Dave Ziegler made a pick in every round and brought nine neophytes into the Las Vegas Raiders locker room. The Silver and Black’s general manager stuck true to his board and went with his best player available (BPA) and added young talent to a roster in dire need of it.
Now it’ll be up to head coach Josh McDaniels and his coaching staff to develop the 2023 Raiders draft class into gameday contributors.
That said, let’s engage in this draft digest looking at the best, worst, and most exciting picks out of the Nouveau Nine:
Michael Mayer was the Raiders’ best pick (No. 35 overall)
The extreme value Ziegler got by snaring a top tight end prospect (the No. 1 prospect on many rankings) in the second round is impressive. Ziegler did have to give up picks to move up three spots, but what a pick!
The Notre Dame tight end was the most complete of the class, being equal parts pass catcher and blocker. The 2023 class showcased a deep talent pool, and it was Mayer and all of his 6-foot-4, 249-pound frame that stood atop the group as a true combination tight end.
Mayer closed out his Fighting Irish career with a 67-catch, 809-yard, and nine-touchdown 2022 season while compiling a total of 180 catches, 2,099 yards, and 18 touchdowns.
Mayer will meet you head-on when he’s tasked with blocking, and he’ll run you over when he’s caught the pass and picked up steam, giving McDaniels an ideal tight end to work with going forward.
And here’s one that should tickle some longtime Raiders fans: My pro comparison for Mayer is none other than Zach Miller.
Worst pick? That goes to Amari Burney at No. 203 overall
It sounds like a hater comment to earmark a pick as “worst”, but here we are. A safety-turned-linebacker, the 6-foot-2, 233-pound Burney has solid athleticism and speed to hang with speedier options in the NFL (4.50 40 at his Florida pro day). He’s also aggressive and brings the ball-disruptor mentality the Raiders so desperately sought heading into the draft.
Burney racked up 79 total tackles (9 for loss), four sacks, two interceptions, four pass deflections, and two forced fumbles. His pair of picks led the Gators in 2022. In total, he closed out his Florida career with 224 tackles (16 for loss), seven sacks, four interceptions, 12 pass deflections, and two forced fumbles.
While he has the size and speed to hang with tight ends at the next level, he lacks the instincts to be the read-and-react defender Raiders defensive coordinator Patrick Graham prefers. Because of that, many draft rankings labeled Burney as a priority free agent signing post-draft.
But the seventh is where teams take prospects they like in order not to lose them as undrafted free agents to another squad.
Tre Tucker is the most exciting pick by the Raiders the more you think about it…
An homage to the late, great Al Davis with his 4.37 speed (at Cincinnati pro day, 4.40 at the NFL Combine), Tucker is a throwback to the Silver and Black of yesteryear. Speed is his calling card, and Cincy did a tremendous job getting him the ball and letting Tucker work from the slot, sweeps, and bubble screens.
But where Tucker’s immediate impact will likely be felt is on special teams.
His speed and experience as a kick returner (67 returns, 1,670 yards, two touchdowns) will help him fight for a return gig (kickoffs and punts), while his wrestling background will give him the opportunity to be a gunner on the coverage units as well.
It’s been since Jacob Ford and Johnnie Lee Higgins since the Raiders fielded a drafted special teams dynamo (the pair were kick return and punt return home run threats, respectively), and Tucker can bring that back to the Silver and Black.
Scintillating plays won’t be relegated just to special teams; it’ll be intriguing to see Tucker on offense, especially with a quarterback in Jimmy Garoppolo who likes to get the ball out quickly and in space.
*Top Photo: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
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