NFL Draft 2023 Strategy and Free Agency Thoughts

Can you believe it’s already draft season? This offseason flew by. Now, the Vegas Raiders will try and turn their franchise around with one draft.

The Raiders own 12 picks in this draft. Four of those fall in the top-100. Vegas could add more if they find a trade partner for Hunter Renfrow. They could also move incumbent starters Andre James and Bilal Nichols for later picks if they want more cap space. Who knows? Maybe they trade a late pick to move Chandler Jones’ contract. The Rams found takers for Allen Robinson after all.

Rumors and Needs

It’s hard to predict exactly what the Raiders will do. They have needs on both sides of the ball. Their most immediate need is in the secondary. However, they could use upgrades along the offensive line, front-seven, quarterback, tight end, and backup running back.

A lot falls on what happens at the top of the NFL Draft. Rumors predict the Raiders moving up into the top-five picks to get a quarterback. That’s not a bad strategy if you believe the Raiders want to get the QB of the future.

The decision get harder if CJ Stroud or Bryce Young are available after those first two picks. New rumors say one of those could be available. Some rumors have had the Raiders moving up to No. 3. The Cardinals hold that pick and they don’t need a quarterback. Other speculation includes the Texans not taking a quarterback. Other rumors popped up that Stroud may tumble in the draft due to poor test scores in the draft process.

QB of the Future

Either way, Vegas must truly consider taking their QB of the future. Nobody wants to draft this high again. As much as I like Anthony Richardson or Hendon Hooker, I’m not sure either make sense in the top-10. Richardson will need some time to develop and he probably doesn’t fit the scheme. Hooker is off an injury so he may fall into the later rounds.

Vegas is probably better off taking their chances on a QB in the later rounds if Stroud or Young are gone. Some folks like Will Levis but I have more questions than answers. It also wouldn’t surprise me if Levis is off the board when the Raiders make their first selection.

I’m all for Vegas moving up if they really like one of the top-3 QBs. Stroud is my pick since he wants to be close to home and play with Adams. Raiders should take him if he’s there at No. 7, for sure.

However, they have to hit on that sort of gamble. Double the importance of the move up.

A lot Rides on the 2023 Draft

We’ve seen this show before. It’s hard to completely turn around a team in the draft. It’s even harder to do when you have to spend your top selection on a QB that needs a few years to develop.

Otherwise, Vegas should look at addressing their biggest needs on defense. A lot of mock draft feature the Raiders taking Christian Gonzalez out of Oregon or Devon Witherspoon out of Illinois. Either corner probably starts Day One.

Vegas needs an instant playmaker if they take a corner in the top-10. They need to get picks and matchup versus the top perimeter threats. The track record on taking corners is mixed for the league but it is bad for the Raiders.

This secondary class is deep enough that the Raiders don’t need to force the selection of a corner. Ky Blue Kelly and Mekhi Blackmon could compete if taken in the mid to late rounds.

Gonzalez or Witherspoon could be good for the Raiders. There’a also a chance neither is available. The chances of that happening only increases if these QB or OT needy teams go defense.

With the No. 7…

The same could be said for the defensive line. It’s hard to pass on a talent like Jalen Carter. The versatile defensive lineman is exactly what the Raiders need. It’s also hard to take him given his driving history plus the infamous Henry Ruggs III story.

Other defensive line options include Tyree Wilson. The Texas Tech edge was productive and could really learn behind Chandler Jones. They have similar size and athleticism. Wilson is honestly become one of my favorite options.

There’s also plenty of edge talent that could fall into the top of the second round. Vegas would be lucky to land Marcus Murphy or Nolan Smith in the second round. Isaiah Foskey, Derick Hall, Adetomiwa Adebawore, BJ Ojulari and Tuli Tuipulotu are more likely options in the second round. All that depth in this draft could mean Vegas looks elsewhere with No. 7.

KJ Henry, Zach Harrison and Byron Young are some other options in the third round. DJ Johnson is a guy I like in the later rounds. He has size and athleticism to develop into something. Scott Matlock is a defensive tackle I like with some sleeper athleticism. Jerrod Clark is also a nose tackle I like with some versatility to play along the offensive line. Either could crack the rotation late.

Ultimately, the Raiders have to go defense in the first round if they decide to punt on the top QBs. Considering they haven’t signed a veteran CB, it will most likely be a corner. However, I wouldn’t rule out Wilson. If both top Corners are gone, Vegas could also move back and target a player like Joey Porter Jr.

The Second Round

Vegas could also consider a tackle in the top round. Peter Skoronski is the consensus top tackle but he may get selected before the Raiders are on the clock. Paris Johnson out of OSU is also in the conversation. Considering we’re still recovering from Alex Leatherwood’s flop, I’d prefer to wait on adding a tackle.

The Raiders may wait for Darnell Wright, Anton Harrison or Broderick Jones to fall to them in the second round. Wayna Morris and Blake Freeland have some developmental potential in the later rounds.

Still, I think that option is unlikely since they brought back both Eluemunor and Brandon Parker. They also have Frank Herron and Thayer Munford at the at the position. Drafting a guard in the middle rounds is a more likely move to address the offensive line in my opinion.

Steve Avila, Terrance O’Cyrus, and John Michael Schmitz could all be gone in the first. Vegas could consider any of those options to upgrade their interior at the top of the draft. I like moving James for cap space and having Parham move back to center.

Cody Mauch and Matthew Bergeron are some players I also like upfront. Those two bring a little more versatility to play tackle. They may be available in the second round but probably not the third. John Gaines is another interior presence who might be on the board later.

Sidney Snow is another late round linemen to consider. He does have some injury questions to answer. Jake Andrews out of Temple is another versatile interior lineman who made some money in the Draft process.

Assuming the Raiders don’t take a QB, defense should be the priority in the first and second rounds. The second round should be the best player available in the secondary or defensive line (Whatever they didn’t take in the first round). Only because they can always find line help in the later rounds. My second round pick would be one of the top edge rushers like Foskey, Tuli, Harrison, Hall, or Adebawore. However, I could see them going offensive line if there is a guy they really like. Linebacker could also come into the conversation

Stickier Middle Rounds

The Raiders have had a major presence at all the All-Star games. It would not surprise me if they found a QB they like outside of the top-5 players at the position. I can see them taking Jake Haener, Stetson Bennett or Dorian Thompson-Robinson in the middle to late rounds. Jaren Hall or Malik Cunningham could be in play later too.

That means Vegas could also take a defensive player or offensive linemen in the third or fourth round. Daiyon Henley is a coverage linebacker I like. Dorian Williams has long arms and the speed to play in the NFL. There’s a chance neither are available in the third. Both could also be available in the third.

Marte Mapu is another one with the versatility to play safety. He’s slowly climbed up draft boards. Noah Sewell could be a later round option if Vegas wants an old-school thumper at LB. Aubrey Miller is another guy who made himself money in the later rounds. The important thing is finding someone who can compete right away.

Tyrique Stevenson is a corner I like in the second or third. He brings a good combination of size and speed on the outside. Antonio Johnson is a big slot corner with the production to go in the top of the second.

Sydney Brown has climbed up boards. His combination of size, speed and production last year also make him a target in the second or third round. He can play corner or safety. The challenge is this corner class is very deep. It’s hard to predict who goes where because there is so much talent at each level of the draft. Kelee Ringo is another name to watch from Mock Drafts in the second or third rounds at corner.

Those Two Third Round Picks

If the Raiders go pass rusher and DB with their top picks, their third pick should probably be the best lineman available regardless of position. A sleeper could be a tight end but again this class is deep and the Raiders could wait. Vegas could also take a RB or WR despite already having too many on the roster.

Then, the second third round pick should go to a linebacker or safety. Henley probably won’t be there but Miller and Williams could be. Mapu could be a reach but he fits the hybrid role.

I also wouldn’t rule out a safety. Vegas can probably wait to get a safety in the fourth or so.

In the later rounds. Daniel Scott and JL Skinner are some mid round safeties I like for the Raiders. Scott is a ball hawk from California. Skinner is also from Cali. He’s a big-hitter and a sleeper with his speed. He’s been mocked everywhere from the second to fifth round. Scott has been everywhere after the fourth.

The Rest of the Draft

Vegas absolutely needs to hit on those top picks in the first three rounds. It should come at their biggest positions of needs along all three levels of the defense. They should also look to protect their QB in those top-4 priorities. .

If they take a QB in the top-3 rounds then one of those needs should be an easy target in the fourth. I also wouldn’t rule them out from taking their favorite late round pick in the fourth. After that, they just need to take the best player available. Vegas needs depth and players who can push incumbents across the roster.

The next biggest teams needs are defensive tackle or tight end. It could also be along the offensive line depending on who they take with their top-4 picks. They may even double-up on corner, linebacker or safety if there is a player they like. Tight end is the wild card as the team could also use an upgrade, despite signing some veterans.

Based off my predictions, I probably draft a safety or corner in the fourth round. Maybe a tight end or quarterback if someone slipped through the cracks.

Then I’m looking at all defense and offensive line with those three fifth rounders. Close out the seventh with some developmental selections on the DL, secondary or tight end positions.

Free Agency Reaction

Not sure if I could have gotten the Raiders free agency more wrong. About the only thing I got right was the low-hanging fruit. The Raiders were obviously going to sign Jimmy G. They were obviously going to keep Jermaine Eluemunor, Alex Bars and Jerry Tillery It was also easy to predict Denzel Perryman, Clelin Ferrell and Mack Hollins finding more value on the open market.

The biggest surprise is the fact that the Raiders haven’t signed Duron Harmon or Rock Ya-Sin. Both were bright spots and neither should be too expensive. Vegas still needs playmakers in the secondary despite a couple of additions.

Quick Hits on Free Agency Signings

  • RB Josh Jacobs (franchise tag): He had his best season last year. Jacobs deserves a big payday after last year. However, running backs peak early and there is no telling how long Jacobs will sustain. I hope he doesn’t hold out but it might be in best to just let the one year play out. If Jacobs plays well, Vegas can pay him as some of that dead money finally comes off the books.
  • DT Jerry Tillery (re-signed): Why not? Showed some ability to get off the ball. Interested to see him after an offseason in the defense. Strong, big and athletic enough to play across the line. Knows the division.
  • QB Jimmy Garoppolo (3 years, $67.5 million): This always seemed like the most realistic option. My pops reminds no one thought much of Rich Gannon, either. I don’t know how good Jimmy G. Will be but his best chance is probably with McDaniels and a bunch of weapons. He can be a good bridge for the Raiders draft selection.
  • WR Jakobi Meyers (3 years, $33 million): Not the splash we wanted but should have been expected. Versatile to play inside or out. Compliments Adams and Renfrow well. Price could have been better. Gives them flexibility with Renfrow too. They can move his cap hit.
  • S Marcus Epps (2 years, $12 million): A bit of an over pay compared to some other players at the position. Not the big name we hoped for but fits the scheme and fills a role. Starting and playoff experience helps. Versatile too.
  • LB Robert Spillane (2 years, $7 million): Probably my least favorite move. Not a bad price but not a great one. Seems like a step back from Denzel Perryman. Could be pushed or replaced by a rookie or trade target. Still he fits their role as a run stopping backer.
  • CB Brandon Facyson (2 years, $6.5 million): Would have liked to see him back last year. Runs hot and cold but has some good experience and fits the scheme. Will contribute on special teams.
  • RB Ameer Abdullah (1 year, $1.7 million): He will be a key special teamed and backup again. Solid man and player at a fair price.
  • T Brandon Parker (1 year, $1.5 million): One more year of hope and one more shot to cash in on that potential. Parker is off an injury but he’s a big and athletic swing tackle. He can push Eluemunor for starting right tackle duties and back up Kolton Miller. Parker has to stay healthy though.
  • TE Jesper Horsted (re-signed): Why not? We need a Foster replacement. He should be in the mix unless he loses his job to a rookie.
  • G Netane Muti (re-signed): Signed late last year. Hurt. Let’s see it.
  • FB Jakob Johnson (1 year): Exceeded my expectations last year. A throw back full back at a cheap price.
  • S Roderic Teamer (re-signed): This guy hasn’t done much in his several stints with the team. Can’t hurt as a camp body and maybe a special teamer. Should give his reps to a player in the draft.
  • TE O.J. Howard: Low risk and high reward. He will compete with Austin Hooper for the Darren Waller or the Foster Moreau role. Vegas could also draft a tight end and down grade both vets they signed. Still, the Raiders value multiple tight end fronts. Let’s see if Howard can stick and sniff any of that potential.
  • WR Keelan Cole (1 year): I really like what the Raiders did at receiver. They added a lot of speed and will let them all compete. Cole made a few plays last year. He could contribute on special teams and fight for the fourth or fifth receiver slot.
  • TE Austin Hooper (1 year, $2.75 million): Vegas needed a vet tight end and this seems in their price range. Hooper has been really solid as a spot starter and key backup. He’s never had less than 35 catches since his rookie year. Him and Mayo should compete for a role.
  • G Alex Bars (1 year): Ended up starting last year. Deserves to be in the mix again this year but Vegas should look to upgrade in the draft.
  • WR Phillip Dorsett (1 year): Raiders camp battle for the fourth and fifth receiver
  • DT John Jenkins (1 year): A journey man.
  • CB David Long (1 year): I never like signing corners with no interceptions. He’s young and the Rams liked him. It’s another low risk and high reward for a player on the right side of 30. He should. I tribute on special teams too.
  • G/T Jermaine Elumunor (re-signed): He proved himself last year playing through injury. Eluemunor started at all four positions offensive line positions besides center. He got better as the year went on after starting the season as a backup. I like him better at guard so he doesn’t have to worry about speed. If Parker looks good, the Raiders can definitely utilize Eluemunor at guard.


  • LB Curtis Bolton (re-signed)
  • QB Brian Hoyer
  • WR Cam Sims (1 year)
  • DE Jordan Willis (1 year)
  • G Hroniss Grasu (1 year)
  • CB Duke Shelley (1 year)
  • S Jaquan Johnson (1 year)
  • Key Remaining Free Agents:
  • Anthony Averrett
  • Durin Harmon
  • Rock Ya-Sin

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