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The No. 7 spot might be an awkward one for Raiders

Las Vegas may be in no man’s land in the first round resulting in a trade up or down

NFL: NFL Draft
The Las Vegas Raiders own the seventh overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft and it’s looking like that spot may be a prime trade up or trade down position.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

There are scenarios aplenty and the upcoming NFL combine will shift draft projections or solidify them, but as we careen towards the 2023 NFL Draft, it’s looking more like the No. 7 spot is an awkward one for the Las Vegas Raiders.

Free agency will be a big part of evolving the draft board for all 32 teams, too.

But as it stands now, the Silver & Black are missing the integral component of a clear-cut starting quarterback. There’s plenty of time for the team to determine the path it takes at signal caller, of course. However, the early draft projections and mock drafts have the Raiders primarily focusing on a quarterback or (gulp!) an offensive lineman prospect.

As noted above, draft boards and projections are slated to fluctuate heavily from now until the draft in April. With free agency slated for March 15 — a month before the draft — a lot dominos are going to fall that changes the course for not only the Raiders, but the other 31 squads.

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch
Ohio State C.J. Stroud is a popular quarterback projection for not only the Las Vegas Raiders at No. 7 overall, but for the top 5.
Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

If the Raiders don’t land a new starting quarterback — either in free agency or via trade — they could be left in no man’s land in the NFL Draft. With other teams ahead and behind of Las Vegas also seeking to find its answer at the all-important position of quarterback, the Raiders may find themselves on the outside looking in, during their quest to replace Derek Carr. It is after all a quarterback-driven league.

The top three prospects in the draft are: Alabama’s Bryce Young, Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, and Kentucky’s Will Levis. Any of those three may go in the top five. And if the Raiders can’t land any of them, do they take an offensive lineman, an impact defender, or trade down?

The multitude of scenarios here can have your mind racing.

Then there’s the potential of Stroud or Levis slipping down to the Raiders at No. 7. Yet, it’s also plausible a team behind Las Vegas leapfrogs the Silver & Black to take a quarterback prospect before the Raiders can even pounce. Hence the potential for general manager Dave Ziegler to make a trade to move Las Vegas up the draft order.

A solid showing at the combine (slated for Feb. 28 through March 6) can elevate the trio of Young, Stroud and Levis — and other intriguing quarterback prospects like Florida’s Anthony Richardson — while a mediocre to poor showing at the pre-draft event may cause prospects to slide.

With the top options off the board, Ziegler may have the opportunity to field trade offers to move down the draft and potentially snag Richardson in the middle portion of the opening round.

Yet, if Las Vegas signs a veteran quarterback in free agency or brings Jarrett Stidham back into the fold to take command or serve as the bridge at quarterback, the options are just as vast.

Taking away the immediate need at quarterback allows the Raiders to be patient and deliberate in the draft. They could stand pat and wait to see how things fall to them at No. 7. And if they’re fortunate to have a quarterback prospect land in their lap, they have the opportunity to select said talent or entertain offers for a trade down. That would be quite the fruitful turn of events as Ziegler has plenty of work to build a sustainable championship-caliber roster in Las Vegas.

Moving down the draft order often allows teams to stockpile additional draft selections (either for the current event or future years) and the Raiders are in need of a young talent influx as they try to compete and keep pace with the competitive AFC West. But it takes two to tango and without another team interested in moving up, Las Vegas may have to pick someone at seventh overall.

The Raiders have a needs along the offensive line, at pass rusher, and in the secondary to name a few. Is seven too high to take a tackle like Northwestern’s Pete Skoronski or Ohio State’s Paris Johnson Jr.? Is taking an edge like Texas Tech’s Tyree Wilson, too risky? Ditto for cornerbacks like Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez or Penn State’s Joey Porter Jr.?

The Silver & Black picture will gain much-needed clarity next month. And then the combine will make it sharper than ever.

Until then, however, the assumptions and scenarios are aplenty. But you know how that old saying goes: “If you assume, you make an ass out of you and me”

Still, that doesn’t take the fun out of contemplating all these what ifs.