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Raiders Draft 2023: A tone-setting pick

Las Vegas building defense from inside out by selecting Texas Tech’s Tyree Wilson seventh overall

With his massive wingspan, Texas Tech’s Tyree Wilson knocks offensive lineman off balance with a stab move. He’s a long, athletic, and powerful pass rusher the Las Vegas Raiders need — if — his foot is all healed up.
Photo by Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Apparently, the Las Vegas Raiders weren’t joshing about adding more “explosive” talent to the roster. Because it sure looks like that tone was set by the team during Day 1 of the 2023 NFL Draft.

Taking Texas Tech pass rusher Tyree Wilson seventh overall not only speaks to the desire for more explosive defenders, it showcased the Raiders sticking to the best player available (BPA) mantra both general manager Dave Ziegler and head coach trumpeted during several media engagements leading up to the draft.

First, explosive.

The Raiders top two noted the team needed to get more defenders who either touched the quarterback or touched the ball. To be able to get after the quarterback, alter a passing game by dropping the signal caller or stripping the ball free, was a priority. And Wilson’s addition definitely speaks to that. At 6-foot-6, 271 pounds, and chiseled, Wilson was on a tear before a season-ending foot injury occurred (which required surgery and screws being inserted). Using his massive wingspan, pure power, and pass rush toolkit, Wilson racked up 61 total tackles, seven sacks, 14 stops for loss and a forced fumble. His biggest game was a spotlight performance against TCU where he racked up seven pressures and four quarterback hits.

While Wilson lacks ideal bend and his first step isn’t explosive, he pins his ears back and hits offensive lineman with a long-armed stab to knock them off their anchor and converts the power into speed to get after quarterbacks. He does the same against the run showcasing impressive crash and back-end chase skills. It’s his massive wingspan that allows Wilson to make outlandish tackles from a distance as he seems to have Go-Go-Gadget extenders for arms.

With an 84 12 inch wing span, it’s no wonder Wilson averaged five pressures per game this past season — ranking sixth in the FBS (tied for No. 3 overall pick Alabama’s Will Anderson Jr.).

“It helps a lot, and just playing defense, being able to get the defender off and being able to convert,” Wilson said of his 36-inch arms. “The big thing on defense is getting turnovers, so it helps you get to the quarterback quicker, get sacks and get strip sacks.”

With his aggression, natural strength, and freakish athletic profile, Wilson certainly has the physical traits and mental makeup to be a constant quarterback harrier for the Raiders — a team desperate for one to tag team with Maxx Crosby. Wilson was charted with 50 pressures and 32 run stuffs in 538 snaps this past season for the Red Raiders and he’s got a vaulted ceiling.

It’s up for the Raiders coaching staff and Wilson to realize the potential and if his foot is all healed up, Las Vegas gets a young and hungry pass rusher whose pro player comparison is none other than current Raider Chandler Jones.

And the Raiders could be getting the opposite of Crosby in Wilson. What I mean by that is Mad Maxx arrived needing to bulk up and add more power element to his speed rush game. Wilson arrives needed to add more finesse and bend to his power rush elements.

Second, BPA.

I’ve always maintained Las Vegas’ definition of BPA was likely to differ from the consensus best player available. And the team did have its choice of Wilson, Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter, and Oregon cornerback Christian Gonzalez — a trio that could all contribute and infuse the Raiders defense in their own unique ways. Carter was seen as a top-billed prospect and earmarked by many as the BPA on the board when Las Vegas was on the clock.

Ziegler clearly felt different and viewed Wilson as the best player available on the board and made the Texas Tech standout the Silver & Black’s selection. The Raiders stood by their convictions with the first-round pick. We’ll see if that holds true the rest of the way.