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Raiders pull draft-night stunner, select tight end in 1st round

Updated April 26, 2024 - 9:31 am

The Raiders have been synonymous with draft-day surprises for years.

They stayed consistent Thursday.

The Raiders took Georgia tight end Brock Bowers with the 13th pick in the first round of the NFL draft. The selection even surprised Bowers, a Northern California native who used to spend his summers watching the team’s training camp in Napa.

“Yeah, I mean I was really shocked,” Bowers said. “Wasn’t totally sure what was happening.”

The Raiders’ first pick under new general manager Tom Telesco was a departure from how the club has often operated.

Telesco, by selecting the top tight end in the draft and a consensus top-10 prospect, prioritized pure talent over pressing roster needs.

There are plenty of examples of the Raiders doing the reverse. Of reaching for a position of need rather than taking the best player available. It’s one reason the team has nine losing seasons the last 12 years.

Telesco has stressed having a long-term view since taking over three months ago. He then stayed true to his draft board Thursday.

He passed on filling holes at right tackle and cornerback to add Bowers to a tight end room that already features Michael Mayer, the Raiders’ second-round pick last season.

Dominant duo?

The team isn’t hoping to replace Mayer by selecting Bowers. The Raiders want to pair them up. It gives them a chance to run far more two tight end sets next season.

“We love Michael Mayer. I love Michael Mayer,” Telesco said. “He’s a really good player. He’s going to take another big jump this year. But you have a chance to add another dimension to the offense, whether it’s a tight end or a hybrid receiver or whatever it is.”

Telesco’s hands may have been forced with how the draft played out.

Six quarterbacks were taken in the first 12 picks before the Raiders were on the clock. That included Michael Penix Jr. and Bo Nix, passers the team was linked to.

There were still right tackle and cornerback prospects the Raiders could have taken. The first defensive player didn’t come off the board until the 15th pick.

Bowers’ allure proved too strong to ignore.

“We’re looking to add more playmakers to the offense,” Telesco said. “And they come in all shapes and sizes and all different positions.”

Bowers was a three-year starter at Georgia and won two national championships. He finished his collegiate career with 175 receptions for 2,538 yards and 26 touchdowns.

The Bulldogs utilized him as a do-it-all weapon. Bowers’ speed, size and athleticism created mismatches all over the field and drew comparisons to 49ers tight end George Kittle.

Bowers looks forward to having a similar impact on the Raiders.

“I feel like I can be used in a multitude of ways,” he said. “I mean, at Georgia, I moved all around. … So I feel like versatility is a big part of my game, and I’m just excited to see what’s in store for this next year.”

The Raiders’ challenge now is fitting Bowers into an offense that already features Mayer and wide receivers Davante Adams and Jakobi Meyers.

It shouldn’t be a problem for him. Bowers needed to find his niche on a Georgia team loaded with NFL talent. He can do so again in the pros.

“We had some dudes at Georgia, too, shout out to all my guys there,” Bowers said. “But, yeah, I’m excited. I’m excited to be a piece of this offense hopefully and be able to get to work and play alongside some of the dudes that I’ve watched for a while.”

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

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