The Las Vegas Raiders had a top-five pick in the 2023 NFL Draft just a few weeks ago, but things have since changed. It wasn’t long ago that the Raiders defeated the Los Angeles Chargers for their third straight victory. All of that seems in vain now, following the debacle that was Thursday Night Football. All that commotion about sneaking into the playoffs only to end up back in the top ten (but outside the top five, which stings) is demoralizing. As of this morning, the Raiders are picking eighth, according to Tankathon.
This only serves to highlight how quickly things can change in the NFL; the Raiders went from being in a position to select a top player to falling outside the top 10, then back again. The Raiders can still improve their roster with their current pick because this draft is solid. Let’s break down three realistic first-round draft targets that general manager Dave Ziegler could go with.
Raiders Draft: Target No. 1 – Bryan Bresee, DT, ClemsonÂ
- Height: 6-5 Weight: 300 pounds
- In eight games played in 2022, Breese accumulated 13 total tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, two passes defended, and 2.5 sacks.Â
This year, the Raiders’ pass rush hasn’t been strong, but since Jerry Tillery was claimed off of waivers, things have improved. They finally received some interior pass rush, which has recently made their pass rush more productive. Tillery has been a blessing, but to improve their defense moving forward, the Raiders must invest in a defensive lineman. Bryan Bresee, a defensive lineman from Clemson, should be at the top of the draft boards with the Raiders’ current pick due to this.
Bresee has experienced many hardships during his time at Clemson, including injuries and family tragedies. That is why his stats look lackluster, but his skill set is exactly what the Raiders’ defensive line needs. Despite his size, Bresee has excellent mobility. He’s adept at getting around offensive linemen by using his hands and leverage. Bresee is what the Raiders need at defensive tackle, as he has a tremendous motor and has demonstrated moments when he can be a great pass rusher. His current health is his biggest worry, but the Raiders should take a chance on him in the first round.
Raiders Draft: Target No. 2 – Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
- Height: 6-2 Weight: 200 pounds
- In 2022, Gonzalez started all 12 games for Oregon and recorded 50 total tackles, four interceptions, and seven pass deflections.
With cornerbacks Rock Ya-Sin, Amik Robertson, and Nate Hobbs, the Raiders have a strong group. But they require a true lockdown corner directly across from Hobbs. That’s especially true not knowing the future of Ya-Sin with the Raiders. Georgia’s Kelee Ringo is anticipated to be drafted in the top 10, and then there is discussion about who the next best cornerback is. Christian Gonzalez of Oregon has a compelling case for that, and he and Hobbs together could form a formidable cornerback tandem for the Raiders.
Gonzalez stands out because of his length and athleticism, which is fantastic because those two qualities are essential for a great cornerback. He has the upside a cornerback should have when you also take into account his ball skills and instincts. Gonzalez has demonstrated his ability to be a proficient tackler and pursuit man while playing for Oregon. Since the days of Nnamdi Asomugha, the Raiders hadn’t had a lengthy shutdown corner. Gonzalez has what it takes; the Raiders just need to believe.
Raiders Draft: Target No. 3 – Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio StateÂ
- Height: 6-6 Weight: 315 pounds
- 2022 First-Team All-American
To their credit, the Raiders’ offensive line has silenced their naysayers this year by performing well. However, since Thayer Munford’s future as a starter isn’t cemented and Jermaine Eluemunor’s contract is about to expire, the Raiders can look to solidify their right tackle in the draft. Munford’s teammate at Ohio State, offensive tackle Paris Johnson Jr., is a player the Raiders should keep an eye on.
Johnson Jr. has been stellar as C.J. Stroud’s blindside protector for Ohio State, which runs a pass-heavy offense. He plays the offensive tackle position with a nasty attitude, as it should be played. Johnson Jr. is an excellent run blocker in addition to being a great pass blocker. In the clip below, Johnson Jr. chips the Michigan defensive lineman in front of him and then works up to put the linebacker on his back. Wow, just picture Josh Jacobs running behind him.
The ease in which Ohio State LT Paris Johnson Jr. chips the DL, climbs to the LB, and puts him to bed is mesmerizing.
Such a talented prospect and a potential top-10 pick in the upcoming #NFLDraft. pic.twitter.com/r705tzpMem
— Bobby Football (@Rob__Paul) November 26, 2022
*Top Photo: Getty Images
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