The dark days of the offseason are among us, and unfortunately for the Las Vegas Raiders, brighter days likely are not coming any time soon. After a lackluster free agency and a ‘good, not great’ draft class, Vegas was dealt a deathly blow to its 2023 plans.
Recently signed quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, underwent foot surgery soon after signing with the Raiders in March. The procedure became public knowledge Thursday, with the front office providing cautious optimism regarding Garoppolo’s Week 1 status.
Nonetheless, seeing an injury-riddled player already in jeopardy of missing in-game action is frustrating. Brian Hoyer, Chase Garbers, and Aidan O’Connell will likely take snaps in Garoppolo’s absence. That is concerning, to say the least.
What Would A Mock Draft Look Like If The Worst-Case Scenario Comes To Fruition?
Whether the opening-day starter is Garoppolo, Hoyer, or O’Connell, Vegas is squarely in the No. 1 overall pick discussions for 2024. The roster is not devoid of talent, but Josh McDaniels has yet to prove he is a capable head coach.
Injury, roster turnover, and general skepticism toward McDaniels have fans bracing for the worst. Perhaps I am overreacting and sounding the alarm too early, but the Raiders are more likely to draft Caleb Williams in 2024 than they are to make the playoffs this season.
Mock Draft Begins: Caleb Williams To The Rescue!
Round 1, Pick 1: Caleb Williams, QB, USC
Williams is one of the most exciting quarterback prospects in recent years. While the Patrick Mahomes comparisons are a bit rich, the 2022 Heisman Trophy winner possesses similar improvisation ability.
Like Mahomes, Williams’ top trait is creating off-schedule plays downfield. His mobility is a trump card, as the USC signal-caller is crafty and slippery when he moves outside the pocket. Impressively, Williams excels at keeping his eyes downfield when facing pressure. This trait is impossible to teach and has NFL talent evaluators salivating.
Williams could be the jumpstart this roster needs. The offense is begging for a difference-maker behind center that can make the most of its weaponry. The 21-year-old budding superstar will boost the offensive line and can take pressure off a defense still finding its identity.
It will require being the worst team in the NFL to land Williams. I am not guaranteeing the Raiders earn this dubious distinction, but it is a bald-faced lie if we say that outcome is impossible. The silver lining? A franchise quarterback capable of vaulting Vegas back into relevancy in the AFC West.
Raiders Draft Potential CB1 Early On Day 2
Round 2, Pick 33: Kamari Lassiter, CB, Georgia
After addressing the need at quarterback, the Raiders snag a top-of-the-depth-chart option at cornerback. Georgia’s Kamari Lassiter is a second-round prospect currently, but a strong final season in Athens could shoot him up draft boards next spring.
Lassiter starred on both sides of the football in high school. He earned a four-star rating thanks to standout performances as the team’s top cornerback and top wide receiver. With offers from several big-name programs, the Bulldogs ultimately secured his commitment.
The 6-foot, 180-pound defender earned immediate reps for the special teams. He also logged snaps in blowout games for Georgia. In Year 2, Lassiter elevated to a starting role on the defense. The traitsy cornerback started all 15 games, making key stops in many of the biggest moments down the stretch.
Lassiter’s fiery persona and ability to play both man and zone coverage make him a hand-in-glove fit for Patrick Graham’s scheme. In 2022, Graham mixed up coverages more often and asked his defensive backs to flex versatility.
Entering his third year, Lassiter still has a few things to clean up. He must add muscle and cut out the ‘grabby tendencies’ that show up on tape. As of right now, the Raiders land a bonafide CB1 at the beginning of Day 2.
Vegas Ends Mock Draft With “Quarterback Of The Defense”
Round 3, Pick 65: Tommy Eichenberg, LB, Ohio State
General manager Dave Ziegler did not make many ‘sexy’ moves this offseason… that is, depending on how you feel about Jimmy Garoppolo. All jokes aside, the Raiders still had more than a few impactful additions.
The one constant in these moves? Ziegler made a concerted effort to bring in ‘his’ guys. What exactly does that mean? Well, including the obvious Patriots’ ties, Vegas targeted cerebral players to cut down on the self-inflicted errors of the past years.
Tommy Eichenberg is the most cerebral linebacker in the 2024 NFL Draft. He boasts a sky-high football IQ and embodies what it means to be the ‘quarterback of the defense’. With the departure of former Pro Bowler Denzel Perryman, the middle of the defense is searching for its new leader.
Eichenberg was a team captain in his first year as a full-time starter in 2022. The gifted Buckeye defender led the unit in tackles (120) while stuffing the stat sheet with 12 TFLs, five quarterback hurries, three PBUs, two-and-a-half sacks, and one interception.
His versatility, athleticism, and leadership make Eichenberg a strong contender for LB1 honors in the 2024 NFL Draft. As of this writing, he is slated to go somewhere on Day 2. In this early mock draft, the Raiders wrap up a potentially franchise-altering haul with Eichenberg at No. 65.
*Top Photo: Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images