him, and think he's going to be a real good player for us."
Bergstrom played 48 career games at Utah, starting the final 38 at right tackle. But he knew he would likely need to move inside to guard where he hopes to be able to use his physicality to his advantage.
Bergstrom is expected to compete with veteran Cooper Carlisle for the starting left guard spot. Carlisle, who started the past five seasons at right guard, moved to the left side after Oakland signed free agent Mike Brisiel to a four-year deal worth almost $20 million in March.
Bergstrom spent most of his time at the Senior Bowl at guard, where he caught the eyes of the Raiders' scouts.
"I've already had a bit of a taste for it," he said. "There's a little growing pains, I'm sure there will be, coming into this new league and switching positions. But, it's something that came pretty naturally to me. It was fun. I'm not going to lie to you. You get inside, it's not so much finesse anymore, it's a little more gritty. I feel like I'm capable of making that transition."
Bergstrom delayed the start of his college career to serve a two-year Mormon mission. He turns 26-years old in August and he and the Raiders believe his maturity is a positive.
"I'm no stranger to coming home and studying all day and spending time with the family instead of going out at night," he said. "As soon as I get my playbook I'm going back to that lifestyle of just studying every day and doing my workouts. I think having that schedule that you get used to that's kind of a big part of maturity."
The Raiders also have compensatory picks at the end of the fourth and fifth rounds and their own picks in the fifth and sixth rounds to be used Saturday.