The Las Vegas Raiders have made it, virtually, a tradition in finding diamonds in the rough through the draft in recent years. General manager Dave Zeigler and Coach Josh McDaniels have an uphill climb to make when it comes to building a roster from the ground up, while cleaning shop of the mistakes the previous regime made in previous years. Consequently, and to no fault of themselves, this established tradition of finding late round gems must continue in order to see immediate success on the field.
There is no debate that Draft Day 1 and 2 are very important for Raiders brass to hit nothing less than home runs this time around, something in which John Gruden and Mike Mayock completely failed in year’s past. However, Day 3 cannot be ignored. After all, a full rebuild cannot be considered a success if you don’t land at least one or two under the radar guys who can basically plug and play into a system and make immediate impact.
Here are 10 Day-3 prospects of the 2023 NFL Draft the Raiders must acquire in order to continue the tradition of late-round (Projected round 4-7) draft success stories:
Zack Kuntz, Tight End – Old Dominion
Zack Kuntz, a stud TE prospect from Old Dominion, wowed the scouts at the combine last month, running a 4.55-second 40-yard sprint and leaping an impressive 40″ vertical jump. On tape, Kuntz has displayed his elite speed at the position down the seams and the ability to reach for the ball over the top of coverage. However, this acquisition is viewed by many as a project, as he does not have the traditional frame of a tight-end in the NFL, but more of a very large wide-out. And at 6’7″, 255 lbs, 10-15 lbs. done the correct way wouldn’t hurt his case, as he struggles to create separation from more physical defenders. Overall, with the proper coaching and training program, this could be considered one of the biggest steals in the draft.
Brandon Joseph, Safety – Notre Dame
Brandon Joseph has shown the ability to be an elite playmaker on the field, amassing 10 career interceptions against top of the line competition. Compounding this with a reputation of being a high-IQ player, the Las Vegas Raiders must consider the prospect if they are attempting to capture lightning in a bottle. Here’s the problem with Joseph: TACKLING! His film has shown that he has a habit of missing open-field tackles or making arm tackles when he does make a play. Not ideal. However, if Joseph can fix the issue through film study and honest self-assessment, he can add great depth to a Raiders secondary that desperately needs it.
Dorian Williams, Linebacker – Tulane
Dorian Williams, a ball hawk and a tackling machine, amassed a total of 303 tackles, 28 TFLs, and 10.5 sacks in a span of three seasons. Excellent. His best work came against the best competition, particularly against USC in the 2023 Cotton Bowl, where he earned the game’s MVP award, totaling 17 tackles in a win. The issue with Williams is his size and his timeliness regarding recognizing run blocking schemes. As a Will Linebacker, he has shown that he struggles at times recognizing play designs and can sometimes be overwhelmed by blockers at the point of attack. However, the production he has shown on the field cannot be ignored and his potential of versatility defensively makes him an intriguing prospect on Day 3.
Jarrett Patterson, IOL – Notre Dame
Jarrett Patterson shows exceptional promise in the interior. A convertible guard/center, he shows versatility in his game and great explosion with quick punch timing, assuring initial contact on defenders. In addition, defenders find it difficult to disengage from Patterson upon contact, as he shows great power and tenacity on a play by play basis. The downside to Patterson stems directly into his physical make-up. At 6’5″, he measured with an arm length of 31 ⅜”, which is very short. This is problematic for any offensive lineman, whose game relies on initial contact and arm extension, keeping a defender away from your body. Agility, and the ability to recover during stunt schemes are also cited. However, under Josh McDaniels system, he may be a prime prospect, as combo blocking schemes and double teams are highlighted in the running game, which plays into Patterson’s wheelhouse. A bit of work in agility, as well as a full grasp of the offensive scheme could be advantageous to Patterson. He could be the gem that puts the Raiders OL room amongst the league’s elite, if groomed correctly.
Ivan Pace Jr., Linebacker – Cincinnati
Championships are won by excelling at three phases of the game: Offense, Defense, and the often overlooked, Special Teams. Ivan Pace Jr.’s floor, at a minimum, shows that he will at least shine in the special teams phase, highlighted with the knack of flying to the ball and being able to make a tackle, despite contact. His ceiling could be comparable to a former Raider Pro-Bowl LB, Denzel Perryman, particularly when it comes to being a tackling machine and showing uncoachable instincts. However, it has been shown on film that he lacks the field range to capture runs to the outside on a consistent basis, and with only a 30 ¼” arm length, he struggles at times with finishing tackles. Despite the shortcomings, if Pace Jr. can master fundamentals and technique, as well as get in the lab to work on agility and lateral quickness (maybe shed 5-10 lbs would help that), he could be a spark to a currently shorthanded linebacker room.
Nick Hampton, EDGE – App. State
There have been notable aspects of Raiders Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham’s philosophy that has been noted since the day he was appointed to lead the defense: versatility and depth being the prime attributes. Nick Hampton’s game fits the mold and vision of Graham’s ideal defense. With incredible length and speed, this 3-4 outside Linebacker/Edge would be an ideal piece to an already formidable pass rushing corps, as he displays superb technique and an explosive initial step off the ball. A high motor player, Hampton teaming up across from Maxx Crosby in a “NASCAR Package” could be very dangerous in obvious passing downs, which in turn could end a drive or cause turnovers. However, Hampton has shown that he lacks the strength to set the edge in rushing situations, which can be seen as he’s one-dimensional. This is acceptable for the Raiders, as a selection of Hampton in the later rounds would be considered a luxury grab, as the edge room is already filled with players who can set the edge in obvious rushing situations, led by guys like Chandler Jones and newly acquired Jordan Willis. In addition, if the Raiders brass have soured on back-up Edge Malcolm Koonce, Hampton might be an ideal replacement and could be brought in for competition for that final roster spot at the position.
Juice Scruggs, IOL – Penn State
Juice Scruggs is another offensive lineman who shows versatility, showing that he is able to convert from guard to center, or vice-versa, at request. With elite level strength and technique, he also seems to be a scheme fit under Josh McDaniels offensively, as he executes his blocking assignment flawlessly on most plays. He is also considered by most as an anchor with a dense lower body, ideal for an interior offensive lineman. His lack of foot quickness and lateral speed is a concern, however, as he has shown to struggle with his foot slide in order to secure blocks at times. In saying that, his technique, strength, motor, and IQ make up for those shortcomings. If he can improve on agility and flexibility during the off-season, he could be plugged in immediately into a starting guard role for the Raiders, as he is considered to be a possible starter, if placed into the right situation.
Karl Brooks, DT – Bowling Green
Karl Brooks may be considered one of the biggest steals of this year’s draft when it’s all said and done. Many believe that Brooks’ production in college may be attributed to the lack of elite competition he faced in college, but this may be likely shown to be a major fallacy in their logic as he displays an exceptional motor, great footwork, proper placement of the hands, and an explosive initial step. Versatility is also his forte, as he can be placed at the 1 or 3-technique to get down and dirty with the hogs in the middle, or move head on with a guard or tackle and display a bevy of pass rushing weapons in his repertoire to get the job done. On film, however, he has shown that he struggles with shedding blocks as quickly as desired and could be seen getting his pads turned by blockers during contact. This is not ideal but can be seen as coachable remedies and fixed with film study and applying technique based on experience. If the Raiders are not completely sold on 2022 5th-round pick, Matthew Butler, look for Raiders brass to bring in the prospect with major upside to compete for a roster spot, and possibly a starting role, depending on the situation.
Stetson Bennett, QB – Georgia
If the Raiders are sold heavily on Jimmy Garoppolo being the undisputed starter for the Raiders this season, look for them to simply address the QB2 position in the later rounds of the Draft. Stetson Bennett is a prime candidate for the job and shows high value on the “currency of hope” scale: a winner’s pedigree, a Heisman finalist, mature, coachable, and a great arm. In addition, if you top that with the hope of finding the next Brock Purdy, a guy who can come in if Garoppolo goes down and bring a spark to an already formidable offense, you might just have your guy. Here’s the problem: he’s very undersized at 5’11” and a tad over 190lbs and lacks the arm velocity to throw into tight windows. However, there’s a lot to be said for a man who simply knows how to win, particularly at the quarterback position. Additionally, as the Raiders are currently constructed, his slight build could be considered an afterthought, as the offensive line has been solid in pass protection. Josh McDaniels has also had a history of protecting his quarterbacks with dialing up plays that require one to three-step drops before delivering it to receivers. Bennett is a prime candidate for a QB2 position, with promising upside.
Dorian Thompson-Robinson, QB- UCLA
If Stetson Bennett is off the board, DTR is a not-too-shabby alternative for QB2 considerations, with a promising ceiling. Running a 4.55-second 40-yard sprint is also intriguing, showing the ability to take off and run if needed. The Las Vegas native from perennial high school powerhouse Bishop Gorman, has shown during his time at UCLA that he is able to throw the ball with velocity into tight windows, quickly and properly go through his passing progressions, and can create plays when the pocket breaks down. However, his issues lie on occasion with technique and fundamentals, often throwing the ball off-platform and with too wide a base. As a result, his deep ball lacks velocity and distance. He also has an issue with reading zone schemes, often overlooking a lurking defender and throwing interceptions as a result. These issues can be coached with a strict throwing coach and intense film study. If DTR is a true professional and takes on the challenge head-on, there is no doubt he could find a way on this Raiders roster, or any roster, as a serviceable QB2.