General manager Dave Ziegler and his assistant Champ Kelly can truly explore the variety of ways they can execute building a roster in-tune to what head coach Josh McDaniels wants to accomplish with his desert marauders. The trio of decision makers left open the potential myriad of possibilities — letting the draft play out and pick when the Raiders name is called or maneuver back into the first or second rounds — during media sessions so the options do appear aplenty.
Picking later in the draft gives Las Vegas the luxury of going need or best player available (BPA). Need is something all 32 teams go far in the draft — to say otherwise is shenanigans — but for the Silver & Black in particular, the team went that direction in the opening round, a lot. Going the need route under the previous regime wasn’t an exercise in prudence — to say the least. Players like Clelin Ferrell, Damon Arnette and Johnathan Abram were first-round risks that brought minimal reward. Running back Josh Jacobs is a productive first-round pick and wide receiver Henry Ruggs III appeared on his way until an off-field incident has ended his promising NFL career. And the jury is very much out on right tackle Alex Leatherwood.
And that’s the inherit risk of going addressing a need with a high-round pick and not developing said prospect properly. Not only has the team burned a valuable draft selection, but they’re problem area is only exacerbated by the miscalculation of the pick. Not an ideal situation for a moribund franchise like the Raiders where success has been fleeting.
That risk, however, is much lower with mid- to late-round picks. Those are usually the gamble spots for teams across the league. And despite some of their misadventures in the higher rounds, the previous regime did pluck gems like defensive end Maxx Crosby (fourth round, 106th overall, 2019 draft), wide receiver Hunter Renfrow (fifth round, 149th overall, 2019 draft) and cornerback Nate Hobbs (fifth round, 167th overall, 2021 draft) in the later rounds. Talent can be had in seemingly any round — or even after — the draft.
Which leads us to the April 28-30 event in the Raiders’ backyard of Las Vegas. If Ziegler and Co. don’t make a move and enter the first or second rounds, the Raiders draft engagement begins in Round 3 with the No. 86 overall pick. Let’s digest Vegas’ picks in total first:
Raiders’ Draft Picks
- Round 3: Pick 22, No. 86 overall
- Round 4: Pick 21, No. 126 overall
- Round 5: Pick 21, No. 164 overall (From Patriots)
- Round 5: Pick 22, No. 165 overall
- Round 7: Pick 6, No. 227 overall (From Panthers)
Stay pat and make a pick at 86 — need or BPA — or entertain offers to trade back and gain more draft picks in return, Ziegler should have plenty of options when his Raiders are on the clock.
Raiders Positions of Need
Right tackle: Leatherwood was supposed to be the long-term player at the position but that lasted all of four games before he was moved inside to guard. McDaniels said the roster begins with a clean slate and thus, there’s a chance Leatherwood gets to fight for the position he started his NFL career in. There’s also incumbent Brandon Parker and Jermaine Eluemunor. Parker started at the right tackle spot and Eluemunor was the starting right tackle in New England when McDaniels was the Patriots play caller. The third round is a solid money spot for the Raiders to dabble in the tackle position, in the draft however.
Guard: Denzelle Good and John Simpson are the incumbents, but if the former isn’t fully recovered from a torn ACL, Leatherwood likely sticks inside. The group could use more competition, however, and quality guards can be found in the mid to late rounds of the draft. Eluemunor has the flexibility to shift inside, when needed, but if Leatherwood and Simpson continue their development, quality depth is still a must.
Safety: Tre’Von Moehrig is an upward trajectory young free safety but the strong safety spot in Vegas is murky. Jonathan Abram has the look of a one-dimensional punisher of a hitman safety while veteran Duron Harmon is a better deep cover man but is 31. If the Raiders were inclined, they could draft another rangy safety to play alongside Moehrig in the two deep safety set that’s expected to be deployed by new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham.
Other areas that have depth but could use further infusion of talent are cornerback and wide receiver. Particularly, a speedy wide receiver who has the home run speed to take a short pass to the house.