Las Vegas Raiders 2023 NFL Draft

It Wouldn’t Be A Raiders Draft Without Head Scratching Selections In Days 2 And 3

The Las Vegas Raiders made a strong choice in the first round, selecting Texas Tech defensive end Tyree Wilson. Wilson was described by CBS Sports analyst Chris Simms as having “superstar potential,” similar to Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett. After such a strong pick in the first round, Raiders fans were hopeful that they would be equally optimistic after Days 2 and 3 of the 2023 NFL Draft.

The Raiders entered Day 2 of the draft armed with eleven draft picks. At the conclusion of Day 3, the Raiders had traded up several times and made a total of eight selections. Several of these picks appeared to be perfectly logical. Still, others made fans question general manager Dave Ziegler’s thought process. Hopefully, these summaries of every player selected in the NFL Draft by the Raiders can clear up or verify some skepticism surrounding Ziegler’s selections.

The Raiders nailed their second-round pick in Notre Dame TE Michael Mayer

This pick was both a selection of need and the best tight end available at the time. Mayer was projected to be a first-round pick in multiple mock drafts. The Raiders traded up with the Colts, which was justifiable considering who they selected. The Raiders picked up tight ends Austin Hooper and OJ Howard in the offseason.

If Darren Waller never gets traded, Hooper and Howard would have been an acceptable TE2 and TE3 duo. However, Waller is indeed gone. Mayer should become the undisputed TE1 as a top receiving tight end who also excels in blocking. Well, in theory at least.

What about the third round?

The first headscratcher for many fans…

Interior defensive lineman was a clear position of need for the Raiders. There was optimism that the Raiders would address the void by selecting Jalen Carter when he fell out of the top five in the first round. The Raiders opted to pass on the controversial talent from Georgia. Byron Young was the 11th-ranked defensive tackle in the 2023 NFL Draft Consensus Big Board and the 118th-ranked player overall. Young may have appeared to be a reach, but with DT’s beginning to come off the board, the Raiders saw Young both as a position of need and as the best player available.

The newest Raider has been described as playing “clean up” to Will Anderson, who faced a considerable number of double teams in 2022. The assumption is that this role resulted in his career high of four sacks in 2022. Regardless, Young is a run stopper and can hopefully continue to play the same “clean-up” role when Maxx Crosby is facing double teams or unwanted attention.

Did the Raiders need another wide receiver?

The selection of Cincinnati wide receiver Tre Tucker at pick No. 100 was a bit surprising. Tucker stands at 5’9″ and weighs in at 172 lbs., not exactly the ideal size for a receiver. Tucker’s value is more geared towards special teams. He was a kick returner for Cincinnati and had two touchdowns on kick returns. Tucker is arguably more effective as a kick returner than a wide receiver; Tucker ran back 1,670 yards on kick returns over four years, and as a receiver, he logged 1,426 yards. Going into this draft, the only offensive pieces that seemed to be needed were a quarterback and a tight end, both of which were essentially addressed.

The wide receiver corps of Davante Adams, Hunter Renfrow, Jakobi Meyers, and DeAndre Carter seemed more than adequate heading into the draft. Tucker was the 27th-ranked wide receiver on the NFL Draft Consensus Big Board and the 194th-ranked player overall. The Raiders took Turner at 100, which does not seem to be a great value pick. Turner was not considered to be the best player available either, as his fellow Cincinnati teammate, Tyler Scott, was not picked until No. 133 but was the 78th-ranked player overall.

Cornerback was finally addressed… 

Raider Nation would have rioted if the Raiders went past the fourth round without selecting a cornerback. Jakorian Bennett came from a strong Maryland secondary. Though, looking back, he was overshadowed by the prowess of his teammate, now a New York Giant, Deonte Banks.

Bennett definitely used the combine to his advantage, running a blistering 4.30 40-yard dash. He’s fast and instinctive, and while he may not be a “pick machine,” he can run alongside most receivers he will face in the NFL. Bennett was the 19th-ranked cornerback on the consensus big board, whose peak selection was slated to be at 104.

It looks like the Raiders hit on a solid addition to the secondary right where he was supposed to be selected. Fans were clamoring for the Raiders to select the more popular cornerback available, Georgia’s Kelee Ringo. Of course, he went to the Philadelphia Eagles with the pick after Bennett at 105. Ziegler clearly favored the Maryland defender more than Ringo.

Raiders GM Dave Ziegler got his “quarterback of the future”

The top three quarterbacks were gone by the fifth overall pick. So, the Raiders were unable to deliver on their quarterback of the future. Instead, Ziegler opted to trade up to select a quarterback with features similar to former Patriot quarterback Tom Brady. Purdue’s Aidan O’Connell heard his name called at pick No. 135 and became McDaniels’ first rookie quarterback to develop since he took over in Las Vegas last season.

O’Connell’s style could be described as strictly pocket-passing. O’Connell stands tall in the pocket and throws the ball accurately at intermediate distances. There should be no expectations to see any designed quarterback runs with his recorded 40-yard dash time of 4.96. O’Connell won’t likely steal the starting position from Jimmy Garoppolo but can possibly be a serviceable backup quarterback. Was a backup quarterback necessary, which required Ziegler to trade back into the fourth round? Maybe, but with the current state of the Raiders defense, every position needs depth.

More secondary help is on the way, right?

Four safeties were selected ahead of Christopher Smith; that’s just in the fifth round of the draft. Smith was ranked as the ninth-best safety in the draft and the 108th-ranked player overall. Considering the lack of talent at safety in this draft and it being a position of need for the Raiders, picking Smith was a great value pick. The jokes about the Philadelphia Eagles picking Georgia players are entertaining. Still, there is a reason the Eagles made it to the Super Bowl. The Georgia defense has been one of the best college defenses of all time in the last two years, and Smith was a part of that group.

Contrary to other safeties the Raiders have had in the recent past, Smith is effective in coverage, more zone than man. He also has excellent instincts. In 2022, Smith allowed one touchdown in 536 coverage snaps. The Raiders need more depth at the safety position, and they found an experienced safety who can be an immediate starter.

Better late than never at the linebacker position… 

Social media was desperate for the Raiders to address the linebacker position. After the departure of their leading tackler, Denzel Perryman, the Raiders only signed one free agent capable of starting at linebacker (Robert Spillane). Raiders fans had to wait patiently as Ziegler and the rest of the front office did not land a linebacker in the draft until the second-to-last round. Ziegler selected Amari Burney with the 203rd pick. Burney was the 37th-ranked linebacker and the 370th-ranked player overall.

Burney is fast, aggressive, and can make plays by stacking the box. He can break out in coverage on tight ends and running backs. Overall, he lacks experience, which is obvious in his poor instincts. Burney fills a position of need, but the value is not there. Burney would have likely been available as an undrafted free agent and lacks the skills to be considered a priority pick.

Can the Raiders get more of that seventh-round magic again?

The final pick made by the Raiders was another addition to the defensive line. Nesta Jade Silvera was selected with the 231st pick in the seventh round. He was the 24th-ranked defensive tackle on the consensus big board and the 259th player overall. Silvera falls under the category of position of need and was one of the best defensive linemen available at the time of selection. Silvera punches in at 6’2″ and weighs 304 lbs. He is effective against the run and shows an ability to slip blocks and rush the passer. Silvera may not be a starter behind Bilal Nichols and Jerry Tillery. Though he may be able to rotate in and compete against fellow draftee Byron Young for additional snaps.

Headscratchers, according to Raiders fans, but are they?

At first glance, the Raiders’ draft appeared unconventional and confusing to outsiders looking in. Only the Raiders front office knows their own best board analysis. Raiders fans will just have to continue to speculate. As we know, the only true test is when these players hit the field. Then, and only then, will we see who produces and who doesn’t. Be sure to check back in when these new Raiders hit the field in September.

*Top Photo: Ryan Friedenberg/The Independent Florida Alligator

Raiders Fans Should Definitely Be Optimistic About 2023 Draft Haul By Dave Ziegler

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