Raiders News: Tom Telesco, Antonio Pierce, and Mark Davis.

Raiders Draft: The Legend of “Tommy T” Begins Thursday

Whether you are good with Tom Telesco as the Las Vegas Raiders general manager or you despise the fact that the Silver and Black hired the ex-Los Angeles Chargers GM, you’ll get more evidence to support your opinion this week.

The 2024 edition of the NFL Draft is upon us, and the legend of Tommy T begins Thursday with Day 1—the first round. With more success in the early rounds during his days as the roster builder for the Bolts, there’s reason for optimism. The Raiders habitually kick the loyal and rabid Raider Nation in the cajones with draft selections, and having a personnel person who has a history of success in the opening stanza is encouraging. The relationship between Telesco and head coach Antonio Pierce is also encouraging.

The AP-Tommy T Dynamic

According to both parties, it’s fruitful. Pierce is the aggressive “let’s fix this now” type, and he’s said the deliberate and patient nature of Telesco balances it out. The Ying to the Yang, Pierce noted.

That’s a very telling thing, really.

While Pierce is a good face for the place, it’s Telesco who is the face that runs the place. The GM has final say over roster decisions, and while Pierce will have his sway, it’s Tommy T delivering the final verdict. While some fans may find that disheartening, it’s a proper thing. It’s the same power that Raider owner Mark Davis bestowed upon previous general manager Dave Ziegler, but as Davis noted, the GM didn’t exercise that kind of power, and head coach Josh McDaniels had the final say.

Look at it this way, skeptics: Since Telesco is the final say, he’ll get the final blame for the roster he built faceplants. Not Pierce, not his coaches. You can point the finger right at Tommy T. Happy?

“Look, I tried.”

With draft week upon us, it’s no surprise to see the myriad of reports being seen all over the place. One such report: Las Vegas was among the list of teams that called the Washington Commanders to inquire about moving up to the No. 2 overall selection. See below:

This is what every GM across the league says: “Everything is on the table.” The Raiders getting on the horn with teams picking higher in the draft is business as usual. And the Commanders not moving and noting they’ll make a pick is, too.

To me, it strikes of Telesco being able to tell Pierce, “Look, I tried.” Pierce has made no bones about moving up and doing everything possible to move up and potentially take a franchise signal caller prospect. The assumption is that’s LSU’s Jayden Daniels, someone Pierce knows all too well due to their respective Arizona State days.

Back to the “everything on the table” mantra: Telesco made it known during his pre-draft press conference Monday that the team has plans to trade up, pick at No. 13 overall, or trade down. But here’s the key caveat: In his 11 years as a general manager, Tommy T has never traded down in any round.

“Best Player Available” For The Raiders

The ever-popular best player available (BPA) vs. need debate happens every draft, and it’s no surprise to see Telesco asked about it this past Monday. Trying to find balance was his answer, and he shared quite the story about grappling with BPA and need during his time with the Chargers:

“So, the story I’ve told here is—I guess it’d be my first year with the Chargers—our roster needed a lot of work, but I felt like our receiver group was the strongest group on the football team. So, we’re in the draft, we’re in the third round, and Keenan Allen’s card is just staring at us, begging us to take him, and we decide we’ll take him, but more than likely he’ll probably redshirt the year,” Telesco said. “We don’t really have a spot for him; he may even be inactive every week. And then we get into May OTAs, and one receiver gets hurt. We get into training camp, and another receiver really didn’t perform the way we thought he would, and then in September, another receiver got hurt.

“Keenan jumps in the game in September, and he was Rookie of the Year that year. So, like I said, your needs change quickly and unpredictably. So, it’s hard to go into a draft just thinking how we’re going to line up this opening day.”

A true BPA route…

A true BPA route means taking the best player on your draft board regardless of depth and number of players at the position group on your roster at that given time. Here’s a scenario: The Raiders are unable to move up or down and must pick at No. 13. And the best player available on their board is UCLA pass rusher Laiatu Latu, BPA says take him even though the team already has Maxx Crosby, Malcolm Koonce, and Tyree Wilson at defensive end.

So, you see, it’s hard to go the route of true BPA. But, sometimes, it can work in your favor and be a fortuitous turn of events for a roster builder.

Hero or Villian?

Las Vegas’ success this season and beyond hinges on Telesco’s ability to build a competitive roster. Davis believes he can; otherwise, someone else would be GM and making the decisions.

But the immediate glorification or vilification of Tommy T begins in earnest when the Raiders are on the clock in the first round. Whether the team trades up, stands pat, or moves down, this post sums up my thoughts:

*Top Photo: Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun

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