Raiders GM Dave Ziegler speaks on drafting Tyree WIlson

Temper, Temper: Cool Your Jets on Raiders First-Round Pick Tyree Wilson in Year 1

Hope for the best but be prepared for the worst. That age-old adage is fast becoming the mantra for the Las Vegas Raiders, isn’t it? The most recent application of that idiom is with 2023 NFL Draft pick Tyree Wilson.

Taken with the No. 7 overall pick, the Texas Tech defensive end is intended to add much-needed teeth to the Silver and Black’s lackluster pass rush.

Yet, the impressive prospect has yet to step on the practice field for the Raiders. The team is knee-deep in training camp and engaged with the San Francisco 49ers for joint practices. His absence is due to recovering from a foot fracture he sustained back in November and the following medical procedure to repair it, and Wilson remains on the non-football injury list.

There’s no timeline for his return; however, Raiders head honcho Josh McDaniels said he has no concerns about Tyree Wilson not playing at all this coming season. McDaniels was also queried on Wilson’s availability in Week 1.

“I’m going to hope so, yeah. As soon as he’s ready, he’s going to be out there,” the Raiders head coach said during his media availability this past Sunday. “And I think, like I said, there’s been nothing that has told us that that’s not going to happen.”

So, temper, temper Raider Nation.

It’s both fine and proper to cool your jets on expectations for Wilson in Year 1. While Raiders general manager Dave Ziegler spoke highly of Wilson’s acumen in the meeting rooms and film sessions, there’s nothing like the physical work of on-field practices.

This is where tempering expectations is vital.

Nothing can simulate the game of football like the physicality of padded practices, especially the opportunity to do it against another NFL squad like the Niners. That’s an integral time on the field where Wilson can put things on tape and get insight from teammates and the opposition on how to improve.

There’s no substitute for that. Especially for a player that generates much of their explosion from their feet.

Dave Ziegler, Josh McDaniels, and the Raiders are playing the long game…

But let’s go into why tempering expectations isn’t a fool’s errand:

It’s a knock on immediate returns, but long-term return on investment (ROI) means being patient.

Considering how heavily pass rushers rely on their lower bodies, letting Wilson reach the 100% mark and not rush is the right move. Trying to get immediate returns would negate the long-term ROI, which in the long run is more valuable.

The hope is that Tyree Wilson is a difference-maker…

Intended to be a difference-maker on the Raiders defense, Wilson was a consensus top-10 pick across the league spectrum coming out of Texas Tech, as the 6-foot-6 and 275-pound prospect was viewed as a generational-type edge rusher.

“Big, long, and strong, Wilson plays with linear explosion and power to get blockers moving in reverse… Overall, Wilson plays too upright and needs to become craftier and more strategic in his pass rush, but his length, speed, and raw power are outstanding foundational traits,” The Athletic’s draft analyst Dan Brugler wrote in his assessment of Wilson after ranking him as the eighth overall prospect and second edge rusher in the 2023 draft class. “His ascending tools are ripe for development, and he has Pro Bowl potential. He should be the first Texas Tech defender ever drafted in the top 20 picks.”

“Wilson has the physical tools to create pocket push as a power rusher early on, but the hand usage and rush plan will need tutoring for him to become a well-rounded, two-way rusher,” NFL.com’s draft analyst Chad Reuter wrote about Wilson, noting he’d be a Year 1 starter. “He might not set the world on fire in Year 1, but the talent and vaulted ceiling will be easy to see soon enough.”

Therein lies the rub, folks.

For his high ceiling, Wilson isn’t a refined prospect. While he comes in with NFL power and strength, he’s still raw. Even the strongest of defenders and pass rushers can be bested by weaker offensive linemen who are more technicians than brute force.

Which is exactly what Reuter pointed out in his assessment of Wilson and what Brugler called out, too. Physical traits, speed, and raw power are all exemplary foundational traits, but the ability to rush with different moves and tactics is very much a work in progress. That’s where learning from Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones will be handy.

Both veterans exhibit elite traits (more recently, Crosby, while Jones did in the past, not necessarily in 2022) that can teach Wilson a ton. In fact, if it weren’t for Crosby, the Raiders ability to hunt down the quarterback would indeed be toothless. The 2019 fourth-round draft pick is the only legitimate pass rusher on the roster based on his 2022 exploits (12.5 sacks, 36 quarterback hits, 22 tackles for loss, and 89 total tackles).

Maxx Crosby and a resurgent Chandler Jones buys Tyree Wilson time…

Las Vegas’ premiere pass rusher is on a mission.

“I don’t do this year-round to not make the playoffs. I’m sick of that s***,” Crosby emphatically said during his media session after his joint practice with the 49ers on Thursday.

It’s best heard and seen, so peep this:

The Raiders have one alpha off the edge and could have two if Jones has a late-career resurgence. He’s slimmed down considerably, and we’ll see if the drop in weight leads to increased effectiveness. But those two starters buy Wilson time. As does veteran addition Jordan Willis, a power/speed combo defender who can be a combo pass rusher and run defender. There’s also undrafted free agent Adam Plant, who is opening some eyes in camp.

Those two, in particular, wouldn’t have as many snaps if Tyree Wilson were available. So, it’s a give-and-take.

There will be naysayers, and rightfully so.

No Raiders regime in the past 20 years has earned the benefit of the doubt. The team just got out from under a Lloyd and Harry-esque Dumb & Dumber duo of Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock. And the Raiders could very well be in for a repeat of that with McDaniels and Ziegler; time will tell.

And thus, the fury of having the No. 7 overall selection mending from foot surgery and not getting the immediate impact is a justifiable emotion. Raider Nation is apt to point out an impact interior defensive lineman in Georgia’s Jalen Carter. Another section of the fanbase is quick to say patience, grasshopper.

Patience must be earned. However, it would appear McDaniels and Ziegler earned that from the most important person in the Raiders organization, owner Mark Davis.

*Top Photo: Heidi Fang/Associated Press

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