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Raiders Draft 2023: Changing a moribund course

General manager Dave Ziegler, head coach Josh McDaniels must make scouting, coaching, and player development productive in Las Vegas

San Francisco 49ers v Las Vegas Raiders
Las Vegas Raiders general manager Dave Ziegler, right, could takeaway key things from San Francisco 49ers GM John Lynch, left. Lynch is the head personnel man for an impressively built 49ers squad.
Photo by Jeff Bottari/Getty Images

Rookie Brock Purdy flies in the face of folk adamant finding a franchise QB in the NFL Draft isn’t a worthy gamble. But the San Francisco 49ers lived up to their namesake and struck gold with the final pick in the 2022 draft.

Purdy, who certainly helps his case by exuding uncanny moxie, has gone from Mr. Irrelevant to Mr. Relevant. But what some folks call an “anomaly”, the San Francisco calls proper scouting, coaching, and development.

That isn’t something the Las Vegas Raiders do well.

Scouting, coaching, and development are three mission-critical elements that’s been absent in both the desert and the bay before that. Whether it was in Oakland or now in Las Vegas, consistency in the three areas has been severely lacking, resulting in what the Silver & Black have today.

Raiders general manager Dave Ziegler and head coach Josh McDaniels must change the moribund course that’s been previously charted by past regimes. Ziegler is big on building a sustainable winner. That can only occur if Las Vegas gets more return on investments (ROI) with draft picks. Ziegler has certainly seen the value of getting immense ROI on draft capital at his stops in the league.

And Ziegler and McDaniels certainly see how well-built the four teams vying for conference championships are. The 49ers, the Cincinnati Bengals, the Kansas City Chiefs, and the Philadelphia Eagles each have homegrown developed talent.

The Raiders aren’t without draft hits, of course. Pass rusher Maxx Crosby was a diamond of a selection in the fourth round back in 2019 draft, as was slot wide receiver Hunter Renfrow. And most recently, cornerback Nate Hobbs is proving to be a find in the fifth round of the 2021 draft. Yet, the misfires have been aplenty.

Previous regimes did try hard to build a defense with draft picks — premium ones at that — and the ROI on those selections was hideous. The first-round misses alone will have you wincing: Cornerback D.J. Hayden (2013); safety Karl Joseph (2016); cornerback Gareon Conley (2017); defensive end Clelin Ferrell and safety Johnathan Abram (2019) and cornerback Damon Arnette (2020), all forgettable names stuck in Raiders’ lore.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Las Vegas Raiders
Safety Johnathan Abram is but one of a number of Raiders first-round picks that flopped or didn’t pan out.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

And that’s not even mentioning the other first- and second-rounders that floundered under the Raiders watch: Defensive tackle Jihard Ward (2016); safety Obi Melifonwu (2017); defensive tackle P.J. Hall (2018); cornerback Trayvon Mullen (2019); wide receiver Henry Ruggs (2020) and offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood (2021).

Each of those selections, if they weren’t panned when their names were called at the podium, they eventually found their way off the roster.

There will be draft misses. Not every team hits on picks. But the Raiders need the pendulum to swing more in favor of quality ROI. Sustainability doesn’t happen without that — especially with first- and second-round selections. Las Vegas needs to nail its day one pick from here on in and that onus lands squarely on the shoulders of Ziegler and his personnel department’s ability to scout.

The jury is very much still out on that. Ditto for McDaniels and his coaching staff’s ability to develop players. Las Vegas’ 2022 draft haul is still unknown commodities even though third-round pick Dylan Parham (guard/center) started all 17 games as a rookie and seventh-round selection Thayer Munford (offensive tackle) appeared in all 17 with four starts.

Yet, the new Raiders regime has solid draft capital — nine total picks — at its disposal this coming April to flip the sad Silver & Black narrative.

At Ziegler’s and McDaniel’s disposal are the No. 7 overall pick followed by the No. 38th pick (second round) and 70th (third round) for a trio of picks in the top 100. Las Vegas fourth-round selection is No. 108 with the rest as follows: Two in the fifth (No. 141 and 144), one in the sixth (No. 202), and two in the seventh (No. 222 and 233). The late-round selections may fluctuate as the league hands out compensatory picks with the Raiders potentially getting one or two more to add to the nine.