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Graney: Love the player, but not so much the pick for Raiders

Updated April 26, 2024 - 9:30 am

It’s OK to think of Brock Bowers as a generational talent and hate that the Raiders selected him 13th in the NFL draft Thursday.

Love the player. Not so much the pick.

Bowers is the ultra talented tight end from Georgia. His is also not a position of need for the Raiders. At least not like other spots along the offensive line and in the secondary and, well, we know about the quarterback situation.

Bowers was clearly the best available player at that point, as versatile a tight end as the draft has known in decades. He can do it all. Line up at several spots. Has elite explosiveness and ball skills. Speed and balance. Supremely talented after the catch.

This also has to be about new general manager Tom Telesco taking the long view. Perhaps not about winning right away but by collecting the best available players for years to come.

“We know where we are today,” Telesco said. “But we are looking at today and into the future. With a player like Brock, where the scouting staff had him, what they thought about him, what the coaching staff thought about him, he was a pretty consensus guy. Makes it a little bit easier.”

A choice to make

This happened Thursday: Six quarterbacks were taken in the first 12 picks. It bumped a talent such as Bowers down the board to where the Raiders selected. They had a choice to make. Made the wrong one and yet not because Bowers can’t be great.

It’s true the Raiders don’t have a memorable recent draft history in the early rounds. Far from it. So did they pull off something shrewd by picking Bowers? Hard to say right now. They took their swing. We won’t know for some time if they bashed a home run or missed badly.

Bowers’ talent suggests the latter is a serious long shot. But he’s not about to line up as a right tackle or cover NFL wide receivers.

It’s likely the Raiders will address both needs as the draft progresses, but their choice to pass on predicted first-round talents at those positions is more than questionable.

You can’t, however, argue with the skill of the player they selected.

This part is fact: You either want to make the playoffs or win in them, and you need players such as Bowers to win in them.

Bowers will make whoever is throwing him the ball — we’re really now looking at Gardner Minshew or Aidan O’Connell — much better for it.

Players such as Bowers are really hard to defend. Look no further than the two-time Super Bowl champions. The Chiefs have won for many reasons, but the two main ones are quarterback Patrick Mahomes and tight end Travis Kelce.

The Raiders haven’t come close to identifying a franchise quarterback, but what if Bowers develops into the next Kelce? He’s just 21 and a true junior out of college.

In this sense, it’s sort of a blessing and a curse. A blessing because someone so young and talented fell to 13 and a curse because the Raiders weren’t able to get a quarterback.

And then chose not to go offensive tackle or cornerback.

There’s Mayer, too

The Raiders also have a promising talent in Michael Mayer, taken in the second round last year. You would assume this means a lot of two tight end sets from new offensive coordinator Luke Getsy, something he employed often with the Bears.

“We’re looking at more playmakers on offense,” Telesco said. “This is a chance to add another dimension … It’s the way it worked out. We figured a lot of quarterbacks would go early and someone would come down that usually wouldn’t. The fact it was somebody who can go make plays on the offensive side of the ball was really helpful.”

Drafted what ultimately can be a generational talent.

Love the player. Not so much the pick.

Ed Graney, a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing, can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on X.

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