When Dave Ziegler began his pre-NFL Draft press conference last Friday, rattling off names that helped the Las Vegas Raiders get to the point where they are now, you knew this man meant business.
The Silver and Black’s general manager wanted to outline exactly how much effort is exerted and by whom during the annual draft process, from scouts to those that craft the numerous travel itineraries to nutritionists and the cafeteria. A lot goes into the process, and Ziegler wasn’t zigzagging past the complexities.
Draft Week Is Here For Raiders GM Dave Ziegler
Which brings us to draft week. It’s descended upon us and begins Thursday with Day 1—round one. That’ll be followed by Day 2—rounds two and three—and Day 3—the rest of the shebang. Ziegler definitely looks and talks with a bit more relaxed nature these days.
“Definitely more comfort. Anytime you’re in your first year on the job, there are a lot of different things to get used to,” Ziegler said. “Last year was the first time I had worked with our group going through this process, and now we’re kind of in year two, and so you have a little bit of a better understanding. And again, it doesn’t guarantee any results, but we definitely feel confident in what we’ve done, and I feel confident in the group that we have, and the level of comfort is high.”
Ah, the key caveat at the end: it doesn’t guarantee any results. That’s true for any of the other 31 teams in the game, really. Selecting the prospects is one part of the equation. Developing them is another. And putting them in the best possible position to succeed on game days is a different beast, too.
Time To Go To Work…
But it all begins with the annual draft. It’s an event the Raiders hope can help build a solid foundation of young core players. Both Ziegler and his good friend and head coach Josh McDaniels wax poetic about the best player available (BPA). That’s the route they’re going to take this coming weekend with the team’s 12 draft picks. But, as I’ve said previously, the BPA for the Raiders may be quite different from others’ definitions of the best player available.
“We talked about it last year; we’re focused on taking the best player available. I think where our roster’s at and our desire to improve competition at every position leaves us open to that,” Ziegler began. “Now, I would also say, and I would caveat that by saying when you talk about best available player, there’s a lot of different things that encompass that. It’s not just tape. And so, it’s the best fit for the Raiders. And there are different things that go into that, whether it’s the football intelligence piece or football character.”
Who will be “BPA” for Dave Ziegler and the Raiders?
“There are different things that go into that, that makes that player the best available player for each individual organization. I think that sometimes can get lost. And so that’s what it means for us – the best available player, that’s the best player for the Raiders organization and fits what we’re looking for. And we’re going to stay true to that process and stay open to that.”
Naturally, that philosophy led to an excellent question: What about quarterback? Specifically, if BPA dictates that a QB prospect is the best player available, will the Raiders shy away from drafting one because they have presumptive starter Jimmy Garoppolo onboard?
Nope, says Ziegler. The door hasn’t closed on that option, even with “Jimmy G” in tow.
“Yeah, I think we’re open to having competition at the quarterback position and every other position on the roster. I think that we’re never going to close the door on that,” Ziegler said. “Just philosophically, the way that Josh [McDaniels] and I believe that we’re going to build this roster is any opportunity that we have a chance to improve the competition, and if that means it’s at the quarterback position and there’s a competition there, we think that brings out the best of our players. And so, I think that’s why we wouldn’t close the door.”
Ziegler has a proverbial “Dirty Dozen” on his hand with 12 selections. That number can fluctuate, of course, as draft-day deals and swaps may lead to a decrease or increase of that number. Either way, the Raiders GM is clear about what his intentions are during the three-day draft event.
“The Dirty Dozen”
“I want to get 12 contributing players. So yeah, we put that pressure on ourselves, and I put that pressure on myself. Josh puts the pressure on himself and just as a scouting department, we feel that pressure in a good way, because I think that pressure drives you,” Ziegler said. “When you’re meeting for 15 straight days, there’s a monotony that you can let grow in. But I think that pressure, that motivation to get it right, that motivation to improve the team, that’s the pressure that keeps us pushing and keeps us focused and dialed in.”
When it’s all said and done and the Raiders have made their picks and the knee-jerk draft-grade reactions settle in, we’ll have a clearer picture of what this breed of Raiders intend for 2023. And Day 1—the seventh overall pick—will set the stage. Whether the team trades up, trades down, or stands pat and makes a selection at seven, we’ll see soon enough if the praise Dave Ziegler heaped on the Raiders’ organization has merit, or if it was just blowing smoke up their collective Silver and Black butts.
*Top Photo: Las Vegas Review-Journal