Raiders draft approach by Dave Ziegler needs to focus on Patrick Graham and his defense

On The Ray-Dar: Heavy Draft Focus On Patrick Graham’s Side Of The Ball A Must For Raiders

On optics alone, it sure looks like head coach Josh McDaniels is not only getting his cake, but he’s allowed to eat it too. How else do we put into context the Las Vegas Raiders’ spending habits? Did Dave Ziegler forget about Patrick Graham and his defense?

According to OverTheCap, the Silver and Black are one of the most out-of-whack squads in terms of salary allocation. McDaniels’ desert marauders currently rank third out of the 32 teams in most money spent on offense ($132,554,227). Flip it, and the Raiders are spending the third-least amount of money on defense ($78,225,937).

Appalling? On the surface, yes.

However, this shouldn’t be surprising.

McDaniels, after all, is the head coach in Las Vegas. Not only that, but his closest confidant and longtime friend is none other than the person who makes the final roster decisions, general manager Dave Ziegler. So, the lopsided scale of spending tilting heavily in the favor of the offensive-minded McDaniels is to be expected.

And this isn’t something new.

The Silver and Black have been in or near the top 10 in least money spent on defense since the 2017 season. Only the 2016 campaign featured the Raiders in the Top 10 in coin allocated to the defense. It’s no wonder then that, when you couple the lack of financial commitment with draft whiffs, the defense has been a Raider liability and not an asset.

That must change.

And the course correction begins in earnest in the upcoming 2023 NFL Draft.

Ziegler must be as committed to defensive coordinator Patrick Graham as he’s been to his tag-team partner McDaniels. A heavy focus on adding young core talent to the defense will go a long way toward not only alleviating the lack of foundational defenders the team has but can eventually result in a balancing of the books. After all, if said prospects prosper and develop, the Raiders must open up more of their coffers to pay said talent.

Both Ziegler and McDaniels are keen on building through the draft and keeping players who flourish in Vegas.

That’s a two-step type of dance, folks.

The first of which is for Ziegler and his scouting department to identify players who fit Graham’s concepts, have the potential to become game changers, and select them. The second, which is an arduous task too, is for Graham and the coaching staff to develop them. It’s a hand-in-hand process that the Raiders have ingloriously suffered face plant after face plant. We need not remind you of prior draft and roster missteps previous Raiders’ regimes have made.

But that’s not to say there haven’t been successes.

Just look at how Maxx Crosby went from a fourth-round pick to one of the game’s best pass rushers.

Las Vegas needs more of that jackpot-type drafting. No more rolling snake eyes on the likes of Johnathan Abram, Damon Arnette, Gareon Conley, Karl Joseph, Jihad Ward, et al.

Yet, in order for Graham to get the opportunity to mold prospects into Raiders difference makers, he’ll need Ziegler to commit a handful of the 12 draft picks the team has at its disposal in the upcoming draft to defensive prospects. In Ziegler’s first draft as chief personnel man, Las Vegas selected two defenders in the 2022 draft. Those picks were defensive tackles Neil Farrell Jr. and Matthew Butler in the fourth and fifth rounds, respectively.

How will the 2023 class end up looking like for Dave Ziegler and the Raiders?

In the 2023 rendition of the annual affair, Ziegler has four selections in the top 100: No. 7, No. 38, No. 70, and No. 100. Then eight more come after that, which starts with the 109th pick (fourth round). There’s quality defensive talent at a variety of positions that can be had in the early and late rounds. Champ Kelly, Ziegler’s assistant general manager who has a keen eye for talent, is assisting him with scouting. So, whether it’s taking an edge or corner high in the first round, a linebacker or defensive lineman in the second, and so on and so forth, doubling up at positions isn’t going to be a misallocation of resources for the Raiders.

Why?

Lack of depth, which results in a lack of competition.

Las Vegas needs it all across the board defensively.

And those 12 draft picks (which will likely increase or decrease depending on draft-day deals and moves) are plenty of ammunition to give Graham some cake — and let him eat it, too.

Suffice it to say, but: The ghosts of Raiders defensive coordinators past, along with Patrick Graham, are famished for not only talent but success in developing draft picks.

*Top Photo: Raiders YouTube Channel

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