Raiders: 5 First-Round Scenarios in the 2023 NFL Draft

Raiders: 5 First-Round Scenarios in the 2023 NFL Draft

Free agency did little to excite the passionate fanbase of the Las Vegas Raiders, but one thing it has accomplished is painting a clearer picture of what to expect in the NFL Draft. Jimmy Garoppolo likely takes the team out of a trade up the board, but it shouldn’t remove them from considering a signal-caller at No. 7.

The defense lost Denzel Perryman and could lose Rock Ya-Sin in the coming days. Without a viable replacement behind either of them, Vegas will feel pressured to add reinforcements via the draft.

Raiders: 5 First-Round Scenarios in the 2023 NFL Draft

Perhaps the most stunning off-season move came when Darren Waller got traded to the New York Giants. The Raiders acquired No. 100 overall, a late third-round pick, for the former star at tight end. Whether or not you believed in Waller, his loss is huge, even if just in theory.

There are several ways Dave Ziegler and Co. could approach the first day of the 2023 NFL Draft. How will they replace these losses on the roster? What are the most likely scenarios for the No. 7 overall selection?

Here are five possible outcomes, ranking from least likely to most likely. 

5. Vegas Trades Up; Draft Best Quarterback Available

Signing Jimmy Garoppolo is why this scenario is the least likely to occur. If Josh McDaniels falls in love with a quarterback prospect, and if that prospect is available at No. 3, then there is a chance the team picks up the phone and rings Arizona.

The price it would take to leapfrog other quarterback-needy teams will be substantial. It will cost every bit of a future first-rounder, plus at least another day two selection. Is that worth it for a franchise clearly amid a roster retool? I’d lean toward no.

Ultimately, the right quarterback is worth an infinite amount of draft picks, so if Vegas takes the swing and it pans out, no one will remember the unorthodox path it took to land a franchise signal-caller.

I would keep an eye on this if reports come out saying the Raiders love Anthony Richardson or Will Levis. These two quarterbacks possess the upside and intangibles worthy of a move up the board. With Jimmy G entrenched as QB1, a rookie wouldn’t be thrust into the lineup early.

There are pros and cons to this maneuver. The knock on this method is burning assets needed to build a respectable defense. It doesn’t matter if Jesus Christ himself took snaps for the Raiders if this is the defense he plays behind.

Possible? Yes. Likely? Not really.

4. Raiders Draft Jalen Carter at No. 7

Another long shot is Jalen Carter and the Las Vegas Raiders finding their way to each other. The pairing makes all the sense in the world on paper, as the Raiders need a Warren Sapp figure on the defensive line.

Carter is the best game-wrecker from the interior in this draft class, and he impacts the game on every snap. His ability to generate pressure on the pocket and shut down opposing running backs makes an easy three-down projection.

Now, the off-field allegations and pending legal case is the elephant in the room. If Carter is cleared of any wrongdoing, he likely won’t make it to the Raiders at No. 7. If he is slapped with a punishment, there is a chance the stigma from the previous regime keeps the new brass from drafting a player with a myriad of questions around him.

All things being equal, the Raiders would be foolish to pass up the opportunity to draft Jalen Carter if he’s available at No. 7. He fills a massive need on the roster and is the type of building block that any defensive coordinator could build a juggernaut around.

Possible? Definitely. Likely? Not really.

3. Raiders Draft Tyree Wilson at No. 7

Depending on how you feel about Tyree Wilson, this is either the best or worst possible outcome. For my money, Wilson is a top-five player in the 2023 NFL Draft, and he would fit perfectly with the Raiders.

While Wilson is labeled an edge rusher wherever you look, he is most special when using his length to attack from the interior. He knows how to leverage his strength well and requires multiple bodies to slow him down.

Vegas boasts one of the best pass rushers in the NFL, Maxx Crosby, and a Hall of Fame pass rusher, Chandler Jones, so Wilson’s ability to line up between them inside is ideal. He serves the purpose of creating pressure from the interior, which is something the Raiders need in their defense.

Wilson can add more tools to his toolbox as he learns under Jones, eventually profiling as the replacement on the outside. He is a win-now and win-later piece, fitting any timeline that Vegas is working under.

Probably not happening… but we are getting warmer

2. Vegas Trades Down; Draft Best Available Player

The top two options are neck and neck in these rankings, but at No. 2, trade-down is a realistic possibility for the Raiders. If the front office doesn’t fall in love with a quarterback, there is a chance they trade down and let someone else take one at No. 7. 

Dave Ziegler voiced multiple times his interest in building the roster the right way. He wants a defense that can hold up in dogfights and an offense averaging league-high numbers in the scoring department.

Although there are some nice pieces, primarily on offense, it is safe to say the Raiders are a long way from having everything Ziegler mentioned. The best way to accumulate picks and expedite this overhaul is by trading down the board.

The Titans and Commanders could dangle a couple of second-round picks to flip firsts. If that happens, the Raiders must accept the deal and use the added capital to bring in more starters.  

It is boring. It takes the wind out of the sails when the trade banner pops up. But it is a necessary step back in order to take several steps forward down the line. Don’t do it just to do it, but if the right offer presents itself, and I expect it might, Vegas would be wise to jump on it.

1. Raiders Draft Cornerback at No. 7

My most likely scenario at No. 7 overall is the Raiders drafting a cornerback. Nate Hobbs is average at his best, and no one else on the depth chart moves me. To say corner is a need would be the biggest understatement of the century.

The Raiders opted to pass on the free agent veterans that hit the market, pointing to a concerted effort at improving the position via draft. If Vegas looks at cornerback on day one, three names jump out.

Joey Porter Jr. boasts NFL bloodlines and displays the length and tenacity necessary for a lockdown NFL cornerback. He would look good in the Silver & Black and can play man and zone coverage just as Patrick Graham likes.

Devon Witherspoon is the next name. The Illinois thumper is a bull in a China shop while pursuing his assignment downfield or coming downhill to punish a ball carrier. He lays the hardest hits I’ve ever seen and can play in the slot and on the boundary. 

The final name is my prediction for the Raiders at No. 7 overall: Christian Gonzalez. The Oregon superstar burst onto the scene after transferring from Colorado. With the Ducks, Gonzalez earned the starting gig soon after he arrived, and he used the 2022 season to showcase his talents.

Gonzalez looks like he was built in a lab. He has prototypical size and athleticism at the position and improved each week of his tape. Gonzalez will be a zone coverage superstar as a rookie and will allow Patrick Graham to deploy him in press coverage regularly. This is the most sensical pairing in the NFL Draft.

7-Round Raiders Mock Draft: GM Dave Ziegler (finally) gets Patrick Graham some help

*Top Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

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