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Dave Ziegler and Josh McDaniels nearly made Jon Gruden- and Mike Mayock-style 1st round reach

Duo was close to a trade with AZ

NFL: Denver Broncos at Las Vegas Raiders
Dave Ziegler, Josh McDaniels
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

When Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden served as the Las Vegas Raiders' general manager and head coach, it was always a mystery who they were going to take in the first round of the NFL Draft. The only thing that was certain was they were going to think they were outsmarting everyone by selecting a player higher than anyone expected them to go.

Starting with defensive end Clelin Ferrell and ending with offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood, Mayock and Gruden reached on Day 1 of the draft and it never worked out. Of GruCock’s six first-round picks in four years, running back Josh Jacobs is the only one who is still on the roster and has a chance at receiving a second contract from the organization.

Raider Nation had become so scarred that it was almost a relief that the team didn’t have a first-rounder last year after current GM and head coach, Dave Ziegler and Josh McDaniels, traded away Las Vegas’ top two picks for wide receiver Davante Adams.

But this past weekend was a different story as the Raiders entered rebuild mode and held onto the No. 7 overall pick leading up to the draft. A sense of worry and skepticism loomed over the traumatized fanbase that Ziegler and McDaniels would follow in their predecessors’ footsteps. almost happened!

NBC Sports’ Peter King spent last Thursday evening in Las Vegas’ draft room where King learned—and eventually reported on Monday morning—that the GM and head coach had four players circled as targets with pick seven; Paris Johnson Jr., offensive tackle from Ohio State, Alabama edge Will Anderson Jr., cornerback Devon Witherspoon out of Illinois and Texas Tech defensive lineman Tyree Wilson.

NCAA Football: Ohio State at Michigan
Paris Johnson Jr.
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

“What we need is for three quarterbacks to go before we pick,” McDaniels said, per King.

The coach got what he wanted as three passers were off the board in the first four picks, however, No. 3 overall became an issue as the Arizona Cardinals traded that spot to the Houston Texans, who took Anderson Jr. off the board.

Still, the Raiders were in good shape to get one of “their guys”, but then Zielger’s phone rang with a 602 area code. According to King, Cardinals’ GM Monti Ossenfort wanted to put together a trade that included a swap of picks seven and 12. Las Vegas’ brass pondered it and started considering counter offers.

“Then Ziegler and McDaniels huddled,” King wrote. “Having the 12th and 33rd overall picks, to go along with the Raiders’ 38th choice, would be tempting. ‘We could get [Oklahoma tackle Anton] Harrison at 12,’ McDaniels said. The Raiders loved Harrison—not as much as Johnson, but enough maybe to lose the fourth non-QB they love in order to pick up the 33rd pick. They mulled.”

And that’s where the draft reach nearly happened.

Harrison ended up getting selected 27th overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars, 15 slots lower than the Silver and Black would have taken him had the trade gone through. One could even argue the Jaguars reached a bit for Harrison as he was considered a fringe first-rounder on most consensus big boards.

Adding to that, three other offensive tackles—Darnell Wright (10th), Peter Skoronoski (11th) and Broderick Jones (14th)—were taken ahead of the former Sooner. So, in a way, Ossenfort seemingly getting a better deal from the Detroit Lions saved McDaniels from himself.

At the end of the day, it all worked out well for all parties involved. The Cardinals got Johnson Jr., who they clearly coveted, while the Lions added more picks and the Raiders walked away from round one with one of “their guys” in Wilson.

For what it’s worth, the fanbase was happy too as 91 percent of Raider Nation gave the No. 7 pick either an ‘A’ or ‘B’ grade in SB Nation’s post-draft survey.

Everyone can rest easy, but it certainly seems like Ziegler and McDaniels got dangerously close to making the same mistake their predecessors made after spending all offseason trying to clean up the mess GruCock’s left.