New Las Vegas Raiders general manager Tom Telesco has some decisions to make at this year’s NFL draft; that’s not a shocker. Still, people want to know which route makes sense in what will be a crucial season for the Silver and Black.
People are enamored with the idea of the Raiders moving up this year to draft a quarterback. While that may be a “homerun” scenario for some, people might need to accept a more practical approach. In fact, Telesco believes in fortifying the trenches through the draft. That’s especially true since 2019, when he was with the Los Angeles Chargers. One look at the names, and you can connect the dots: Jerry Tillery, Rashawn Slater, Zion Johnson, etc.
When looking at the Raiders roster as presently constructed, beefing up the defensive and offensive lines would be a wise decision. For example, the interior on both sides has question marks. On offense, the future of Andre James is uncertain, and a costly long-term contract might be ill-advised.
As far as the defense, it’s hard to know what the interior will look like. Will the Raiders opt to keep Tyree Wilson solely inside? The team appears to have plenty of talent along the edges with Maxx Crosby and Malcolm Koonce—perhaps adding pressure inside continues to be a priority. Let’s examine one possible scenario in which Telesco decides to deal with these conundrums.
2-Round Raiders Mock: Beefing Up The Squad
Round 1: Jer’Zhan Newton, DT, Illinois
Picking up the 2023 Big Tean Defensive Player of the Year is one heck of a way to get your first year going as the new Raiders general manager. Jer’Zhan Newton is one of the highest-graded pass rushers coming out of this draft class, according to Pro Football Focus. Newton increased his sack totals every single year in college: 1.5, 3.5, 5.5, and 7.5, respectively. Just as impressive, he recorded 22.5 tackles for a loss in his final two seasons at Illinois. Even if you don’t care about college statistics, Newton’s exploits are downright impressive.
Jer’Zhan Newton is that guy pic.twitter.com/yPqfFa0dWz
— Bengals & Brews (@BengalsBrews) February 10, 2024
Technically speaking, you would be remiss if you didn’t point out some size concerns for Newton. Six-foot-two and about 290 pounds doesn’t scream imposing (more so because of his height), but there’s more to it than that. Newton’s explosiveness is scary for his position, and it’s something sorely missing for the Raiders. He’ll beat opposing blockers out of the gate off the snap with ease. His raw strength, coupled with those lethal hands of his, make for an intriguing prospect.
You can’t coach speed, and that’s true for Newton. The Raiders desperately need someone who’ll create chaos in the backfield—that will be the key for this squad in 2024.
Round 2: Zach Frazier, IOL, West Virginia
When it comes to Andre James, nothing is set in stone. Whether Telesco will give the center a big, fat new contract is an unknown. Luckily, West Virginia’s Zach Frazier gives the Raiders an instant start inside at a fraction of the cost, with much more long-term potential.
— Blue Gold Sports (@Blue_GoldSports) February 8, 2024
Frazier’s comes into the NFL as one of the more well-rounded prospects this year. Up and down, PFF has him pegged as a center that’ll deliver in both the run and the pass. Head coach Antonio Pierce wants to bring back the Raiders of old—nasty, physical, and downright violent (within the rules, of course). You’re getting that with Frazier, a center that’s downright nasty. On top of that, he’s got more than enough experience and durability to come in and take the starting mantle.
As far as what Frazier does in the trenches, his background in wrestling gives him an impressive move set-up—couple that with noteworthy strength, and he dominates incoming defenders. Possessing solid form, Frazier uses his abilities to leverage them particularly well in pass protection. The Raiders would be drafting their anchor in the middle for the next decade or more with Frazier. Considering it’s the second round, we’d be talking about a true steal.