Pick by pick and trait by trait, general manager Reggie McKenzie and coach Dennis Allen showed what they value and whom they trust.

Their 2012 draft class showed us, really, what they believe in as they rebuild and reorganize the Raiders in the post-Al Davis universe.

Defense. Productivity. Athletic versatility. Character. Team chemistry.

And, yes, strong religious faith, as reflected in the backgrounds of almost all of their draft choices.

"I think when you talk about high-character guys, how they were brought up, work ethic, I think part of that is kind of reflective on your faith," McKenzie said Saturday evening.

"At least I know it was with me. But did we go out and say we're going to get faith-based players specifically? No. No. That's not our intent.

"But I think just by nature, good-quality players have a strong foundation in their faith."

That's about as point blank as any NFL official will ever say it, even further down that road than Mike Singletary used to go when he was the 49ers' coach.

McKenzie believes in belief -- if it creates a more cohesive team and if he isn't close-minded about other personal choices, he will not be incorrect.

When the Raiders' six-player 2012 draft class was complete, it certainly wasn't clear if the team was significantly better.


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Thanks to trades made by the previous regime, the Raiders had too few premium draft picks, which produced too many question marks.

McKenzie was honest about that. Nobody will know anything about this group until Tony Bergstrom, Miles Burris, Jack Crawford, Juron Criner, Christo Bilukidi and Nathan Stupar get on the field.

"We set out to try to upgrade the team, and by the end of the day we felt like we did that," McKenzie said. "Remains to be seen just how good they will be, but we anxiously will await their presence here in Oakland and also into camp."

The bigger picture: McKenzie, in his first draft while running the Raiders' football operations, painted a clear picture about the core characteristics of this reconstruction.

He believes it starts with defense, believes in versatile players and believes they must prove they can produce on the field.

And he absolutely believes that locker-room chemistry is essential, formulated by faith, productivity and a strong defense.

"You've got to understand we have a defensive head coach and a defensive-minded general manager," McKenzie said with a smile. "So let's win on defense."

It's not a total departure from the Al Davis method.

The Old Raiders loved prospects with basketball backgrounds, and sure enough, five of McKenzie's six picks played basketball in high school.

Plus, McKenzie recently signed free agent Andre Hardy, a tight-end prospect who played basketball in college but not football.

"Yes, it helps when you talk about how athletic especially big men are," McKenzie said when asked about basketball as a scouting tool. "Do we go in and look for guys who played basketball? No. No.

"But when we research and get down into the scouting part of it, yes. That's part of the process. It's just like when we look at defensive backs -- if they play center field and outfield, learning how to track balls, that's part of scouting."

There are big differences from the Al Way, however.

In this draft, McKenzie and Allen emphasized things that Davis often did not: players who are worthy teammates and who work hard at their craft.

"At the end of the day, really, what we went off of was, when we looked at the tape, what players jumped out at us that were productive, quality football players," Allen said.

"And I think every one of the guys that we were able to pick understood how to play the game, they were tough, they were smart, they were disciplined, they played the game with instincts. Those were the qualities we looked for in a football player.

"And then they've got to be above a certain line athletically, and all these guys were."

To this point, McKenzie confirmed that the Raiders will take a look at quarterback Matt Leinart, who is coming off a severe shoulder injury but played under new Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Knapp in Houston.

Leinart, a career NFL mediocrity, is no superstar candidate to back up Carson Palmer, his former USC teammate. But he is a far superior option to second-year project Terrelle Pryor, who probably isn't an NFL quarterback at all.

Things are different with the Raiders. That has been true from the beginning of McKenzie's tenure.

It's more and more true with every decision he makes and every principle he utters. It's no guarantee of success, but it's clear and it's what he believes.

Read Tim Kawakami's Talking Points blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/kawakami. Contact him at tkawakami@mercurynews.com.