Las Vegas Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels. Raiders mailbag; 2023 NFL Draft

Raiders mailbag: C.J. Stroud, Jimmy Garoppolo, seventh-overall pick and tight end unit

The 2023 NFL Combine has come and gone, leaving Raider Nation with one question: Who will be QB1 for the Las Vegas Raiders moving forward? C.J. Stroud and Anthony Richardson left people speechless at the Combine, and NFL executives in attendance agreed Will Levis fit Josh McDaniels’ makeup as a signal caller.

Perhaps one of those three will suit up in the iconic silver and black uniforms fans league-wide rave about.

Should the team take the free agency route, Jimmy Garoppolo and Jarrett Stidham are two popular names. Stidham and the Raiders have already talked about an extension, keeping the 26-year-old around after trading for him last year.

There are other options Las Vegas is actively exploring as well.

For this week’s mailbag, Raider Nation sent me questions [mostly] centered around the quarterback position. From trading up for Stroud to potentially settling with one much later in the draft, I’m here to answer all your Raider-related questions. And, if you have a question you want me to answer, either message me directly or comment on my weekly Raiders’ mailbag tweet, as seen here.

Onto the questions.

Answering your Raiders questions

Q: Lifelong Raider here. You think since we have 11 picks that we trade up for Bryce or C.J. Stroud? I doubt we take 11 players.

Answer: I don’t think the Raiders will trade up for C.J. Stroud, no. They do have an abundance of picks, this is true, and it’s also unlikely the team selects 11 players. That said, these picks don’t have to be used to trade-up in the first-round. During the 2021 NFL Draft, Mike Mayock used draft capital to trade-up in the second for Trevon Moehrig. Last year, Dave Ziegler did the same to move up and grab Zamir White in the fourth. The likelihood of trading up at some point in the draft is very high, but there’s too much evidence that makes it unlikely in the first, from Ziegler explaining how he’s prioritizing defense during the Combine, to the lack of urgency at the quarterback position.

Same goes for Bryce.

Q: Hypothetically if they don’t sign a QB in FA who should the Raiders realistically target for the QB in the draft?

Answer: Realistically, this is going to fully depend on how the board falls during the draft. The chances of trading up in the first-round, based on what I know, are low – and they should be. Raider Nation understandably wants a ‘sexy’ move at quarterback this offseason, but when you have a first-team All-Pro wideout and running back, alongside an additional Pro Bowl receiver and tight end, the need for going big on a quarterback lessens exponentially. That said, if C.J. Stroud somehow makes his way to seven, you might have to pick him. Otherwise, “settling” for Hendon Hooker, Jake Haener, or a personal favorite in Stetson Bennett later on has a lot of merit and is plenty realistic.

More QB questions

Q: Besides your Stetson crush, what later round QBs make sense for the Raiders? Could Hooker be available past Day 3?

First off, It’s not a crush; it’s closer to a bromance. I like to think Stetson and I go way back, despite only just meeting him at the Combine. Other than Stetson – who is a perfect quarterback for the Raiders – Haener and Hooker are later-round signal callers who make sense for the team. At the Combine, Haener told me he believes his preparation and standard he sets for himself separate him from other QB prospects. If that’s not the perfect Josh McDaniels’ quarterback mindset, I don’t know what is – which is likely why the Raiders have met with him several times and are sending their offensive coordinator to watch him at his Pro Day on March 30th. And the whole Fresno State thing, too.

As for Hooker in Day 3, anything is possible, especially considering the injury he had. That said, I do believe there will be a team who falls in love with him, and trades up to grab him without taking any risks. Is that team the Raiders?

Raiders’ draft

Q: You and I had this talk, but if the Raiders stay put doesn’t it make sense to go BPA at 7? Even if it is a cornerback?

Answer: Absolutely! If the Raiders do want a cornerback, I strongly feel they should wait until pick 38 to do so. The reason is, there are about six cornerbacks you can make an argument for being the top-dog in the class, with a high-chance one of them is there at 38 – or trade up from 38 with that aforementioned draft capital to secure one of them. Other than that, yes; I believe chasing the best player available makes sense, in large part to how the board likely falls. There’s a high chance a defensive player will be the best player available at seven, and Raiders need all the defensive help they can get – including cornerback should they go Witherspoon, Gonzalez.

Q: Wouldn’t it be a smarter play for the Raiders to go defense in the first round? Keep Stidham and sign Jimmy G.

Answer: I fully believe it’s in the Raiders’ best interest to go defense at seven, yes. Tyree Wilson and Bryan Bresee both fit the bill up front, with Devon Witherspoon and Christian Gonzalez being solid choices should the team fall in love with a corner that early. Another sneaky pick is Brian Branch. Raiders’ defensive coordinator Patrick Graham has a scheme that requires extreme versatility from a safety. Moehrig was forced into such a role in 2022, but that isn’t his game. Instead, Moehrig is a high-safety, which was his role in 2021 where he thrived. Instead of forcing Moehrig to be something he’s not, draft a player who was made to do what you want out of your safety. That’s Brian Branch.

Tight end situation

Q: What’s the thinking on the TE group? I believe Waller is the only one under contract for the next season currently. McDaniels actually prioritizes TEs in his offense so it matters.

Answer: I love talking QBs, but it’s nice to talk about a different position group for a bit. All the Stroud talk has made Raider Nation not notice the [lack of] tight ends on the Raiders’ roster. Foster Moreau is set to be a free agent, and you can bet Josh McDaniels will be looking for another big-framed blocker to take his place at tight end. Expect the team to grab one in the draft, or even target a sure-fired contributor in free agency. Perhaps Moreau finds his way back to the Raiders, and don’t be surprised if Jesper Horsted sticks around, too.

*Top Photo: Chris Unger/Getty Images

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