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An inside look at Content Day with the Raiders' 2023 draft class


During Content Day 2023, digital team reporter Levi Edwards spent the day with the Raiders' most recent draft class, witnessing their first team Content Day as NFL players. For some of them, this was their first time in the Silver and Black uniform.

With a vintage camcorder in hand, Edwards documented the rookies going through each station, while learning more about the interests and personalties of the newest Raiders.

"Kind of tells you what I'm working with looks wise"

Roughly around 6:45 a.m., quarterback Aidan O'Connell was one of the first players in the building. The Raiders' fourth-round pick, wearing a black Raiders tee shirt, basketball shorts and slides, looked ready to get the ball rolling as quickly as possible.

Less than an hour later, O'Connell put on his pads and began a trip though the stations for Content Day. Without qualms, he abided to each photographer's request, who wanted to get as many good shots as they could of the rookie.

While he didn't have too much to say throughout the day, he had an eager smile on his face.

"Everything is going well, man," O'Connell said halfway through. "Just going back-to-back-to-back. Maybe I'll get out of here early."

This wasn't O'Connell's first rodeo with all the asks of a Content Day, but it was still a bit different than what he was used to experiencing at the collegiate level. It took a couple years as a Boilermaker before he was featured piece of the team to begin with. As a walk-on at Purdue, he was initially the eighth quarterback on the depth chart before working his way to his first start in 2019, ultimately taking over as starting QB in 2021.

While at Purdue, he began to grow a trademark mustache that's now followed him to Las Vegas. O'Connell has never seen the movie "Super Troopers," however, his friends have sent him memes for years that compare him to Trooper Rod Farva, who comically has the same style mustache and buzz cut. As to whoever created the memes, they get a "kudos" from O'Connell. The story behind him growing it out can be credited to his wife.

"I did it about three years ago. It was actually my wife's idea as a joke," said O'Connell. "But then it stuck and believe it or not – I actually look better with the stache which kind of tells you what I'm working with looks wise. But I just decided to keep it."

Best tight ends in the NBA

The vibe I get from rookie tight end Michael Mayer is that he's a down-to-earth guy who's about his business. He wants to come in, get his work done, get better and go home – which is exactly what he did during Content Day.

"I feel pretty good in the Silver and Black right now," Mayer said donning the uniform. "This is something we got to do. It's something for the fans and networks. It's so good to have this jersey on."

He was the second rookie behind O'Connell to begin going through the stations, and while he's another guy who is not exactly talkative or loud, he knows how to work the camera. He seemed very precise executing the directions each photographer and videographer gave him, turning up the energy whenever asked. This shouldn't come as a surprise considering his attention to detail aided his success at Notre Dame.

Many people have been tuned in to what Mayer has done on the football field as one of the best tight ends in the nation. After winning Gatorade Player of the Year in Kentucky, he broke several Fighting Irish tight end records in his three season. But what a lot of people might not be tuned into is his first love being the game of basketball.

The 6-foot-4, 265-pounder initially wanted to play college basketball coming into high school. However, he was convinced by his family and high school football coaches to ultimately give football a shot. He still uses a lot of his skill set from basketball on the football field, with his short area quickness and ability to grab contested catches over defenders. While football is his life now, he still follows basketball closely – including the 2023 NBA Finals between the Denver Nuggets and the Miami Heat.

"The Nuggets are winning it," Mayer predicted a week before Denver clinched the NBA Championship in five games. "I don't think there's any other way to go about it. [Nikola] Jokic is undeniable, Jamal Murray is a beast. They're hard to stop."

When asked if NBA players could make a successful jump to the NFL, he believes it's subjective. His thought process was that a bigger, more physical NBA player could potentially get some snaps at his position. His list of NBA players that could be good NFL tight ends is as follows:

  • "You could say 'Bron [LeBron James]."
  • "I bet you KD [Kevin Durant] would be a good tight end. He'd just jump over everybody."
  • "Paul George would be a good tight end."
  • "Marcus Smart. He's athletic bro. He would dominate."

Akron's finest

As Tre Tucker was waiting to take full body portraits, he stopped for a few minutes to go over some routes.

The rookie receiver was going full speed on his releases off the line of scrimmage, before speed walking through the rest of the route. Despite the amount of people in close proximity to him, he was zoned in – as if no one but God was there.

He explained he was taking advantage of being in full pads on the indoor practice field – which contains his preference of turf grass.

Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Tre Tucker (89) poses for a photo at the 2023 Las Vegas Raiders Content Day.
Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Tre Tucker (89) poses for a photo at the 2023 Las Vegas Raiders Content Day.

Tucker seems to have one of the more serious demeanors among his rookie classmates. With his high school wrestling background, that would make sense. The receiver has put on some good weight since those days, having initially wrestled in 106-pound weight class.

Now that Tucker finds himself on the West Coast, he's one step closer to knocking off a huge item on his bucket list. And he'll only have to go one state over to make it happen.

"People ask me all the time, 'Are you a big Lakers guy?' No! I'm a LeBron [James] fan," said Tucker, whose favorite basketball player is an Akron, Ohio, native like himself. "If LeBron played for the Warriors, I'd be a Warriors fan. I'm a big Bron guy, that's like a big brother. I've never seen him play in person and I know he has another year or two 'hint, hint' he's going to win another championship. So I'm going to go see him play live."

Fun with the big boys

If there's one thing to be said about the draft picks on the defensive line, it's that they certainly don't lack personality.

When asked who is the funniest rookie in the draft class, many of them named seventh-round pick Nesta Jade Silvera from Arizona State. Obviously, I had to go confirm that for myself.

The defensive tackle began going around the stations with first-round pick Tyree Wilson. Throughout the day, Silvera and Wilson were constantly laughing and roasting each other, as if they known each other longer than the couple of months since arriving to Las Vegas. The defensive tackle was cracking jokes on his teammates' fashion choices, poses for photos and drawing abilities. He knows how to have fun. In my personal opinion, he's hilarious – even if he denies the claim.

"I would agree that I'm the freshest, I don't know about the funniest. I don't make jokes, he makes jokes," Silvera said, pointing at Wilson.

Wilson was also in a great mood, joking around with Silvera and rookie UDFA cornerback Jordan Perryman from Washington, and didn't lack energy while posing for portraits. He and Silvera have a solid yin and yang dynamic to them, with Wilson acting cool, calm and collected, and Silvera serving as a hype man. Third-round pick and linemate Byron Young has a personality that perfectly fits in the middle of those two.

I was a bit intimated approaching Young. He looked even bigger in person than he does on film, which says something about how stacked his defensive line was at the University of Alabama. But he was more than eager to interact with me and all the instructors at each station.

Young told me how excited he was to be a Raider and be able to play for a team with such a passionate fanbase, something he's very accustomed to from his days in Tuscaloosa.

"I don't imagine it'll be too different [from Alabama]," he said with a smile. "I've always heard about the Raiders fans. I've always heard they're the best fans in the league. I've seen the videos with the big shoulder pads with the spikes, everybody painting their faces and stuff like that."

A Polaroid photo of cornerback Jakorian Bennett (29) from 2023 Content Day.
A Polaroid photo of cornerback Jakorian Bennett (29) from 2023 Content Day.

All business in the secondary

Josh McDaniels and Dave Ziegler have been hyperfocused on bringing in high character guys who provide direction, leadership and accountability to the culture of the Raiders locker room. Defensive backs Jakorian Bennett and Chris Smith II fit that mold perfectly in my eyes.

Bennett, like Tucker, is another young man with a serious demeanor about himself. You can see the intentionality he has when speaking to others, and seems self-motivated to work hard. The Mobile, Alabama, native hasn't forgotten his roots as an unrecruited prospect from McGill-Toolen High School, going the JUCO route before landing at University of Maryland.

Smith brought energy with him throughout Content Day, hyping up and supporting his teammates on several occasions. He's genuine and incredibly nice, which I find ironic due to his hard-hitting, uber aggressive manner on the field. While waiting at the portrait station, I asked him what is his Mount Rushmore of NFL defensive backs.

"Ed Reed, for sure on there," started Smith. "[Darrelle] Revis for sure on there. I got to go new school and put [Jalen] Ramsey on there. ... And I'm going to put a future Mount Rushmore for me, I'm going to put Derwin James on there. He's one of my favorite DBs in the league right now and I've been looking up to him since college."

"From little league to the big leagues"

Another rookie defender that fits into the category of high-character players is linebacker Amari Burney. The sixth-round pick from Florida has a stoic way about him with an admitted dry sense of humor. Along with Silvera, he received some votes for funniest rookie on the team.

"I accept that responsibility of being the funniest guy on the team," said Burney. "You really just have to get to know me. I'll shoot some jokes at you. Sometimes, they're not funny to you, but they're funny to other people. When it comes to jokes, people don't want to joke with me. They shoot one joke at me and then I shoot one back, and then they just quit."

Burney finds himself on an NFL team with his cousin, cornerback Brandon Facyson. While he's excited to be playing alongside family, he stated he doesn't want to be overbearing when asking for advice. His desire is to keep getting closely connected to his rookie class and coaches, and fight for every rep going into the 2023 season.

Content Day was a surreal moment for Burney, putting on the Silver and Black for the first time since his Pop Warner days. Before he was linebacker, he was a running back for the Silver Raiders in St. Petersburg, Florida. Ultimately, he began "wanting to start hitting people instead of running the ball" which has now landed him with the Las Vegas Raiders.

"Same colors, same uniform and everything," Burney reminisced. "It just brings back a whole bunch of memories from little league all the way to the big leagues putting this back on, so I'm just really excited."

View the Raiders photography department's favorite photos from 2023 Content Day.

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