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

Raiders mailbag: Defense, WRs, and plan of attack in 2023 NFL Draft

Now two weeks into free agency, most big-name free agents have found a home, and Raider Nation has their sights set on the 2023 NFL Draft. General manager Dave Ziegler was extremely active in free agency, agreeing to terms with 21 different players on the open market; some who were in Las Vegas last season, and many others joining the Raiders for the first time.

Despite all the activity, there’s still clear work needed in various units across the roster. For this, Ziegler is relying on the upcoming draft.

This week’s mailbag is filled with questions about these unfinished positions as the draft inches closer. Does going the ‘best player available’ route make sense for the Raiders? Which mid-draft QBs are the Raiders looking at? Which receivers will secure a spot at the back-end of the depth chart? All these questions – and more – will get an answer. If you have a question you’d like me to answer, either message me directly or comment on my weekly Raiders’ mailbag tweet, as seen here.

Time for your questions.

Raiders mailbag: Dave Ziegler and the 2023 NFL Draft

Q: Since free agency is pretty much done, what do you think of the defensive free agents that were signed? Do you think the front office addressed the interior defensive line enough?

Answer: Quietly, the Raiders made some great additions to the defense. Cornerbacks David Long and Duke Shelley are fine players on fantastic deals, and Marcus Epps is the Swiss Army Knife that Patrick Graham lacked in 2022. With Epps, Tre’von Moehrig can move back into the deep-safety role he thrived at in 2021. That said, there are places on the defense that remain weak.

IDL and LB are two units that stand out as immediate needs. I don’t at all think Dave Ziegler addressed the interior defensive line enough, nor do I believe he’s content with the position group. Don’t be surprised if DT is attacked early in the upcoming draft, perhaps as early as the first round. Grabbing Bryan Bresee after a trade-down at seven makes a lot of sense.

Q: Why haven’t there been more trades this offseason? 2022: Davante, Ya-Sin/Ngakoue, Herron, Stidham. 2023: Waller.

Answer: When Dave Ziegler and Josh McDaniels took over the Raiders, none of the rostered players were “their” guys. Herron and Stidham were moves to quickly bring in some of their own pieces, and Ngakoue was a move to bring in Chandler while obtaining Ya-Sin in the process. Luckily, Davante Adams also fell into their lap with how his situation shaped up in Green Bay. Now in 2023, the roster is much less foreign to them. There’s no need to put an emphasis on familiarity, since it now already exists throughout most of the roster.

Focusing on the draft

Q: With how Ziegler attacked free agency… Does this set up for him to draft BPA instead of fit?

A: Not exactly, but in the case of the Raiders, their needs and BPA likely go hand-and-hand. The best player available at seven will likely be one of: Tyree Wilson, Will Anderson, or Jalen Carter. One can make an argument for one of the defensive backs being best available, and if they trade down, a defensive tackle might be the best player available. These are all needs. At 38, there’s a good chance a cornerback or linebacker will be the best available. Again, needs. This is certainly a deep draft on the defensive side of the ball, and Ziegler can go any way he wants without sacrificing talent.

Q: Make an educated guess. How does Ziegler have the TEs in this draft class ranked?

Answer: I know it’s not what you asked, but I’m going to approach this question differently, and doing so should be more insightful. Instead of listing how [I believe] Ziegler has them ranked in terms of best, second-best and so-forth, I’ll name which players have the highest likelihood of becoming a Raider, based on how I’m thinking Ziegler will approach the draft. Sam LaPorta, Travis Kuntz, Tucker Kraft – vertical tight ends available in the late-second (trade up from the third), or available at 100. Ziegler has spoken highly of this tight end class, admiring the sheer depth. That’s a giveaway, combined with the high-priority needs elsewhere on earlier picks.

Raiders future QB

Q: Which QB are you hearing the Raiders are interested in this upcoming draft? And what QBs do you think would be realistic outside of Hendon because that’s the consensus “mid round” favorite.

Answer: Everyone hears the buzz on the round-one quarterbacks, but is that high interest or due diligence? In my eyes, it’s the latter. A mid-draft quarterback makes the most sense for the Raiders. I know Hendon Hooker is the fan-favorite, but most of that is fans echoing a sentiment laid into them by draft boards after seeing Hendon mocked earlier than all other QBs not drafted in the early first. For me, Jake Haener still makes the most sense, and is a quarterback the team is very interested in. When the Darren Waller trade happened, I said, “Don’t be surprised if Ziegler traded Darren Waller for Jake Haener.” I’m not saying that’s what we saw, but, don’t be surprised.

WR depth

Q: Predict the Week 1 WR room.

Answer: Davante Adams and Jakobi Meyers are the locks, obviously. There are whispers of a potential Hunter Renfrow trade, but with his contract already becoming fully guaranteed in 2023, it doesn’t make any sense to move him. Ziegler had a chance to do so, but didn’t, and let Renfrow’s guarantee kick in. That should tell you where his head is at – jot Renfrow down as a lock as well.

Phillip Dorsett should be close to a lock. Last time he played in Josh McDaniels’ system, back in 2019, the speedster earned a perfect quarterback rating when targeted in the slot. That’s big-time. The fifth spot is totally up for grabs, as is the sixth should McDaniels elect to carry six, though history has proven that to be unlikely. My guess would be Tyler Johnson, but any combination of Johnson, Turner, Sims and Cole wouldn’t surprise me. I expect Turner to be on the team for certain, whether P.S. or final-53.

*Top Photo: Chris Unger/Getty Images

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

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