With eight days until the 2022 NFL Draft, there are a lot of questions still surrounding what the draft will look like for the Las Vegas Raiders.
Despite not having a pick until the third round, Raiders General Manager Dave Ziegler is eager to see the growing Sports and Entertainment Capital of the World host one of the league's biggest events.
"We're just really excited for the city of Las Vegas to be hosting this event. I think the city of Las Vegas is built for big time events," Ziegler said in his opening statement Wednesday afternoon. "Whether it's the Super Bowl, whether it's the Pro Bowl, whether it's the draft, NCAA tournament – we'll take them all.
"Vegas is a city built for that, so we're just excited to have the draft here. It's good for the city, it's good for the community and we're hopeful to have many more of these type of events going forward."
The Raiders, now making their first selection of the draft at 86 following the trade for five-time Pro Bowler Davante Adams, have been busier than ever doing their due diligence on prospects. The ability of landing talent in mid- to late-rounds is something that Ziegler has experience in.
Since 2013 in the scouting departing of the New England Patriots, he has assisted in drafting the likes of consistent NFL starters such as Duron Harmon, Damien Harris, Jacoby Brissett, Ted Karras, Elandon Roberts and Shaq Mason – all of whom were drafted in the third round or lower.
During his press conference, Ziegler wasn't shy about expressing the joy he gets out of landing a gem in the later rounds.
"When you find players in the mid-rounds that ultimately develop into core contributors for your team, there's a level of pride in finding those guys," he said. "There's always the kind of players that have risen to the top for one reason or another. Not that all of those players pan out, we know that they don't. There's a level of pride in finding those players in the mid-rounds who can contribute for your team."
The work that Ziegler has put into the evaluation process of this year's draft has not been without help. The Raiders GM took time to give credit to his assistant general manager Champ Kelly, who he said is doing "an exceptional job" with handling college scouting.
He additionally gave high praise to his assistant coaches and area scouts that have not only been working on this year's draft, but have begun preparing for the 2023 Draft as well. The constant collaboration and communication within the building has been imperative for him leading up to the draft.
"I think it's important to understand the coaches' views on players, and it's just as important to understand the scouts' views of players," said Ziegler. "I think one of the most important parts of that process is not just all of the agreement that goes on, but is when you have some guys you see significantly different. To me, those are the exciting opportunities. Not only for growth as a scouting staff and as a coaching staff, but those are the opportunities where you know you have some work to do to get the player right.
"Those are really good learning opportunities for us, but we want to make sure we have open dialogue with our coaches. We really work hand in hand together with our coaching staff throughout the draft process."
Another question still to be addressed is what position groups the Raiders will target. Ziegler is in a position where he's looking to make the team better any way possible, and sees every position as a possible team need. If anything, he's taking more time to evaluate what a player can provide on and off the field more so than what position they play.
"For us, a lot of it starts with – it's person. ... Good people, good character traits, people who are willing to work with others, people who are selfless, people who are team-oriented, those are really important things to us," the general manager said. "People that love football, people that are good teammates, people that have football intelligence – those all calculate into low maintenance individuals. And the more low maintenance individuals you have, you're not expounding energy into different areas and you can just focus on getting better and winning.
"Those are really some of the core criteria when we start to talk about a player. Whether that player is going to be a fit for the Raiders or not – forget about the talent and all those type of things - those areas have to make sense first and then you graduate on to skillset and the value."