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Raiders draft 2023: Early thoughts

Breaking down Las Vegas’ draft

NCAA Football: Player Headshots 2022
Michael Mayer
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

With the Las Vegas Raiders’ picks in the books, here are some early thoughts:

Top heavy:
I really liked what Las Vegas did in the first and second round. Snaring edge rusher Tyree Wilson at No. 7 and then trading up to No. 35 to get Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer was really excellent work. The Raiders got two quality players and two first-round talents. However, I’m not sure the Raiders got much other than developmental-type players the rest of the draft. This is still a team with many needs. In all, the Raiders started with 12 picks. They ended with nine: Six defense, 3 offense, but offense all came in top four rounds.

Favorite pick:

I’m a tight end freak and I think Mayer is going to be really good. This was a great tight end class and the Raiders did well by tapping into it at the top of the class. I could see Mayer being a perennial Pro Bowl-type. Josh McDaniels will do good things with this guy,

So many receivers:

Enough defensive help?

The Raiders got a starting-quality defender in Wilson, but it’s difficult to say any of their other draft picks will vie to start in 2023. And Wilson is at a position, where the Raiders didn’t have an immediate need. So, it’s hard to say the defense, which wasn’t addressed that much in free agency, got a lot better this weekend.

Quarterback next year?

Perhaps fourth-round pick, Purdue’s Aidan O’Connell will be the Raiders’ starting quarterback after Jimmy Garoppolo. Or perhaps he will be backup type. So, I expect the Raiders to closely study the top quarterbacks in the 2024 draft as they did in 2023. It is expected to be a stacked quarterback class.

NFL: Combine
Tre Tucker
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Al would be happy:

Raiders’ general manager Dave Ziegler channeled his inner Al Davis with the picks of Cincinnati wide receiver/returner Tre Tucker in the third round and Maryland cornerback Jakorian Bennett in the fourth round. Tucker runs a 4.37 40 and Bennett was clocked at 4.30 at the NFL combine, which was the second fastest time.

AFC West loaded up:

The Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Chargers and Denver Broncos all made some nice picks as well. It’s just the way it goes.

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Las Vegas Raiders
Patrick Graham
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Senior Bowl love:

Las Vegas Patrick Graham was a head coach at the Senior Bowl. Bennett, Silvera and Tucker were on his squad. Third-round pick, defensive tackle Byron Young of Alabama, and fifth-round pick, Georgia safety Christopher Smith were on the other team and Wilson was also in Mobile even though he didn’t play because of a foot injury.

Free agency:

I could see the Raiders going to the free-agent well after the draft. Cornerback is spot a to watch. Possibilities include Raiders’ free agent Rock Ya-Sin, former Raider Casey Hayward and Marcus Peters and perhaps tackle Isaiah Wynn.

Trade frenzy:

For his second year as a general manager, Ziegler was a big trade maker. He made four trades, moving up all four times. The Raiders turned 12 picks into nine choices, but they went and got their guys. Ziegler made four trades during last year’s draft.

Family affair:

Sixth-round pick, Florida linebacker Amari Burney is cousins with Raiders’ cornerback Brandon Facyson. How cool.