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Raiders finish 2024 NFL draft by addressing defense

Updated April 27, 2024 - 7:14 pm

The Raiders’ first draft under Tom Telesco and Antonio Pierce is as notable for what didn’t happen as much as what did.

Telesco and Pierce, the team’s new general manager and coach, selected eight players from Thursday to Saturday. But not one was a quarterback.

The decision was due more to circumstance than interest. Six quarterbacks were chosen before the Raiders made their pick at 13th overall.

The team was forced to move its attention elsewhere.

“If we felt there was a quarterback out there that was better than we had, or could potentially be better, certainly we would have done something,” Telesco said. “But it didn’t line up.”

The Raiders did add Carter Bradley, the son of former defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, as an undrafted free agent. But the team is expected to have Gardner Minshew and Aidan O’Connell compete to be its starter in 2024.

Defense emphasized on Day 3

The Raiders wrapped up the draft Saturday by focusing on defense.

They addressed offense with their first three picks. They took Georgia tight end Brock Bowers in the first round, Oregon guard Jackson Powers-Johnson in the second and Maryland tackle DJ Glaze in the third.

Rounds four through seven were largely spent helping the other side of the ball. Four of the Raiders’ last five picks were defensive players.

They selected Mississippi State cornerback Decamerion Richardson with their first pick Saturday at 112th overall in the fourth round.

Richardson, a two-year starter with the Bulldogs, is one of the most athletic cornerbacks in this year’s class. He ran a 4.34 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis. He had 70 tackles, an interception and seven pass breakups last season at Mississippi State.

“The one thing we were talking about was whoever we’re taking, let’s get some speed no matter what position it is,” Telesco said. “And we were lucky enough to get the corner who has got some big-time speed, some length and size and (is) a really good athlete.”

The Raiders then added Ohio State linebacker Tommy Eichenberg with their fifth-round pick at 148th overall.

Eichenberg made 200 tackles the last two seasons for the Buckeyes, including 14½ for a loss.

The 23-year-old should compete for snaps on special teams right away and slide into a backup linebacker role for the Raiders. He could also develop into a starter down the line.

“He’s all ball all the time,” Telesco said.

Said Eichenberg: “There’s nothing else I want to do right now in my life. It’s hard to turn it off, but I love the game. I love the dudes. I love the coaches. I love just everything that comes with it. So, I’m excited to just continue my journey.”

The other two defensive players the Raiders added were Air Force safety Trey Taylor, the 2023 Thorpe Award winner as the nation’s best defensive back, and Pittsburgh cornerback M.J. Devonshire. Both were seventh-round picks.

Taylor, the cousin of Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed, began his Air Force career under a previous federal rule that allowed academy athletes to defer the start of their mandatory military commitment in order to pursue professional sports opportunities. As a result, Taylor is immediately eligible to start playing for the Raiders.

He will compete for a special-teams role as a rookie but is setting his goals higher.

“I’m going to do what the team needs me to do as soon as I get on there because I feel like I’m going to make my team better wherever I’m at,” said Taylor, who was picked 223rd overall. “But I’m competing for a starting spot wherever I go.”

Devonshire, who was selected 229th overall, led Pittsburgh with four interceptions and 10 pass breakups last season.

The one offensive player the Raiders added Saturday was New Hampshire running back Dylan Laube. They selected him 208th overall in the sixth round.

Laube finished his college career with 544 carries for 2,678 yards and 29 touchdowns. He also had 169 receptions for 1,743 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Telesco said Laube profiles as an Austin Ekeler or Danny Woodhead-type player who excels on special teams and earns a larger role over time.

“If Dylan was smart, which he is, he’s probably studied those two guys,” Telesco said. “And hopefully he’ll have the same type of career.”

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

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