Raiders NFL Mock Draft: Drafting A Replacement For Darren Waller Moves Up In Importance For Dave Ziegler

Raiders 7-Round Mock Draft: Replacing Darren Waller Takes Center Stage For Dave Ziegler

Well, this is an interesting situation. Prior to the offseason getting underway, you would have been hard-pressed to believe that Las Vegas Raiders tight end Darren Waller was back. Having fought back from a hamstring injury that derailed his 2022 season, Waller did his best to save some grace. Waller recorded two touchdowns and 213 receiving yards in the Raiders’ final four regular-season games. Still, general manager Dave Ziegler cut ties, shipping off the 2021 Pro Bowl in exchange for a third-round pick. We could argue the validity of the Darren Waller trade, but it doesn’t matter. Waller’s gone, and now drafting an heir takes center stage for the Raiders; let’s look at one possible mock draft scenario.

Raiders 7-Round Mock Draft: Looking To The Future In Year 2 Of Dave Ziegler’s Rein

Rd. 1, No. 7: Tyree Wilson, DL, Texas Tech

No matter how you look at it, the likelihood of Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud being available at No. 7 is a fantasy. However, there could be a possibility that Will Levis might be there. However, the Raiders are rebuilding their defense from within in this draft, starting with the defensive line. This is where Tyree Wilson comes in. You still have Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones coming off the edges, but what the Raiders lack is an interior pass rush. Plugging in Wilson gives Patrick Graham an instant every-down starter, and more importantly, he might be able to free up Crosby, which would be a game changer next season.

Rd. 2, No. 38: Luke Musgrave, TE, Oregon State

Regardless of injury and durability concerns, Darren Waller is still a challenging player to replace. Luckily for Ziegler and Co., Luke Musgrave provides head coach Josh McDaniels with a potential star at tight end. An athletic freak, Musgrave is one of the more coveted prospects in this draft class. Possessing certain traits that can’t be coached, Musgrave has the height, size, and length that’ll make him a nightmare for offenses once he gets down McDaniels’ offense. Considering the Raiders would be using a second round selection on Luke Musgrave, the pressure on him to replace Darren Waller will be immense.

Rd. 3, No. 70: Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson, DB, TCU

While Ziegler has done a remarkable (and underrated) job of filling out the cornerback position during NFL free agency, you need more. Picking up Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson in the third round continues the defensive makeover. Even though he’s not your prototypical “press” corner, the Raiders would be fools to pass up this young man’s natural athleticism, speed, and versatility.

Rd. 3, No. 100: Moro Ojomo, DL, Texas

Stopping the run is a fundamental that the Raiders need to improve on. Picking up one of the better run defenders in this draft class, Moro Ojomo gives the Raiders an instant plug in the middle. If he can put on additional mass while developing behind the team’s current defensive tackles, Ojomo has the potential to become an everyday starter by Year 2 or 3.

Raiders GM Dave Ziegler Can Knock It Out Of The Park In The Mid-Rounds

Rd. 4: No. 109: K.J. Henry, EDGE, Clemson

Despite going with defensive picks in three of the first four selections, Dave Ziegler opts to continue that theme with K.J. Henry. That’s right, Raider Nation—a solid run defender from Clemson—sounds familiar? Well, at least this time, the Raiders aren’t reaching. Henry lacks elite speed to make an impact in pursuit, but he can quickly shed blockers and shut down running lanes.

Rd. 5, No. 141: Jake Haener, QB, Fresno State

A Fresno State quarterback, really? Yes, you read that right. The Raiders still need a QB2 to develop behind Jimmy Garoppolo, and Jake Haener would be a steal considering he’s the 10th-ranked quarterback prospect according to several draft boards.

Rd. 5, No. 144: Viliami Fehoko, DL, San Jose St.

Again, we all know the Raiders covet versatility, and Viliami Fehoko would add another body to the defensive line that can play all over the line. While he’ll need to put on some mass before he can take significant snaps, Fehoko has the natural ability to one day be a serviceable pass rusher.

Rd. 5, No. 174: Chandler Zavala, OL, N. Carolina St.

Beefing up the offensive line is surely still on the to-do list for Ziegler. Well, Chandler Zavala is one of the better pass-blockers among the guard prospects this year. In fact, Pro Football Focus graded him 86.5 in that department last season. Already possessing sufficient strength to make an impact, Zavala also has significant awareness and could give McDaniels another piece to play around with for his O-line.

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Rd. 6, No. 204: Asim Richards, OL, North Carolina

At six-foot-four and weighing 309 pounds, Asim Richards could be an interesting prospect. Physically gifted, Richards could turn into a serviceable rotational piece as he learns behind Kolton Miller—Richards played nearly 1,000 snaps at left tackle last season alone.

Rd. 6, No. 214: Dee Winters, LB, TCU

The Raiders have an established tradition of not taking linebackers in the early rounds, and we can expect that trend to continue. For his part, Dee Winters is a violent tackler who can move from sideline to sideline with ease. Oh, and he can keep up with the best of them in coverage.

Rd. 7, No. 220: Gervarrius Owens, DB, Houston

The safety group is largely underwhelming this year, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any hidden gems. The Raiders need safeties who can cover, and Gervarrius Owens can do just that. Sporting an 87.6 PFF coverage grade, Owens knows how to make plays while defending the pass, with 11 pass deflections and three interceptions in the last two seasons.

Rd. 7, No. 231: SirVocea Dennis, LB, Pitt

If SirVocea Dennis falls to the seventh round, the Raiders could walk away with one of the most explosive linebacker prospects. While still not a true pass rusher, Dennis offers intangibles. For example, Dennis offers surefire tackling skills, coverage skills, and awareness. He has all the traits to transition into the NFL, though adding some muscle to his relatively small frame will be vital.

All things considered, Ziegler would be doing a solid job with this draft haul. That’s especially true after foregoing many of the expensive, big-name defensive free agents.

*Top Photo: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

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