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Hill: Telesco’s 1st draft with Raiders wasn’t a home run. And that’s OK

Updated April 27, 2024 - 7:29 pm

New general manager Tom Telesco didn’t hit a home run in his first draft in charge of the Raiders.

Then again, he wasn’t exactly swinging for the fences.

Telesco and his staff played things pretty much by the book over the last few days, and the result was a solid, yet unspectacular, haul.

Or, to keep the analogy going even further, Telesco and the personnel department went up to the plate looking for singles and found themselves getting on base more often than not.

“I’m happy with this group, I am,” Telesco said Saturday after selecting eight players in three days. “It’s a good group. It’s a good starting point. Add this group to last year’s draft class, and hopefully we get moving.”

That’s exactly what the goal should be right now. The Raiders could have mortgaged their future for one of the top three quarterbacks, but is the rest of the roster really in place to allow someone like Jayden Daniels to have immediate success?

Probably not.

This is an organization that has tried quick fixes far too many times. Far too often, the hefty hacks at the plate have resulted in whiffs. That’s why the Raiders have been stuck right at or below .500 for the better part of two decades, the worst place to be in a league in which teams want to be either really good or really bad.

Unfortunately for them, the middle is probably where the Raiders will be languishing again this season. They didn’t improve enough to be a legitimate contender, especially in the absence of a franchise quarterback, and they still have too much talent to challenge for a top pick next season.

A prudent selection

But it feels different. The Raiders added a tight end with a very high ceiling in Brock Bowers in the first round. While it may not have been the original plan, the Raiders showed discipline in pivoting to the Georgia star, who was atop most “best available player” lists at the time.

After being rejected for Daniels, they could have overpaid for Michael Penix Jr. or J.J. McCarthy out of desperation, knowing a top-line quarterback is such a necessity. But either because they didn’t like the remaining names on the board or were turned off by the asking price, the Raiders stood pat and grabbed a pass-catcher who should make any quarterback better.

Telesco said the team never considered drafting a quarterback after missing out on the trade up.

“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 about it,” Telesco said. “But it didn’t line up.”

Sounds prudent. They then went to work on making sure Aidan O’Connell and Gardner Minshew have the pieces in place to have a chance at some level of success.

That started with a likely immediate starter at right guard in Jackson Powers-Johnson. Then they found some depth on the offensive line and in the secondary, where they were able to select some players with exceptional traits who could eventually materialize into big contributors with the right structure and coaching.

“Obviously, there’s needs we’d like to fill, and I’ve told you before the needs kind of change,” Telesco said. “Depth is a need, too. You’ve got to have depth across your team, so that’s a big part of it.”

All likely to make team

The new kickoff rule was a driving factor in adding a potential dynamic return specialist in Dylan Laube. Tommy Eichenberg is an old-school middle linebacker who will add depth and attitude. Every player appears to have a good chance of cracking the roster.

“We really stripped the board down pretty heavily in trying to increase the odds for the player that we take,” Telesco said. “We tried to mitigate some risk by making sure we take some players off the board that for whatever reason — playability, scheme, character, medical — could impact their odds of making our team.”

Add guys to the organization who will be able make the roster and contribute while developing them to be ready to play at a high level when the team is ready to compete.

Nothing out of the park. But maybe the bases are loaded, setting the stage for a big inning in the future.

Then when the Raiders do finally look for a fastball out over the plate, the home run won’t just be a solo shot.

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on X.

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