Raiders appear to have gotten it right

The Las Vegas Raiders focused on defense during the three-day NFL Draft which concluded Saturday.

HENDERSON, Nev. — The lying has concluded. The subterfuge is over. The misinformation has ended.

The NFL Draft’s three-day run wrapped up Saturday and if you’re a fan of the Las Vegas Raiders, the day ended with hope as it appears your team got it right.

The Raiders had a number of positions to address and the consensus is that general manager Dave Ziegler got the job done. Of course, the draft is an inexact science so we’re going to have to wait and see over the next few years just how well the Raiders actually did.

“I’m excited with what we have and what the future holds,” Ziegler said. “You’re not always going to be able to answer every question. There’s 31 other teams trying to do the same thing.

“I like to think we got better. But overall we feel rally good about it.”

But there’s no doubt the team needed to get better on defense. And the fact Las Vegas used three of its first five picks on that side of the ball and four of their final four selections to address that need showed they understood the situation. 

Texas Tech edge rusher Tyree Wilson should be a nice compliment to Maxx Crosby, defensive lineman Byron Young was an improving player while at Alabama and cornerback Jakorian Bennett of Maryland, who the Raiders took with their first of two fourth-round picks Saturday, appears to be an impact player.

Ziegler also made another deal to get back into the fifth round and took Georgia safety Christopher Smith. They took another SEC player — Florida linebacker Amari Burney — in the sixth round.

The Raiders also addressed some holes offensively. They needed a tight end and grabbing Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer in Friday’s second round is being widely lauded as a winning move. They added depth at wide receiver taking Tre Tucker in the third round. 

Ziegler was running his second draft in Las Vegas. The former longtime New England Patriots executive knows he needs to have more hits than misses if the Raiders are going to be serious contenders for a Super Bowl, let alone in the AFC West. 

Yes, luck has a role in the draft. Teams do dumb things every year, opening a door to acquire a player who might not have been there for you otherwise. 

Ziegler, who swung a couple of trades to move up in the fourth round, said Saturday that the Raiders stayed true to their draft board, a football cliche if there ever was one. And who knows how these picks will actually perform at the NFL level? It’s a huge jump up in class and sometimes, they just don’t pan out. Think JaMarcus Russell as Exhibit A.

I thought the Raiders were smart not to take the bait and draft a quarterback with that No. 7 overall pick. I’m not certain any of the top guys taken — Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud and Anthony Richardson can be stars immediately given the situations they were thrust into at Carolina, Houston and Indianapolis respectively. At least the Raiders know they have a proven commodity at the position in Jimmy Garoppolo. Whether he can make through an entire season without getting hurt remains to be seen. 

And they eventually addressed QB depth late in the fourth round, trading their two fifth-round selections to Houston and taking Purdue’s Aidan O’Connell, who went from walk-on to four-year starter status with the Boilermakers and led the Big Ten in passing this past season.

I was surprised they didn’t try and add some depth to their offensive line. But Ziegler said that will be addressed in the coming weeks through free agency.

And while it’s good for the Raiders to add some pieces offensively, what they needed to do was put a defense out there that can get stops and give the offense a chance to catch their breath and not be forced to chase the game. They took the necessary steps in that regard. They couldn’t afford to squander the opportunities the draft presents if they want to get serious about being an elite NFL team long-term. If they can get four or five of the nine players they drafted over the three days to be regular contributors, it will go a long way toward realizing that objective.

All in all, it was a pretty good weekend if you’re owner Mark Davis. His football team appeared to have improved. His WNBA championship team on Friday unveiled its swanky new 64,000-square foot practice facility next door to where the Raiders train and perhaps his coach, Becky Hammon, stays with the Las Vegas Aces and not pursue making history with the Toronto Raptors as the NBA’s first full-time female head coach.

I know Davis isn’t pleased with the prospect of sharing the town with the Athletics. But that animosity can be put on hold for a few hours. The Raiders did a lot of things right this week and he can smile about that.