The No. 7 spot could be awkward for the Raiders

There are many scenarios and the next NFL combine will either change the draft projections or consolidate them, but as we head into the 2023 NFL Draft, it seems more like the No. 7 seed is awkward for the Las Vegas Raiders.

Free agency will also be a big part of the draft board evolution for all 32 teams.

But as it stands now, the Silver & Black are missing the integral component of a clear starting quarterback. Of course, there is plenty of time for the team to determine the path the signal takes on the caller. However, early draft projections and mock drafts have the Raiders focusing primarily on a quarterback or (gulp!) offensive lineman prospect.

As noted above, preliminary meetings and projections are expected to fluctuate widely between now and the draft in April. With free agency scheduled for March 15, a month before the draft, many dominoes will fall that will turn the tide not only for the Raiders, but for the other 31 squads as well.

Ohio State CJ Stroud is a popular quarterback projection for not only the Las Vegas Raiders at No. 7 overall, but the top 5 as well.
Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch/USA TODAY NETWORK

If the Raiders don’t get a new starting quarterback, either in free agency or via trade, they could be left in no man’s land in the NFL Draft. With other teams ahead and behind Las Vegas also looking to find their answer in the all-important quarterback position, the Raiders may find themselves on the outside looking in during their quest to replace Derek Carr. After all, it’s a quarterback-driven league.

The top three prospects in the draft are: Alabama’s Bryce Young, Ohio State’s CJ Stroud and Kentucky’s Will Levis. Any of those three can go in the top five. And if the Raiders can’t sign any of them, will they take an offensive lineman, an impact defender or trade?

The multitude of settings here can make your mind race.

Then there’s the potential for either Stroud or Levis to slide toward the Raiders at No. 7. However, it’s also plausible that a team behind Las Vegas will pass Silver & Black to grab a quarterback prospect before the Raiders can even jump. Hence the possibility of GM Dave Ziegler making a trade to move Las Vegas up the draft order.

A strong performance at the combine (scheduled Feb. 28-March 6) can elevate the trio of Young, Stroud and Levis, and other intriguing quarterback prospects like Florida’s Anthony Richardson, while a lackluster-to-poor performance in the pre-draft event he can cause prospects to slide.

With the best options off the board, Ziegler may have the opportunity to make trade offers to advance in the draft and potentially nab Richardson in the middle of the opening round.

However, if Las Vegas signs a veteran quarterback in free agency or brings back Jarrett Stidham to take over or serve as a bridge at quarterback, the options are just as vast.

Eliminating the immediate need for a quarterback allows the Raiders to be patient and deliberate in the draft. They could sit by and wait to see how things play out at No. 7. And if they’re lucky enough to have a quarterback prospect on their lap, they have the opportunity to select said talent or consider trade offers. That would be quite a fruitful turn of events, as Ziegler has his work cut out to build a sustainable championship-caliber roster in Las Vegas.

Lowering the draft order often allows teams to rack up additional draft picks (either for the current event or for future years) and the Raiders need an influx of young talent as they try to compete and keep up with the competitive AFC West. But it takes two to tango and with no other team interested in moving up, Las Vegas might have to pick someone in seventh overall.

The Raiders have needs along the offensive line, as a pass-rusher and in the secondary, to name a few. Is seven too high to get a ticket like Northwestern’s Pete Skoronski or Ohio State’s Paris Johnson Jr.? Is taking a lead like Texas Tech’s Tyree Wilson too risky? Does the same go for cornerbacks like Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez or Penn State’s Joey Porter Jr.?

The silver and black image will get some much-needed clarity next month. And then the combine will make it sharper than ever.

Until then, however, assumptions and scenarios are plentiful. But you know how the old saying goes: “If you assume, you make a fool of yourself and me.”

Still, that doesn’t take away from the fun of contemplating all these what ifs.

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