Raiders’ Draft Strategy Reveals What The Front Office Thinks Of The Roster
Dave Ziegler, Raiders
Aug 26, 2022; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Las Vegas Raiders general manager Dave Ziegler looks on during the game against the New England Patriots at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

To be fair, Las Vegas Raiders general manager Dave Ziegler is in a nearly impossible spot regarding the team’s roster construction. Big picture, this roster kind of stinks. Draft whiffs, poor allocation of resources — you name it, the Raiders have failed at it over the past five years.

And yet, on the flip side, they do have a handful of guys who are the type of difference makers that every team dreams of acquiring — guys like Maxx Crosby, Davante Adams and Josh Jacobs. And those guys want to win now.

This leaves Ziegler with an impossible question: Build for the short term or build for the future? Unfortunately, this offseason seems to indicate his answer is “neither” (or “both” if you want to be more optimistic).

Jimmy Garoppolo, Raiders
Mar 17, 2023; Henderson, NV, USA; New Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo speaks to the media at Intermountain Healthcare Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

In his first two offseasons, he has acted like the goal is to win now — he spent $72 million on 31-year-old Jimmy Garoppolo one year after giving 32-year-old Chandler Jones $51 million and trading valuable draft picks for Davante Adams. All three moves were designed to make this team better in the short-term (whether they will or not is up for debate), but they also don’t help the team in the long run (they hurt future draft position, cost draft picks and took away money that could have been spent on younger building blocks).

Along these lines, for the sake of consistency you’d have expected the Raiders to attack the draft with a similar mindset — look at the holes on the current depth chart and fill them with difference-makers.

But…they didn’t.

When the Raiders were on the clock at pick No. 7, it seemed like the perfect opportunity for them to help the 2023 roster: a cornerback like Christian Gonzalez would have stepped in as the team’s best defensive back immediately, while an offensive lineman like Broderick Jones would have been an immediate difference maker on the offensive line. Heck, even trading down (as Peter King indicated they had the opportunity to do) would have netted them an extra second-round pick to bolster the roster.

Instead, they stayed put and drafted Tyree Wilson — a defensive end who isn’t expected to be a Day-One starter (because of how much they spent on Jones). To be clear: I loved the Wilson pick in a vacuum (I gave it an “A” grade), but I don’t see how it fits with everything else they have done of late.

Michael Mayer, Raiders
Mar 4, 2023; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer (TE10) participates in drills at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

In the second round, they traded up for tight end Michael Mayer — another pick I loved, and yet another pick that could have been used to help the 2023 roster more effectively. The offense won’t be what holds this group back — specifically pass-catchers — even if Mayer was great value at that point in the draft.

The truth is, as I reflect on the draft,t I do so with mixed emotions. I loved the top two picks, but I’m confused about what the plan is. What the Raiders need more than anything else is this: clarity. They need a plan that they stick to come hell or high water — in free agency, in the draft, in game planning, etc.

Are they trying to win now? Or are they trying to build for the future? Unfortunately, the answer seems to be “yes” — and it doesn’t make any sense.