The Raiders aren’t likely to take a massive step forward this season based solely on the players they selected in the NFL draft.
And that’s OK.
This wasn’t a roster that was an impact player or two away from competing for a Super Bowl appearance.
General manager Dave Ziegler and his staff had a plan and stuck to it in acquiring a mixture of talented players that should be cornerstones of the building process, along with a few identifiable traits that give them a high ceiling to eventually reach.
Armed with 12 picks at the start of the draft, it could have been tempting to try to make a big splash by using the capital to move way up and steal the headlines.
It didn’t happen. They did pull off a few trades, but they were far more subtle. The Raiders would find a spot on the board with a player they wanted and use their picks to maneuver into position to take that player.
It was the kind of substance over style draft the team needed.
That makes grading its draft more complicated than normal. It’s usually a year or two before the true value of a class is known. This one might take even longer to materialize.
But here’s an early look at the nine picks:
Tyree Wilson, Edge, Texas Tech
There are advanced metrics that suggest he might be the most likely bust of the top 10, but some of that is based on the difficulty of projecting his athleticism since he couldn’t work out before the draft because of a foot injury. Speaking of which, that injury could be a long-term concern. Yet there was still a great deal of speculation he could go in the top 3 before falling to the Raiders at No. 7. He was probably the right pick once their top targets were off the board, assuming they weren’t considering defensive tackle Jalen Carter.
Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
He’s a fluid route runner who can get open and is equally adept at making catches in traffic. He also can block between the tackles or get out in space to clear out defenders downfield. Tight end wasn’t an area of immediate need, but he can develop behind some quality veterans and still help the team right away.
Byron Young, DT, Alabama
He has a lot of experience and was a big reason the Crimson Tide had an elite defense. He’s powerful and stout against the run, definitely helping to fill a need for the Raiders. He has some pass-rush skills, but lacks explosion and athleticism. He’s just a good player.
Tre Tucker, WR, Cincinnati
He was drafted for his speed and special teams ability, probably a bit too early. It was already a crowded wide receiver room, so it will be interesting to see who’s around at the start of the season. The Raiders most likely took Tucker believing his speed would eventually allow him to flourish.
Jakorian Bennett, CB, Maryland
Ziegler talked about wanting guys who could make a play on the ball. He found one in Bennett.
Aidan O’Connell, QB, Purdue
Fortunately for the Raiders, they have a starter and backup for this season. O’Connell will have time and a great situation to develop. He needs it.
Christopher Smith, S, Georgia
Another solid player from an elite defense. The Raiders could have found a deal because his measurables aren’t as impressive as his tape.
Amari Burney, LB, Florida
The converted defensive back should continue to improve in coverage of running backs and tight ends, but he really appears to love attacking the line of scrimmage. A needed investment in potential at the position.
Nesta Jade Silvera, DT, Arizona State
There are plays on tape where he pops. He’s powerful and has a pretty good first step. He still has to learn the position, but this is a pretty low-floor, high-ceiling pick. That’s what teams want in the seventh round.
Give credit to Ziegler and his staff for sticking with their plan. That might take some getting used to for fans. It wasn’t a perfect draft, and sportsbooks probably won’t be changing the Raiders’ win total for 2023, but this was about the future, and using two-thirds of the picks on defense was the prudent thing to do.