HENDERSON, Nev. -- It's the age-old question when it comes to the NFL draft: Do you pick for need, or the best player available?
And when it comes to the Las Vegas Raiders, who hold the No. 7 overall pick and 12 total selections, they may not have the luxury of picking for a specific need early because, after last season's 6-11 pratfall and another roster retooling, they have needs all over.
So while defense, in the eyes of many observers, should be the focus of the Raiders' draft at the end of the month, offensive players could be in play. Especially with second-year general manager Dave Ziegler's mantra of using free agency to address needs while using the draft to select the best players available.
A look, then, at three offensive position groups the Raiders could look at early in the draft.
The Raiders' big-ticket acquisition in free agency was, of course, Jimmy Garoppolo, and the Raiders added veteran Brian Hoyer as his backup. Plus, the retired Tom Brady should be spending more time in Southern Nevada as a new part owner of the WNBA champion Las Vegas Aces, and what if Garoppolo gets injured? We kid ... kinda.
But yeah, the Raiders seem set at QB but it has been reported, and confirmed by ESPN's Adam Schefter and Todd McShay, that Las Vegas attempted to trade up to No. 1, presumably to take a quarterback. So what if the guy they were targeting falls to, say, No. 3, where the Arizona Cardinals -- who have no desire to draft a QB -- sit? Might the Raiders move up to get their guy to sit and learn behind Garoppolo? Raiders owner Mark Davis has given every indication he is looking at a long-range plan with Ziegler and coach Josh McDaniels.
Consider: McDaniels said the Raiders were doing a "deep dive" on QBs in the draft and later listed them, saying, "You know, Anthony [Richardson is] in a different place than Bryce [Young]. And Bryce is in a different place than Will [Levis], and Will, you know, is in a different place than Hendon Hooker and Hendon Hooker's in a different place than C.J. [Stroud] and C.J.'s in a different place than [Jake] Haener and [Aidan] O'Connell ... you've got to look at what you see, the traits that they have, and then you've got to project them into your system with your development and say, 'Where's this guy going to be three years from now?'
"You're not drafting a player and saying, 'OK, we're happy with where he is at today.' We think we're going to be happy with where he is going to be at three years from now, because we feel like he has a chance to really thrive and be a good player."
As Ziegler said, having Garoppolo gives the Raiders a certain peace of mind, that they don't have to reach for a QB if he's not the one they truly want. But what if said guy falls to No. 7? All bets are off.
Right tackle was among the Raiders' biggest needs entering the offseason. Then they re-signed Jermaine Eluemunor, who started 15 games there last season, Brandon Parker -- the starter at right tackle before getting injured in the preseason -- and right guard Alex Bars. And the O-line was not the sieve many thought it would be entering the season. In fact, it opened enough holes for All-Pro running back Josh Jacobs to lead the NFL in rushing.
Still, both Ziegler and McDaniels said they would not be opposed to making a strength even stronger. Which is why drafting a tackle early should not be taken off the board.
In the 6-foot-6, 310-pound Johnson, the Raiders could see the best pass-blocker of the bunch, which would be a boon for Garoppolo. Johnson would have to learn right tackle, though, as he played on the left side last season after playing right guard before that. Still, that kind of versatility is celebrated by the Raiders' regime.
Speaking of versatility, the 6-4, 315-pound Skoronski's intangibles and technique might project him better as a guard. That said, No. 7 overall might be too high for an interior lineman.
The 6-4, 310-pound Jones might also project more as a guard, but he is a road-grader and what's not to like about that?
The eyebrow-raising trade of former Pro Bowler Darren Waller, along with a deep draft class of tight ends, makes this position particularly intriguing. But at No. 7? Hard to see the Raiders taking a tight end that high.
But what if the Raiders trade back and somehow get a pair of first-rounders? Unlikely, but play along.
The Raiders signed Austin Hooper and O.J. Howard in free agency and re-signed Jesper Horsted to join Cole Fotheringham and, well, the retired Rob Gronkowski is still out there (we kid, kinda, again. Notice a trend?).
Utah's Dalton Kincaid and Oregon State's Luke Musgrave may be the draft's top-rated tight ends. Kincaid is more of a pass-catcher than a blocker and is two inches shorter than the 6-6 Musgrave, who is coming off a knee injury and is the nephew of former Raiders O.C. Bill Musgrave. Notre Dame's Michael Mayer and Iowa's Sam LaPorta bear watching, especially late in the first round and beyond. At 265 pounds, Mayer is a load to bring down and can use his frame to block, while LaPorta was a team offensive MVP and is not afraid to get his hands dirty.