The Las Vegas Raiders enter the offseason with a cloudy quarterback situation, but the performance of Jarrett Stidham on Sunday offers optimism for Raider Nation. Benching Derek Carr opened the door for Stidham to start, and the former fourth-round pick made the most of it. What is next for the Raiders? The latest 7-round mock draft features a trade that will shake everything up.
The popular thought in NFL Draft circles is that the Raiders will add Derek Carr’s replacement via the draft. A one-off performance from an unproven quarterback should not dissuade the team from looking for a better option in the draft, but it might make them feel less urgency to reach for a player early on.
In this 7-round mock draft, I offer a different route for an upgrade at quarterback. A slew of veterans, and potentially a few former MVPs, may become available this offseason. Tom Brady, Lamar Jackson, Aaron Rodgers… the list goes on and on. Some are more likely to be moved than others, but I expect the team to be active in its search.
Mock Draft: Las Vegas Raiders Add NFL Draft Capital via Trade and Stack the Roster with Picks
The sheer volume of talented signal-callers in the 2024 NFL Draft provides another reason to wait on the position. Even if Dave Ziegler swings and misses on the top options at quarterback this offseason, he could pivot to a player like Jimmy Garoppolo to serve as a bridge for a season or two. Who knows, maybe Stidham can earn a chance to start Week 1?
Sitting outside the top five, it is unlikely that Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud, Jalen Carter, or Will Anderson Jr. will be available when the Raiders submit their pick. Will Levis/Anthony Richardson might win over the front office, but they would arrive as more of a developmental prospect than the other two QBs.
Instead, we will assume that the Raiders find a starting quarterback before the 2023 NFL Draft. That gives the franchise flexibility in the draft to take the best player available and move up (or down) the board as they see fit. With that out of the way, here is the latest 7-round mock draft for the Las Vegas Raiders.
Las Vegas Raiders TRADE DOWN in First Round of 2023 NFL Mock Draft
â€¢No. 8 (1st Round)
â€¢No. 13 (1st Round)
â€¢No. 44 (2nd Round)
â€¢2024 NFL Draft Pick (3rd Round)
Rather than drafting Will Levis or Anthony Richardson, the front office allows the Jets to jump ahead of other QB-needy teams and take one instead. In doing so, the Raiders add coveted draft capital while only sacrificing six spots in the first round. The additional 2023 second-round pick and 2024 third-round pick will provide Las Vegas with unprecedented flexibility in reshaping the roster.
Round 1, Pick 13 (via NYJ): Cam Smith, CB, South Carolina
Weight: 188 lbs.
Career Stats: 32 appearances, 91 total tackles, 18 passes defended, and 6 INTs
Aside from quarterback, one could argue that the most pressing need on the roster is cornerback. Rock Ya-Sin is an impending free agent, and outside of Nate Hobbs, there is little promise within the unit. At No. 13 overall in this mock draft, the Raiders decide to change that.
A smashmouth cornerback like Cam Smith typically earns the saying, “He has that dawg in him.” With Smith, he has the entire pound within his six-foot, 185-pound frame. The physically imposing defender uses elite athleticism to consistently hound his assignments downfield. Additionally, he uses a nasty streak to land punishing blows in run support. Cam Smith will win over Raider Nation from day one with his constant drive to improve and confident demeanor.
Round 2, Pick 41: Drew Sanders, OLB, Arkansas
Weight: 232 lbs.
2022 Stats: 12 starts, 103 tackles (13.5 for loss), 9.5 sacks, 5 passes defended, 3 forced fumbles, 1 INT
Drew Sanders is a former five-star recruit that found his way to Arkansas after playing for Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide to open his collegiate career. As a Razorback, Sanders broke out in 2022. The superb athlete served as the best player for Barry Odom’s defense, starting as an off-ball linebacker and terrorizing opposing quarterbacks.
The Raiders need a disruptive player for the middle of the defense. Sanders is at his best as a pass rusher, but continued development in coverage should allow him to stick at the second level of the defense. Patrick Graham will put Sanders in a position to succeed as a rookie. Do not be surprised if the 21-year-old winds up with multiple Pro Bowls in his career.
Round 2, Pick 44 (via NYJ): Dawand Jones, OL, Ohio State
Weight: 359 lbs.
Career Stats: 31 appearances, two-year starter at right tackle; 0 sacks allowed in 2022
Kolton Miller is the starter at left tackle for the foreseeable future, but who will start beside him in 2023 is a question mark. One way to quickly improve the unit is by adding a mammoth of a man at right tackle opposite Miller. Ohio State offensive tackle Dawand Jones will remind some of Trent Brown, and those comparisons are not unfounded.
Jones, like Brown, towers over most pass rushers that come his way. Although the senior lineman was a star basketball player in high school, he is susceptible to getting beat by speedy pass rushers. Still, the traits are there to make his pass protection more than serviceable, and Jones will upgrade the ground attack immediately upon arrival. Watch for him at the Senior Bowl.
Round 3, Pick 74: Keeanu Benton, DL, Wisconsin
Weight: 315 lbs.
2022 Stats: 12 starts, 36 tackles (10 for loss), 4.5 sacks
Another 2023 Senior Bowl attendee, Wisconsin standout Keeanu Benton, caps off day two of this mock draft. Not to be outdone by Dawand Jones, Benton is a mountain in the trenches, standing 6-foot-4 and tipping the scales at 315 pounds. Benton is a four-year starter at nose tackle for the Badgers, but his freaky lateral agility and burst off the snap will allow him to fill multiple spots on the defensive line. Look for Benton to put up more impressive sack and TFL numbers as a pro, especially while playing between Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones.
Round 4, Pick 109 – Deuce Vaughn, RB, Kansas State
Weight: 176 lbs
2021 Stats: 235 carries for 1,404 yards, 49 receptions for 468 yards, 22 TDs (18 rushing; 4 receiving)
2022 Stats: 293 carries for 1,558 yards, 42 receptions for 378 yards, 12 TDs (9 rushing; 3 receiving)
Deuce Vaughn looks like a Josh McDaniels running back. Josh Jacobs has burst into superstardom in the final year of his rookie deal, but there is no guarantee that he returns in 2023. Even if the Raiders ink Jacobs to an extension, this mock draft adds a player that can complement the former first-round pick perfectly.
Vaughn thrives as a pass catcher out of the backfield. He profiles as a high-end third down running back in the NFL, but his back-to-back 1,400+ rushing yard seasons offer the belief that Vaughn can be even more than that. The K-State star is built similarly to a fellow Wildcat alum, Darren Sproles. Because of this, the range of outcomes for Deuce Vaughn falls somewhere between Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren Sproles, making him worth a selection early on day three.
Round 5, Pick 142: Ji’Ayir Brown, DB, Penn State
Weight: 208 lbs.
Career Stats: JUCO standout; 145 tackles, 9 INTs, 9 passes defended in three seasons with Penn State (two as starter)
The cornerback position is not the only part of the secondary that the Raiders address in this mock draft. Trevon Moehrig has shown enough to keep his role as a starter, but he needs a true partner in crime. Ji’Ayir Brown is a thumping safety that also brings elite ball skills to the NFL. Moreover, Brown was a team captain for the Nittany Lions, and his leadership will be a welcomed addition to the defensive unit.
Round 5, Pick 144: Zakhari Franklin, WR, UTSA
Weight: 185 lbs.
Career Stats: 46 appearances, 262 receptions, 3,348 receiving yards, 37 receiving TDs; back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons
Zakhari Franklin is one of my favorite players in the 2023 NFL Draft and could work his way up the board in the coming months. However, most I have talked to have a day three grade on the senior pass catcher. Franklin is not the type of prospect that will blow you away with athleticism, but his proficiency as a route runner, and an unrivaled catch-in-traffic trait, make up for his lack of top-tier testing numbers. Stefon Diggs, a former fifth rounder in 2015, comes to mind when watching Zakhari Franklin
Round 5, Pick 174: Dorian Williams, LB, Tulane
Weight: 230 lbs.
2022 Stats: 13 starts, 115 tackles (8.5 for loss), 7 passes defended, 5 sacks, 2 INTs, 2 forced fumbles
Dorian Williams is another player that is better on-field than he is in a workout setting. Williams is built well but will be too raw and stiff for some teams. Even at 6-foot-2, Williams does not jump off the screen pre-snap, but the second that ball is in play, he transforms into The Hulk. It is best if the Tulane linebacker is brought along slowly as a rookie. Let Williams utilize his elite closing speed and motor to cover holes in the middle of the defense but try not to put him on an island early.
Round 6, Pick 203: Josh Whyle, TE, Cincinnati
Weight: 250 lbs
Career Stats: 37 appearances, 88 receptions, 1,062 receiving yards, 15 receiving TDs
Darren Waller has played well since returning to the offense on Dec. 18. In that three-game span, Waller caught ten passes for nearly 200 yards and two touchdowns. However, the star tight end has a track record of missing games, which is becoming more apparent over the past two seasons. Furthermore, backup tight end Foster Moreau is slated for free agency, leaving the room one Darren Waller injury away from disaster.
Enter Cincinnati tight end Josh Whyle. Whyle is a wide receiver trapped in a tight end’s body, but through his years with the Bearcats, he developed as an all-around weapon. Whyle may never be an elite blocker, but he is always willing to get his nose dirty, and the Raiders love guys like that. Get used to seeing him in mock drafts because Josh Whyle and the Raiders fit like a glove.
Round 6, Pick 219: Ricky Stromberg, C, Arkansas
Weight: 313 lbs.
Career Stats: Four-year starter, anchored elite Razorback unit in 2021, 0 allowed sacks in 2022 (via PFF)
Ricky Stromberg is primarily a center prospect, but he spent time at both guard spots during his Arkansas career. Stromberg would give the Raiders an instant replacement for the underperforming (and relatively expensive) Andre James. The front office should move on from James this offseason and subsequently slot Stromberg in as a starter in the middle of the offensive line. Uncertainty with his size and athletic profile send Stromberg down the board in this mock draft, with the Raiders reaping the benefits.
Round 7, Pick 223: Eric Garror, CB/KR, Louisiana
Weight: 178 lbs.
Career Stats: 61 appearances, 25 passes defended, 8 INTs, 3 punt return TDs
After watching Hunter Renfrow field punts, it became clear that the Raiders must add a return specialist this offseason. As the final pick of the mock draft, Eric Garror gives the Raiders a proven option on special teams. Garror is the FBS leader in punt return yards in 2022, taking two punts back for touchdowns, bringing his career total to three.
Garror is also a cornerback for the Ragin’ Cajuns, intercepting eight passes while on campus. This pick kills two birds with one stone, presenting the Raiders with a starting punt returner who can hopefully blossom into a contributor in the slot. Perhaps McDaniels sees what his former team is doing with Marcus Jones and designs some plays for Garror on offense, too. A worthy scratch-off ticket in round seven.
What if the Raiders lose Davante Adams?
*Top Photo: Joseph Anderson/The Daily Gamecock*