June 13, 2024

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Raiders 2023 Phantom Project 3.0: Who Should Be Targeted After Two Replays?

For the final time in the NFL Draft season, we turned on the simulator, put on our Dave Ziegler and Josh McDaniels masks, and set out to make the most of the Raiders 12 picks.

Raiders draft picks

circular He chooses Total notes













of giants










from hawks








of cowboys








of the cardinals




from the Patriots

We tried to trade the Cardinals for a third-place and quarterback pick, but we couldn’t make a deal. With Bryce Young, CJ Stroud, and Anthony Richardson off the board in seventh place, we’re focused on exploring trade-off opportunities.

Dane Brugler’s The Beast, the complete 2023 NFL Draft guide, is now available.

Texas sent us picks No. 12 and 65 to get to No. 7 and recruit Georgia defensive lineman Jalen Carter. Then we traded to the Steelers to go from 12th to 17th and get an additional third round pick (#80). After increasing our draft capital from 12 draft picks to 14 draft picks — including six in the top 100 — we set to work on making the system’s first first-round pick.

While we were trying to reach consensus on all of the choices, we just couldn’t get there, including the top three.

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Las Vegas Raiders NFL Draft 2023 Guide: Picks, Predictions, Key Needs

Round 1, pick 17

Nolan Smith, Edge, Georgia | Joy Porter Jr., CB, Penn State

cane: Edge pusher isn’t a “need” with Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones on the list, but Smith was just too talented to miss. He’s smaller at 6-foot-2 and 238 pounds, but he boasts exceptional strength and an elite defender as well as speed, athleticism, and explosiveness that give him a chance to be a pass rusher. He’ll only be 22 this season and could spend a season serving as a rushing third baseman while learning the tricks of the trade from Jones and Crosby. The Raiders could get out of Jones’ contract in 2024—they’d only get $7.2 million in dead money if they cut or trade him—which would open the door for Smith to take over the full-time starting position opposite Crosby.

bubbling up: I’m not sure Smith will be there on the 17th, and I want a corner player anyway. My recruiting fanatic Devon Witherspoon of Illinois may have gone 7th place, and I prefer Porter Plus picks over Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez. Porter is not as quick as Gonzalez but he is tall, sticky in coverage, locates the ball well, has good hands, can handle him and has some physicality. And we love the pedigree — his dad demanded respect when he played linebacker for the Steelers.

Joey Porter Jr. may be from Penn State — plus an additional draft pick or two — is worth holding back. (Trevor Roskowski / USA Today)

Second round, pick 38

Emanuel Forbes, CB, Mississippi State | Will McDonald IV, Edge, Iowa

cane: Forbes is only 6-foot-166 pounds, but he still has an impressive physical appearance and has shown potential to be a factor throughout the game. While he needs to gain weight and get stronger, he has only missed one game due to injury in his career. He’ll be a first-day starter for the Raiders and could develop into the dynamic playmaker that the high school has been missing for years.

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bubbling up: McDonald is a fast passing game that could help the Raiders this season, not to mention next year when Jones is gone. He’s a little undersized at 6-foot-4 and 239 pounds, but he has some strength and plays bigger than his size against the run. Besides his explosive power, McDonald has long arms, great balance and an elegant spinning motion. Good passing rushes are hard to find. Here you are.

Third round, pick 65

Sam LaPorta, TE, Iowa | Tucker Craft, TE, South Dakota Avenue

cane: LaPorta is solidly built at 6-3, 245 pounds, and while he’s not exceptional in anything, he passes well in a few areas: road running, handedness, speed, athleticism, and the ability to sprint after holding and blocking. He can line up as a traditional O-handed tight end or in the back field and also split as a receiver. Sarcastically, Athletic Compare Dane Brugler’s LaPorta draft guide with Austin Hooper, who the Raiders signed this offseason. Hooper, Laporta and OJ Howard will give the Raiders a solid tight endgame tournament this season. And Laporta will become the initiator by 2024.

bubbling: Hooper is fine, but as mentioned in the narrow breakdown, who needs two Hoopers? Kraft is a good blocker and physical receiver who can block defenders in the red zone and use his soft hands and uncanny ability to beat down touchdowns. In addition to being a blocking hitter, Kraft can line up in the line, out and in the slot. He’s a bit raw and has benefited from his athletic ability in the Missouri Valley Conference, which is why he’ll be the fourth or fifth tight end drafted.

Go deeper

The Raiders will draft a tight end—here’s their best pick for each round

Round 3, pick 70

Keanu Benton, DL, Wisconsin

Benton didn’t stand out much as a rusher in college, but he was a sensational fullback and showed he could be a complete player with 4 1/2 sacks in his final season. Although he is a solid nose tackle, he has the pace, quick moves and the intelligence to be effective from every alignment on the inside line of defence. He can compete for a junior role as a junior.

Wisconsin’s Keanu Benton is a spunky fullback with signs he can flash as a pass rusher. (Jeff Hansch / USA Today)

Third round, pick 80

Diane Henley, LB, Washington State

Henley is smaller at 6-foot-1 and 225 pounds, but you wouldn’t be able to tell based on his impact as a running back and rushing passer. But where Henley really stands out is in his pass coverage. The former safety can be installed with running backs, tight ends, and even receivers. He probably trails Divine Deablo and Robert Spillane in the Raiders’ linebacker rotation, but he can compete with Luke Masterson for picks as a rookie and has the upside of becoming a poor starting player in the future.

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Round 3, pick 100

Geyer Brown, S, Pennsylvania

Brown didn’t test well in the combine, but that shouldn’t negate what he set on the bar in college. The two-year starter is a sure handler, has the coverage skills to match the running backs, tight ends and receivers, has been used as a free safety, strong safety, and box safety, playing in both one-hit and two-hike safety schemes and is adept at man-and-zone coverage. He could put a lot of pressure on Tre’von Moehrig as a rookie and has a future combination.

Round 4, pick 109

Corey Trace Jr., CB, Purdue | Jake Haner, QB, Fresno State

cane: Unlike Forbes, Trice is a size 6-3, 206 lbs. He is athletic, has sufficient speed and physicality in covering and against running. There are concerns about his health — he tore his anterior cruciate ligament in 2021 — but he’s started on the upside as an outside linebacker.

bubbling up: The Raiders got rid of Derek Carr after nine years, but added another Fresno State team in Hanner. He was a starter for three years, accurate and had some grit. Haener has had to deal with comparisons to Brock Purdy throughout the entire draft process, but he won’t have to wait long on the third day of the draft to hear his name announced.

Round 5, pick 141

Haner | Garrett Williams, CB, Syracuse

cane: Haener lacks the perfect size, but Coach McDaniels said he doesn’t see that as a prerequisite when discussing a similarly sized Youngster in the group. However, he will always have to try to compensate for this with his mental readiness and will probably never be more than a backup or an immediate starter. But in the fifth round, that’s okay.

bubbling up: Williams had the 2022 season cut short with a torn ACL. It’s the only reason he’s still on the board the 5-foot-10 Williams can cover – he’s got good ball and foot skills – and also makes tackles against a run.

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Fifth round, pick 144

Brayden Daniels, OL, Utah

Daniels is all about versatility: He had 17 points at left guard, 14 at left tackle, and 12 at right tackle. He lacks the ideally sized tackle at 6-3, 294 pounds, but he could be a useful backup who could get a bit more careful in the future.

Braeden Daniels of Utah is adept at playing tackle or guard in the NFL. (James Snook / USA Today)

Round 5, pick 174

Carl Brooks, DL, Bowling Green

Tafur wanted Brooks to be on 144, but this time Reid managed to convince him to be patient. Brooks was one of the best defensive players in college last season with 50 tackles, 18 TFL and 10 sacks. He lined primarily as a rusher in college, but the 6-3, 296 pounder has also worked indoors and can go on to play both roles on the Raiders’ multiple defensive fronts. Sneer if you want to go to the Brooks School, he’ll covet some respect from you.

Round 6, pick 204

McClendon Curtis, OL, Chattanooga

Curtis has several interesting physical attributes as a 6-5, 324-pound offensive lineman with long arms, but he’s raw and needs to know the position. He’s spent most of his time in college at right guard, but had seven starts at left tackle last year — and he’s facing a pretty competitive jump. He is a potential recruit and hider and could be a discerning trailblazer if he maximized his potential.

Go deeper

Las Vegas Raiders 2023 NFL Draft big board 3.0: Top 50 Prospects for Rounds 1-3

Round 6, pick 214

Trey Tucker, WR, Cincinnati

The Raiders already have 10 receivers on the roster, but the only person who has ever run a sub-4.4-second 40-yard dash is 30-year-old Phillip Dorsett. Tucker ran 4.37 seconds 40 yards on his pro day and was a productive slot receiver in college. He’s only 5-8 and 182 pounds, so he doesn’t offer a lot of versatility, but he can rotate as a backup behind Hunter Renfrow and potentially serve as a kick returner and point on special teams.

Round 7, pick 220

Arkon Busch, CB, Cincinnati

It should be obvious by now, but boosting back corner room is a priority. Bosh is a diminutive 5-11, 187-pound cornerback but has both outside and inside prowess, a 4.42-second 40-yard dash speed, and plenty of experience and ball production on his resume with 32 pass deflections and nine interceptions across five seasons.

Round 7, pick 231

Tyler Lacey, Edge, Oklahoma State

Lacy has a true 3-4 rim build with a weight of 6-4, 279 lbs, and found success working as a run and jeep mover in college. He’s been rotating inside a lot but will need to step up a bit to have consistent success against guards and centers at the next level.

(Top photo by Nolan Smith: Brett Davis/Associated Press)