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3 Raiders takeaways from NFL combine: Aggression needed at QB

INDIANAPOLIS — After getting an up-close look at this year’s draft class at the NFL scouting combine, Raiders coach Antonio Pierce jokingly pressured general manager Tom Telesco to grab more draft picks.

The Raiders currently hold nine selections. Pierce would love to add to that.

“Come on man, get four more picks,” Pierce said, laughing.

There’s a problem, though. To address the Raiders’ most significant need — franchise quarterback — they may need to part with draft assets rather than accumulate even more.

It’s the only path available to them to gain access to Louisiana State star Jayden Daniels, who is gaining momentum as their favorite quarterback in this draft. The Raiders could move around the board for Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy and Washington’s Michael Penix as well.

Here are three takeaways from this week’s NFL scouting combine, starting with the quarterbacks:

QB options

The Raiders met with all the big-name quarterbacks in Indianapolis. Pierce also stayed through Saturday to watch the class work out at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Southern California’s Caleb Williams, North Carolina’s Drake Maye and Daniels opted against throwing. That left McCarthy, Penix, Oregon’s Bo Nix and South Carolina’s Spencer Rattler to take center stage.

McCarthy settled in after a slow start and helped his cause. McCarthy also added 20 pounds to his 6-foot-3 frame, which eased concerns about his potential durability. His impressive week means the Raiders will likely need to trade up from No. 13 to get him.

Penix was the most polished quarterback Saturday and showed he could make NFL throws. The talk around the combine was he aced his medical testing, too. The Raiders hold the 44th overall pick. They may have to move up from that second-round selection to get Penix now.

Nix also had a strong showing Saturday. The Raiders may have no choice but to be aggressive at quarterback this draft, something Pierce has implored the franchise to do.

Lots of defensive depth

The Raiders can fill some roster holes ahead of the draft when free agency opens March 13. Telesco said the club expects to be active.

One option is defensive tackle Christian Wilkins, who is not expected to receive the franchise tag from Miami. There are also several options in the draft if the Raiders want a strong interior presence next to edge rusher Maxx Crosby.

Taking Texas defensive tackle Byron Murphy in the first round could give the team one of the best defensive lines in the NFL. Florida State’s Braden Fiske, Texas’ T’Vondre Sweat, Illinois’ Jer’Zhan Newton and Michigan’s Kris Jenkins are other options in a deep defensive tackle class.

The Raiders could also add another cornerback to their young starting duo of Jack Jones and Nate Hobbs. The draft has plenty of options. Some of the best players available are Alabama’s Terrion Arnold, Toledo’s Quinyon Mitchell, Alabama’s Kool-Aid McKinstry, Missouri’s Ennis Rakestraw and Iowa State’s T.J. Tampa.

Strong OL class

The Raiders have work to do on the offensive line with center Andre James, right guard Greg Van Roten and right tackle Jermaine Eluemunor set to be free agents.

They’ll look to free agency to fill some holes. Veterans Michael Onwenu, Tyron Smith and Jonah Williams are options at tackle, while the available guards are expected to include Robert Hunt, Kevin Dotson and former Raiders draft pick John Simpson.

The draft could also provide some help. There are some high-end players in this year’s offensive line class.

Oregon State’s Taliese Fuaga, Penn State’s Olumuyiwa Fashanu, Alabama’s JC Latham, Washington’s Troy Fautanu and Georgia’s Amarius Mims project as first-round picks and immediate starters.

Duke’s Graham Barton, Oklahoma’s Tyler Guyton, Arizona’s Jordan Morgan and BYU’s Kingsley Suamataia and Kiran Amegadjie should be selected somewhere between the end of the first round and the beginning of the second.

Contact Vincent Bonsignore at vbonsignore@reviewjournal.com. Follow @VinnyBonsignore on X.

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