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AFC West Check-In: Las Vegas Raiders

Time to touch base with a divisional ahead of this week’s draft.

NFL: Pro Bowl-AFC Practice Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Happy draft week everyone!

With the big day coming up this Thursday, I thought it’d be fun to check in with a divisional rival to see how they’re feeling leading up to the most-anticipated weekend of the offseason.

Today, we caught up with Matt Holder of Silver & Black Pride to see how he’s feeling this close to the draft, what the temperature is like within the fan base surrounding the new front office/head coach, and what everyone’s expectations are for the team’s 2022 draft picks.

A big shoutout to Matt for helping us out! Let’s get right into it!

1.) The 2022 NFL draft is roughly one week away. As things stand, how is the fanbase feeling heading into the big event? Are they confident in their team’s ability to draft well or are they expecting frustrating selections?

To be honest, this year’s draft has lost a lot of its luster within Raider Nation after the Davante Adams trade left the team with just one pick in the top 100 and none in the first two rounds, which is kind of ironic seeing as the draft is in Las Vegas. The Raiders could use a starting right tackle so there is some worry that they may not be able to find one in the third round, but I think most people are optimistic about the new regime’s ability to draft. That optimism could be blind faith, but Josh McDaniels’ and Dave Ziegler’s work in free agency has certainly won over the fanbase and created some confidence in the duo.

2.) From what you can tell, who are some of the top players that Raiders fans would like to see the team select in the first round of this year’s draft?

Pretty much any offensive tackle, especially if they have experience playing right tackle. That’s the one spot McDaniels and Ziegler didn’t address last month, outside of re-signing Brandon Parker who is currently the starter and someone they can upgrade from. Without a pick until the third round, there’s a good amount of ambiguity about who the top targets are within the fanbase, but I’d say the leaders in the clubhouse are Washington State’s Abraham Lucas — if he’s still there — Louisiana’s Max Mitchell, ASU’s Kellen Diesch and UCLA’s Sean Rhyan.

Cornerback would be the other position to look out for. The Raiders two projected starters, Trayvon Mullen and Rock Ya-Sin, are both on contract years so that’s been another popular position within the fanbase and in mock drafts. The names to look out for are UTSA’s Tariq Woolen, Nebraska’s Cam Taylor-Britt and Pittsburgh’s Damarri Mathis.

3.) How do you feel this offseason has gone so far for the Raiders? What are some of your favorite/least-favorite moves made by the team over the past few months?

In short, the offseason has gone really well. I think anytime you can lure arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL away from a team and quarterback that helped elevate him to that level it’s a big win, no matter how much it costs. I know some outsiders will point to the Raiders’ lackluster offensive line to try and take away from the Adams trade, but honestly, not having a true “No. 1” or “go-to” wide receiver was a bigger issue, especially after the Henry Ruggs tragedy.

So, getting Adams would be my favorite move (surprise, surprise), and bringing in a veteran pass rusher like Chandler Jones to pair with Maxx Crosby isn’t too far behind. It also helps that their contract structures are pretty team friendly, too.

My least-favorite move technically isn’t a move, just the inactivity along the offensive line. Heading into free agency, I actually thought they would bring in veteran offensive linemen and draft a wide receiver. That being said, I do like a lot of the tackles in this class and think they can find a starter with the 86th overall pick, it’s just a much bigger gamble then if they still had their first- and second-rounders. If they whiff again next Thursday though, then I’ll start to get a little worried.

4.) How confident are you in Josh McDaniels to lead this team into the future? While it’s still quite early, how does the fan base feel about the hire?

I feel like it’s become a cliche, but I’d say cautiously optimistic. I’ve never had much of a doubt about McDaniel’s pedigree as an offensive mind, but what did him in with the Broncos was the managing personalities aspect of the job. He came into Denver thinking he was going to be their version of Bill Belichick and started getting rid of guys who pushed back against him but were well-liked on the team/in the locker room. So far, it seems like he’s learned his lesson and hasn’t tried to make any sweeping changes in Las Vegas. We’ll see how things go when training camp rolls around as that will be the real test for his growth as a head coach.

I also liked that McDaniels came in with a plan to build around Derek Carr, part of which was bringing in his best friend and college teammate. It seems like this is the job McDaniels really wanted and was one of the only ones — if not the only one — he’d leave New England for, and that hasn’t been the case with a lot of the Raiders teams in the past.