Las Vegas Raiders general manager Dave Ziegler described what the 2022 NFL draft was like for him and coach Josh McDaniels as “a good first run for us.”
Both made selections for the first time together since taking over the Raiders in January.
And both came away satisfied with the selections, despite not having first- or second-round picks because of the Davante Adams trade in March.
All is good in Henderson, Nevada, Ziegler said.
“Overall it was a cool experience,” he said. “It was a lot of fun to get in there and have an opportunity to be with Josh and kind of head it up together and make some trades, and again, add some players that you were excited to add. Overall it was cool to go through it. We’ll improve it, but we had a lot of fun.
The Raiders were able to address a pair of key needs.
Las Vegas came away with help for the offensive line, selecting two players for that position group, and added two defensive tackles. The Raiders used their other selections on two running backs, leaving the bolstering of other areas, including their cornerback corps, for another day.
It was imperative for the Raiders to use their first pick, in the third round, on offensive guard Dylan Parham. They added tackle Thayer Munford Jr. in the seventh round.
The Raiders’ offensive line struggled early in the 2021 season and eventually had to make do the entire season without guard/tackle Denzelle Good.
Alex Leatherwood struggled, but seemed to get better toward the end of the season as did the offensive line as a whole.
Parham and Munford must still pan out, but the selections made sense, in part, because of the versatility each player brings. In a Zoom news conference Saturday, the rookies said they would take on any position the coaches ask them to play.
At Memphis, Parham played left and right guard; Munford played guard last season at Ohio State but was a tackle in prior years.
Parham and Munford join centers Bregg Heggie and Andre James; guards Lester Cotton Sr., Good, John Simpson and Leatherwood; tackles Jackson Barton, Kolton Miller and Brandon Parker; and Alex Bars, Jermaine Eluemunor, Hroniss Grasu and Jordan Meredith, all four listed generically as offensive linemen.
Defense was a focus, too
Just like the offensive line, the Raiders addressed issues on the interior of their defensive line with the additions of tackles Neil Farrell Jr. in the fourth round and Matthew Butler in the fifth round.
Entering the draft, the Raiders had seven defensive tackles. Las Vegas received good production at the position last season, but some of last year’s players weren’t brought back. The Raiders did sign four defensive tackles in free agency.
Farrell and Butler will at least add positional depth.
Listed at 6 feet, 4 inches and 338 pounds, Farrell is a massive body who can potentially do it all for the Raiders. He played nose tackle for LSU last season.
Butler is listed at 6-4 and 295 pounds. He was dependable for Tennessee.
Together, they were another pair of solid selections by Ziegler and McDaniels, who were looking for the best players available from the onset.
Why two running backs?
Coming into the draft, The Bee’s forecast didn’t predict the Raiders to draft a running back, let alone two.
Yet, that is what they did in selecting Zamir White of Georgia in the fourth round and Brittain Brown of UCLA in the seventh.
The Raiders already had Josh Jacobs, Kenyan Drake, Brandon Bolden, Ameer Abdullah and Trey Ragas.
Las Vegas, however, did decline a fifth-year option on Jacobs ahead of the draft. He will instead be entering the final year of his contract.
Drake is coming off a broken ankle that he suffered late in the season.
Still, the decisions to add White and Brown were curious because of how many running backs are already on the roster.
Ziegler and McDaniels cited the need for depth going into training camp.
White is a powerful running back who can break tackles and has speed. He did battle injuries in college, but when healthy proved he could get the job done.
Ziegler and McDaneils were happy with how the draft played out. As they should be.
It was a good draft for the Raiders. Granted, there were other areas the Raiders should have tried to address, including linebacker, cornerback and safety, but beefing up the offensive and defensive line is a good start.
Perhaps they’ll focus on adding free agents at the other positions. The Raiders will have at least $22 million available in cap space on June 1.
Though the two picks on running back perhaps could have been spent on the defense, the Raiders came away feeling good about themselves heading into OTAs and mandatory minicamp in June before training camp in late July.