Drama, intrigue, anxiety and maybe a little dose of chaos are all accurate descriptors of the NFL Draft's first-round roller coaster, which we'll see unfold live on April 27 in Kansas City. The Raiders could very well be responsible for the use of those adjectives with the different opportunities available to them on night one of the draft. In that light, the next few paragraphs represent a night one 'choose your own adventure' of sorts, laying out four main options with a few sub-options to further define the scenario.
SCENARIO 1: STICK AND PICK
a. Draft a quarterback: Before the Raiders signed Jimmy Garoppolo, this felt like the most plausible course of action without a bonafide starter on the roster. Now, with Jimmy G in the fold, Vegas doesn't have to be desperate with the pick. If QB is the thought, then we hit a fork in the road with two likely options on the table. Alabama's Bryce Young & Ohio State's C.J. Stroud are more than likely off the board at this point so the choices become Kentucky's Will Levis or Florida's Anthony Richardson.
- Levis here represents a slightly more ready to play version than Richardson, which the Raiders don't necessarily require with Jimmy G in place. There's still plenty to be enamored by with the muscled up Wildcat QB: strength, arm, athleticism, two years worth of experience starting in the SEC, playing for NFL coordinators the last two years, but there's still enough questions about pocket presence and decision-making to warrant some risk.
- Risk is a factor with Richardson, but the potential reward might make it all worth it. He has everything Levis boasts, but at an even higher level. The Gators dynamo gave us the best performance by a QB in Scouting Combine history. He has "wow" plays all over his tape, but plenty others that bring to light the inexperience he has at the position with just 13 starts, less than 500 dropbacks and a barely over 50 completion percentage. That said, I find Richardson to be the most self-aware prospect I've come across in some time, understanding his shortcomings, not shying away from them, but addressing them head-on and working on the mental aspects of being a face of the franchise these last few months just as much as the physical skills needed to master the position at the next level.
b. Draft an offensive lineman: In this scenario, the Raiders would have the opportunity to likely select the best offensive lineman in the draft.
- The player that is best in show along the offensive line this year is Northwestern's Peter Skoronski. I think he could provide an immediate upgrade at right tackle in Vegas, while also providing the positional flexibility to move inside if the need arises. Skoronski could be a mainstay and multiple Pro Bowler over the next decade plus for whichever team drafts him.
- The next option to me for O-line is "other" – as in, Ohio Stare's Paris Johnson Jr., Georgia's Broderick Jones and Tennessee's Darnell Wright, all of which are first-round talents, but none of the three feel like more of a value than Skoronski at No. 7.
c. Draft a defensive lineman: Plenty of options along the defensive line, although its a real possibility, if not a likelihood, that the three best players, Bama's Will Anderson, TTU's Tyree Wilson and UGA's Jalen Carter, are off the board by the time the Raiders are on the clock. If either of those three are available, the choice here becomes very clear. However, the more likely options would be:
- Iowa's Lukas Van Ness – a physical specimen, Van Ness has the frame to play inside or outside, depending on scheme and weekly gameplan. Early on, I think Van Ness could be a rotational player on the edge and one that could kick inside to rush over the guards and center on obvious passing downs.
- Georgia's Nolan Smith – freakishly fast off the edge, Smith boasted the fastest 40-yard dash time amongst the D-lineman at the Combine, and can convert that speed to power when needed. He's a smaller frame, but an absolute rocketship blasting off at the snap to harass opposing quarterbacks. Seven would be a little higher than we've been expecting Smith to go and this selection might better fit a scenario later on.
d. Draft a cornerback: To me, there's really only one name that fits the bill here if the Raiders stick and pick a cornerback with the seventh overall selection. That name is Devon Witherspoon from Illinois. Tough, fast, physical and instinctive, Witherspoon checks all the boxes as an outside corner and an immediate impact player for a Vegas secondary that could use some reinforcements.
SCENARIO 2: TRADE UP IN FIRST ROUND
a. If you're trading up from No. 7, it feels like it has to be for a QB and the players that feel worthy of that kind of move are Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud.
- Young seems more and more likely to be the Panthers pick at No. 1 overall so this scenario feels like a stretch.
- Stroud is becoming a bit of a wild card with rumblings out of Houston that they might not take a QB at No. 2. That would make the Texans a possible trade partner as their GM Nick Caserio said he's open to "listening" to offers. Do Josh McDaniels and Dave Ziegler see enough in the Buckeye QB to warrant a move five spots up the board? It does feel like Vegas has the environment to welcome a young QB and allowing the rookie to learn and grow. The Cardinals would be another popular trade up destination at No. 3, especially if Houston takes a defensive player at No. 2.
SCENARIO 3: TRADE DOWN IN FIRST ROUND
a. Draft a quarterback: Not satisfied with the QBs left on the board at No. 7, the Raiders could look to move back in the draft and find a QB that feels more in line with value while accumulating additional picks in the process.
- The QB that fits this scenario is Tennessee's Hendon Hooker. The Vols starter the last two seasons, after transferring in from Virginia Tech, was putting up monster numbers, authored an upset over Alabama, generated legit Heisman buzz and then tore his ACL in November against South Carolina. If not for the injury he would be more prominently featured in the top quarterback conversation in this draft. In order to feel good about getting Hooker, I wouldn't go further down than the Steelers spot at No. 17, just in case the Lions would be eyeing him with their second first-round pick. And then you have the Seahawks at No. 20 and the Vikings at No. 23 as legit landing spots for Hooker as well.
b. Draft a big guy
- Your favorite QBs are gone and the top three defensive players are off the board at No. 7 so you feel shut out in terms of value, which inspires the trade back to find more picks and better fits for the squad later in the first round. I still feel like big guys up front on both sides of the ball would be a good choice here if moving back.
c. Draft a corner
- The sweet spot for the corners feels like picks 10-20 so moving back somewhere in that range could net the Raiders talent like Christian Gonzalez of Oregon, Joey Porter Jr. of Penn State or Deonte Banks of Maryland, all depending on how far back you go.
SCENARIO 4: MAKE PICK AT 7, USE 38 TO TRADE BACK INTO FIRST ROUND
a. This is the most intriguing scenario for me. Make a pick at No. 7 and then move back into the first round for a QB you envision as the future, kind of like the Ravens did with Lamar Jackson in 2018. By coming back in the first round for a QB, you get that valuable fifth-year option on the rookie contract, which gives you another year of reasonable salary control. So, let's play that out…
- The Raiders make a pick at No. 7 and let's say it's the aforementioned Devon Witherspoon from Illinois. Vegas then packages pick 38 and a future first-rounder to move back into the first round, again looking at the No. 15-17 range, to select Hendon Hooker as your QB of the future. Here, you get a stud defensive player, then use some of your draft capital to get back into it for your future franchise quarterback.
BONUS SCENARIOS - POTENTIAL QB PICKS LATER IN THE DRAFT, ONE FOR EACH RAIDERS PICK
- Hendon Hooker (Tennessee) at No. 38 (if he falls out of first round)
- Jaren Hall (BYU) at No. 70
- Tanner McKee (Stanford) at No. 100
- Jake Haener (Fresno State) at No. 109
- Tyson Bagent (Shepherd) at Nos. 141/144
- Aidan O'Connell (Purdue) at No. 174
- Clayton Tune (Houston) at No. 204
- Stetson Bennett (Georgia) at No. 214
- Dorian Thompson-Robinson (UCLA) at No. 220
- Max Duggan (TCU) at No. 231
As the Raiders get set to pick No. 7 in the 2023 NFL Draft, take a look back at photos of past players the Raiders took in that spot.