It sure looked for a minute the Las Vegas Raiders would have their choice of a quarterback in not only the second round but third, didn’t it? But alas, that’s not where the chips fell for the Silver & Black during Day 2 of the 2023 NFL Draft.
Yet, the Raiders did get themselves a coveted prospect that general manager Dave Ziegler noted was a top 15 player on their board during the second round and traded up three spots (sent pick No. 38 and 141 to the Indianapolis Colts) to nab him.
Then, the team proceeded to continue to stack the defensive front and add not only scintillating speed to the wide receiver room, but some much-needed juice to the special teams unit.
While the initial selection in Day 2 was extreme value, the two picks in round three definitely raise some eyebrows as they weren’t the name-recognition prospects Raider Nation would’ve liked.
Let’s take a look:
No. 35: Michael Mayer, Tight End, Notre Dame
The 6-foot-4 and 249-pounder has the moniker “Baby Gronk” after Rob Gronkowski so you knew he caught the Raiders’ eye. He arrived in South Bend and immediately earned snaps at tight end as an 18-year-old freshman hauling in 42 passes for 450 yards and two scores. In all, he leaves Notre Dame with 180 catches, 2,099 yards and 18 touchdowns. Mayer is a combo-tight end who can line up inline, run routes, catch the rock, and block. He’ll be a solid option underneath and up the seam as a big target who high points the ball for catches. Rated as either TE1 or TE2 on numerous scouting reports, Las Vegas had to be shocked to see him still on the board and the move up was a testament to that.
No. 70: Byron Young, Defensive Tackle, Alabama
Not to be confused with a Tennessee edge rusher with the same name, this Young is a 6-foot-3, 294-pound run stuffer on the interior. He stated at the defensive end in ‘Bama’s 3-4 base set before going inside to tackle. Young is intelligent has long arms and wingspan (nearly 35-inch arms, 82-inch span) and has an on-stop motor. However, he didn’t produce high sack volume on the Roll Tide defense. But Young does high diagnostic skills and doesn’t give up on plays. And he did generate 28 pressures in 2022 and can line up all along the defensive front. His role in Las Vegas will predicate his pro success. But as a rotational depth piece, Young fits the bill.
No. 100: Tre Tucker, Wide Receiver, Cincinnati
This is an Al Davis classic. A pure-speed receiver who clocked in 4.37 at the Cincy pro day (4.40 at the NFL Combine), Tucker is sleight of frame at 5-foot-9 and 182 pounds. But he’s got toughness despite the size and is explosive with the ball in his hands. Suddenness feels like a word that doesn’t adequately describe Tucker’s ability to hit top speed on a whim. While he profiles as a speedy slot receiver with home run speed, special teams is where he’ll earn his keep Year 1. The Raiders lack an electrifying return man on both kickoffs and punts and Tucker should compete and win the job. He’ll also be valuable as a gunner on coverage units, too as he joins a crowded receiver room in Las Vegas.
That all said, Young fit the draft projection as a third rounder (he was slated for the third or fourth). But Tucker was taken two rounds before his projection (fifth). What roles they earn this coming season and beyond bears watching.
Remaining concerns: The Raiders could use more competition and depth across the roster but namely at linebacker, guard, safety and perhaps cornerback. Ziegler did note that he still sees talented secondary prospects heading into Day 3 and there are talent that were slated to go potentially earlier still available. The Raiders do own seven remaining selections starting with picks 109 and 144, so more value and depth can be mined.