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Raiders GM tasked with turning around team’s recent draft failures

Updated April 24, 2024 - 7:09 pm

General manager Tom Telesco is looking at his first draft in charge of the Raiders through a long lens.

“Whatever needs we may have today or whatever perceived needs those are, these players we’re drafting, we’re looking down the road minimum, I’d say, four to five years,” Telesco said.

That long-term view isn’t uncommon in the NFL. General managers and organizations preach taking the best player available in the draft rather than one that will fill an immediate need.

It’s not something the Raiders have always followed through on. They also haven’t done a great job evaluating prospects’ talent or character in recent years. They squandered all but one of their first-round picks from 2019 to 2021 and saw an entire seven-player draft class in 2020 vanish before their eyes.

Those mistakes are a huge reason why the Raiders have one winning season the last seven years.

Telesco is tasked with turning things around. Hitting on the Raiders’ eight selections — beginning with the 13th pick in the first round — in this year’s draft would be a good way to start once things get started Thursday in Detroit.

Here’s a closer look at the team’s recent draft history:

Wasted premium picks

The Raiders made 38 selections in the draft between 2019 and 2023, including seven in the first round.

Just 17 remain with the club. Tyree Wilson, the seventh overall pick last season, is the only first-round pick in that stretch that’s still on the roster. Star defensive end Maxx Crosby, a 2019 fourth-round pick, is the Raiders’ last remaining player from the 2019 and 2020 draft classes.

The struggles of general manager Mike Mayock and coach Jon Gruden sting in particular. They oversaw the 2019-21 drafts and had a chance to set the Raiders up for success after acquiring extra picks by trading away linebacker Khalil Mack and wide receiver Amari Cooper.

They set the franchise back instead. Only one of their six first-round picks — running back Josh Jacobs — earned a lucrative second NFL contract. Jacobs signed a four-year deal worth up to $48 million with the Green Bay Packers in March.

Mayock and Gruden weren’t much better in the second or third rounds. Their failures led to roster holes the Raiders are still trying to fill.

Momentum building?

Mayock and Gruden did seem to find their groove in 2021, outside of first-round pick Alex Leatherwood.

They found four starters in safety Tre’von Moehrig (second round), defensive end Malcolm Koonce (third round), linebacker Divine Deablo (third round) and cornerback Nate Hobbs (fifth round).

General manager Dave Ziegler and coach Josh McDaniels, who oversaw the 2022 and 2023 drafts before being fired midway through last season, built on that momentum.

The two traded away their first- and second-round picks in 2022 for star wide receiver Davante Adams, but they did unearth some promising players with the six selections they did make. Players from that class include starting guard Dylan Parham (third round), running back Zamir White (fourth round) and offensive tackle Thayer Munford (seventh round), who will compete for a starting job in training camp.

The Raiders’ nine-player haul in 2023 could end up being strong as well.

Wilson was ineffective most of his rookie year but started to show his potential late in the season. The Raiders hope a full offseason dedicated to football will get him on track after a foot injury affected his preparation last year.

The team also grabbed four contributors in tight end Michael Mayer (second round), wide receiver Tre Tucker (third round), quarterback Aidan O’Connell (fourth round) and cornerback Jakorian Bennett (fourth round).

There’s a chance defensive tackle Byron Young (third round), safety Christopher Smith (fifth round), linebacker Amari Burney (sixth round) and defensive tackle Nesta Jade Silvera (seventh round) earn larger roles in 2024 as well.

It’s now up to Telesco to build on that class.

He’ll get his chance Thursday night.

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

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