As 2024 NFL Draft approaches, Raiders ‘could use a little bit of help everywhere’

HENDERSON, Nev. — Tom Telesco isn’t one to tip his hand. At the start of his news conference Monday, the Las Vegas Raiders general manager let it be known that he wouldn’t divulge much in response to “unanswerable” questions about the team’s plans heading into the 2024 NFL Draft on Thursday.

That’s par for the course for most GMs and head coaches leading up to the draft. There’s no competitive advantage to revealing information.

“News flash: GM says he’s open to trading up, moving back and picking at his spot,” Telesco said. “Everybody always says the same thing.”

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As usual, much of the focus is on what will happen in the first round. The Raiders hold pick No. 13. Telesco said the Raiders “have a plan to move up if we have to,” but he also stated that they could stay put or trade down. He also wouldn’t rule out adding a player at any position on the roster. Essentially, his message was that anything can happen.

“We could use a little bit of help everywhere,” Telesco said. “I don’t think any position is precluded from being drafted this year.”

While Telesco listed it as an option, it feels highly unlikely he’d trade down in the first round. In 11 years as the Chargers GM, he never traded down — in any round. In stops with the Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers and Indianapolis Colts, he came up under the tutelage of former GM Bill Polian, who is ardently against the concept of trading down early in the draft.

“I firmly do not believe you trade a high pick, which is going to be a difference-maker, in order to pick up two picks,” Polian recently told The Athletic’s Alec Lewis. Telesco is his own man, of course, but history shows he shares that philosophy.

At least for the first round, that leaves trading up or staying put. When it comes to trading up, it would only make sense if it were to draft a quarterback. Coach Antonio Pierce has made it clear that’s a course of action he would fully support, and Telesco has had talks with teams about doing so, according to league sources familiar with the discussions, but it may not be feasible.



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The Chicago Bears (No. 1) and Washington Commanders (No. 2) are expected to stay put and draft quarterbacks, but the New England Patriots (No. 3), Arizona Cardinals (No. 4) and Los Angeles Chargers (No. 5) have expressed a willingness to consider trading down. The issue is the New York Giants (No. 6), Minnesota Vikings (No. 11) and Denver Broncos (No. 12) are all teams ahead of the Raiders that could also attempt to move up for a quarterback.

Things seem to be trending toward the Raiders staying put at pick 13 and taking whoever they consider to be the best player available. The needs that would make the most sense for them to address in that range are offensive tackle, cornerback, guard and quarterback.

The Raiders roster has plenty of holes, so need isn’t something they need to get hung up on. Especially as the draft goes on, their focus will be on adding talent across the board.

“We’re drafting them for the future. It’s not so much where they fit in initially as a rookie the first year,” Telesco said. “I mean, history shows probably less than one-third of rookies, maybe even like 30 percent of rookies, actually play a significant amount of snaps their rookie year. That’s reality. Whatever needs we may have today or whatever perceived needs those are, these players we’re drafting, we’re looking down the road.”



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When it comes to the Raiders’ preparations for the draft, it has been a collaborative effort involving the coaching staff and personnel department. Although Pierce reshuffled most of the coaching staff after landing the full-time job this offseason, Telesco has largely kept the personnel department from the previous regime intact.

“These guys are really well taught,” Telesco said. “They’re organized. They’re detailed. I’ve been very lucky to walk into this and have a staff like this. And, obviously, the coaches are a big part of the process, too. They’re almost like a cross-check to help determine scheme fit. … You blend it all together and make a decision.”

So, while Telesco will make the picks, Pierce will have some input. The roster will be constructed in his image.

“He’s got a great vision of what he wants in the football team and hasn’t deviated from that,” Telesco said. “It really helps us identify exactly who’s going to fit as a Raider.”

As a part of that process, the Raiders are emphasizing intangibles such as work ethic, football intelligence and passion for the game that may not show up on film. Those traits matter just as much as physical abilities.

“It’s more than just what you watch on tape,” Telesco said. “In this league, it’s so competitive and so good and the talent level is so high. A lot of times, that edge is preparation, work ethic and passion for the game. You try to blend it all together.”



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The Raiders hope every pick they make this week will turn into an impact player, but they know that’s unrealistic. Telesco drafted the likes of quarterback Justin Herbert, wide receiver Keenan Allen, offensive tackle Rashawn Slater, edge rusher Joey Bosa and safety Derwin James with the Chargers, but he was also responsible for whiffs like linebacker Kenneth Murray and defensive tackle Jerry Tillery. He knows as well as anyone that misses are inevitable.

“After the draft — however many guys we select — you feel great about all of them,” Telesco said. “In reality, they’re not all going to hit. … We want to just make sure that this process goes smoothly.”

The last time the Raiders maximized their draft capital was in 2014 when they landed edge rusher Khalil Mack, quarterback Derek Carr and guard Gabe Jackson. Two years later, they made the playoffs. The Raiders didn’t make the playoffs again until 2021, partly due to a run of poor drafting. Even then, they made the postseason despite that trend continuing. That was never going to be sustainable.

While Telesco earned a solid reputation during his time with the Chargers, he was never able to string together a consistent winner of his own. To pull that off with the Raiders, he’ll have to turn around the franchise’s draft fortunes. He may only be in his first year on the job, but there’s still pressure on him to start proving he’s capable of doing so this week.

(Photo: Ronald Martinez / Getty Images)

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