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Dave Ziegler’s NFL Draft and free agency history

Diving into the Raiders’ new GM’s resume

Denver Broncos 2011 Headshots
Dave Ziegler
Photo by NFL via Getty Images

The Las Vegas Raiders search for a new general manager and head coach is over.

The organization announced that former New England Patriots director of player personnel Dave Ziegler will be the new GM, and it’s being reported that Pats offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is going to be the Raiders new head coach.

Both newcomers are going to have to hit the ground running and get to work quickly, but especially Ziegler seeing as the Senior Bowl starts this week and both free agency and the NFL Draft are just around the corner.

Ziegler has been in the league for 12 years, rising to New England’s director of player personnel this past season and serving as the assistant director in 2020. Obviously, he has an impressive résumé, but what exactly does that look like, and has he had success at finding players to fill some of the Raiders' current holes on the roster?

Free Agent Classes

Since Ziegler’s rise was more on the pro personnel side, he likely played a bigger hand in the Patriots' most recent free-agent classes so let’s take a look at those notable additions first.

2021

WRs: Nelson Agholor (2 years, $22 million), Kendrick Bourne (3 years, $15 million)

Las Vegas is certainly in the wideout market and while Agholor looks like a bad signing, Bourne ended up being excellent value. He had a career year with 55 catches for 800 yards and five touchdowns, not bad for $5 million a year.

DT Davon Godchaux (2 years, $15 million),

Godchaux’s contract was in line with his production, nothing outrageous. He was brought in to be a run-first defensive tackle and earned a solid 64.5 run defense grade from PFF and racked up 16 pressures as a rusher. A win for Ziegler but not an overwhelming one.

CB Jalen Mills (4 years $24 million)

Another solid value signing at a position of need for the Raiders this offseason. Mills did allow a 58.3 completion percentage and six touchdowns when targeted, but he also only surrendered 440 yards and had eight pass breakups at $6 million a year.

EDGE Matthew Judon (4 years, $54.5 million),

Edge isn’t a pressing need for the Raiders with Maxx Crosby and Yannick Ngakoue under contract for next season, but this was a slam-dunk for the Patriots' former director of pro personnel. Judon had 12.5 sacks and 64 pressures this past season and was in the defensive player of the year conversation at one point in the year.

OG Ted Karras (1 year, $3 million)

Karras returned to New England after a year in Miami and ended up being a good starting guard after primarily serving as a backup during his first stint with the Patriots. He allowed just 13 pressures and earned a 72.8 overall PFF grade, another quality signing for Ziegler at a position of need for the Raiders.

TEs: Hunter Henry (3 years, $37.5 million), Jonnu Smith (4 years, $50 million)

Tight end isn’t a need for Las Vegas, but the position was clearly an emphasis for the Pats last offseason, so this does lend some insight into how the Raiders’ new executive addresses some of his team’s biggest needs. Henry was a hit with a career-high nine touchdown grabs, while Smith was a disappointment.

LB Kyle Van Noy (2 years, $12 million)

Another spot that isn’t going to be a primary concern in Sin City, and it’s hard to give Ziegler much credit for this one as Van Noy was drafted in New England, played well there and was surprisingly released by the Dolphins.

2020

As a whole, the Patriots’ 2020 free-agent class was rather underwhelming as they didn’t have much cap space to work with that offseason while losing several key defenders to COVID-19 opt-outs.

QBs: Cam Newton (1 year, $3.75 million), Brian Hoyer (1 year, $1.05 million)

The Raiders could use a backup quarterback this offseason and Hoyer was a decent pickup for Ziegler, but that could have more to do with Hoyer’s history with the organization. This shouldn’t be a high priority for the new general manager over the next couple of months, however, it will be interesting to see what he can do.

DT Beau Allen (2 years, $7 million)

Allen was a decent value signing at the time but injuries kept him from suiting up in New England. He was released the following offseason.

WR Damiere Byrd (1 year, $1.6 million)

Byrd racked up a career-high 604 yards with the Pats, which is pretty good for such a small contract. He proved to be a good deep threat, another need for the Silver and Black this offseason, and is another good value receiver signing from Ziegler.

S Adrian Phillips (3 years, $12.75 million), Cody Davis (2 years, $4.3 million)

Phillips has been an excellent signing for the Patriots at just over $4 million per year. He’s had 13 combined interceptions and pass breakups in the last two seasons, and earned an 84.5 coverage grade from PFF last season. It seems like the Raiders' new general manager can find some valuable free agent defensive backs.

Davis was signed to be a special teams player and a reserve safety, and he’s earned PFF special teams grades in the 90s the last two years.

Draft Classes

We’ll look at the last two for New England as those are likely the ones he’s had the most involvement in.

2021

  • Round 1 (pick 15): Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
  • Round 2 (pick 38): Christian Barmore, DT, Alabama
  • Round 3 (pick 96): Ronnie Perkins, EDGE, Oklahoma
  • Round 4 (pick 120): Rhamondre Stevenson, RB, Oklahoma
  • Round 5 (pick 177): Cameron McGrone, LB, Michigan
  • Round 6 (picks 188 and 197): Joshua Bledsoe, S, Missouri; William Sherman, OL, Colorado
  • Round 7 (pick 242): Tre Nixon, WR, Central Florida

The biggest standout in this class is the first pick, quarterback Mac Jones. To the surprise of many, Jones ended up having the best rookie season of the five signal callers drafted in the first round. However, the second-round pick should pique the interests of Raiders fans more.

Las Vegas desperately needs defensive tackles this offseason and Ziegler found a good one in Barmore. He ranked second among rookie defenders with 51 pressures and boasted a 76.1 pass-rush grade that was also second-best.

Running back isn’t a pressing need for the Silver and Black but it is encouraging that Ziegler was able to get a quality player like Rhamondre Stevenson in the fourth round. Fumbling limited the Oklahoma product’s playing time early on, but he still managed to get 633 rushing yards and five touchdowns while averaging 4.5 yards per carry in a crowded backfield.

Those three were the only rookies to suit up for the Pats this season, though. Injuries held Perkins, McGrone and Bledsoe back, while Sherman and Nixon were on the practice squad.

2020

  • Round 2 (picks 37 and 60): Kyle Duggar, S, Lenoir-Ryne; Josh Uche, EDGE, Michigan
  • Round 3 (picks 87, 91 and 101): Anfree Jennings, LB, Tennessee; Devin Asiasi, TE, UCLA; Dalton Keene, TE, Virginia Tech
  • Round 5 (pick 159): Justin Rohrwasser, K, Marshall
  • Round 6 (picks 182, 195 and 204): Michael Onwenu, OG, Michigan; Justin Herron, OT, Wake Forrest; Cassh Maluia, LB, Wyoming
  • Round 7 (pick 230): Dustin Woodard, C, Memphis

The jury is still out on Duggar as a second-round pick. The Division-II product was a bit of a risk as a top-40 pick but had really good testing numbers at the combine. He improved in year two and has the potential to make Ziegler and New England’s scouting department look like geniuses, but it’s still too early to make that call.

Uche was considered a pretty good value pick at the time, but he’s struggled to see the field with just one start in two years. Not exactly what you’re hoping for from a Day 2 selection.

The third-round picks are even more of a black mark on Ziegler’s résumé. Jennings was in the linebacker rotation as a rookie and earned a sub-par 54.6 PFF grade, and missed all of this past season with an injury. The two tight ends, Asiasi and Keene, have barely seen the field, partially because the Patriots spent $87.5 million on the position the following year in free agency.

Onwenu has been a tremendous value as a sixth-rounder, making 24 career starts and earning overall PFF grades of 84.3 and 86.7 over the past two seasons. That’s really encouraging to see from the Raiders’ new general manager.

Herron has been a reliable backup, grading out at 63.4 and 61.7 with 10 starts as a rookie and sophomore. It’s hard to expect much more than that from a late Day 3 pick.

The others have either barely played or not played at all in the NFL.

Outside of the sixth-round lineman and potentially Duggar, this draft class isn’t a ringing endorsement for Ziegler. However, his theme of being economical and finding valuable players for cheap did continue.