Raiders 2024 NFL draft preview: Which direction will Las Vegas go?

HENDERSON, Nev. -- Maxx Crosby was a fourth-round draft choice of the Raiders in 2019, when the franchise called Oakland home and when he was a clean-shaven baby face with dyed-blonde hair. Crosby was selected No. 106 overall out of mid-major Eastern Michigan and has those digits tattooed in red ink and underlined on the inside of his right elbow to remind him from whence he came.

So yeah, the Raiders' three-time Pro Bowl edge rusher takes a personal interest in the NFL draft every year, especially with Las Vegas holding the No. 13 pick. Crosby knows what he wants to see in a Raiders draft pick going forward.

"I look at the things that require zero talent," Crosby said at the start of the Raiders' voluntary offseason workout program. "Everybody's talented in the NFL, everyone's got ability. The things that matter to me are dudes that are consistent, and they've got relentless effort. Dudes that are curious and continuously looking to find ways to improve. I don't give a s--- if you went to Alaska State Technical Institute or Nebraska or LSU. ... At the end of the day, I want dudes who love this s---, and you can't fake it.

"That's what I look for when I'm watching film. ... All the rest of the stuff you clean it up along the way. But I think it just starts with effort and consistency."

No doubt that's what coach Antonio Pierce and new general manager Tom Telesco are also looking for, regardless of position -- that intensity and love for the game. And with a scheduled eight picks, Las Vegas is in position to address real and specific roster holes.

But while quarterback is front and center, the Raiders also have glaring needs at right tackle and cornerback that could be addressed early in the draft.

"As far as roster construction, there's no one specific way to build a team," Telesco said in his introductory media conference in January. "Everybody always says that anyways, but I do believe in the draft. But you also have to supplement that with free agency. You have to supplement that with trades. You have to supplement that with signing players that maybe are out of work or are on the street looking for jobs and see if they can come in and fit."

We have gone over the Raiders QB quandary ad nauseum already, and Telesco commented on how so many quarterbacks in the class being college transfers might impact his evaluation.

"There are just so many ... you just have to deal with it," he said at the combine. "If this was 15, 20 years ago ... a little bit more of a red flag. It really isn't anymore. It does take us a little bit more time as we do our background research because you have to go to multiple schools, talk to multiple scouts ... but I don't see that as a red flag for kids transferring."

The extra COVID year has also led to more disparity in the ages of prospects, which shows with the top quarterbacks on the board.

While North Carolina's Drake Maye and Michigan's J.J. McCarthy are both 21 years old and only played at one school, USC's Caleb Williams is 22 and also played at Oklahoma. LSU's Jayden Daniels -- who began his college career at Arizona State -- and Washington's Michael Penix Jr., who also played at Indiana, are 23. Oregon's Bo Nix, who transferred from Auburn, is 24.

"The quarterback position, I don't think it's a bad thing if you come out a little bit older, and maybe even a better thing," Telesco said. "You've got more experience under your belt, more maturity at that position. Other positions, it may or may not matter, it's just something we have to deal with. But I think after we get through this COVID group of kids that come through, it'll probably really come back to normal a little bit.

"Typically, as a scouting staff, we always say we'd like a younger player because the guy has a chance to develop, maybe has a little bit more ceiling. Is that true or not? I'm not really sure."

Let's say the Raiders go with Penix. Selecting the left-hander then makes drafting an elite right tackle even more of a priority given that position is tasked with protecting a southpaw QB's blindside.

If the Raiders stand pat at No. 13, they should have a clear path at drafting a top tackle prospect. Notre Dame's Joe Alt is probably gone by then, but Alabama's JC Latham, Oregon State's Taliese Fuaga and Penn State's Olumuyiwa Fashanu could all be available.

"Yeah, man, there's some big boys now," Pierce said. "That [offensive] tackle group, oh my God. Like, you're talking about a bunch of trees walking around at the combine and at these pro days. It's impressive."

If the Raiders are unable to trade up for Daniels and get the sense that Penix's draft stock is falling, they could take that elite offensive tackle prospect at No. 13. They they can use their second- and third-round picks to trade up into the end of the first round to select Penix with what many see as a more cost-effective and, thus, appropriate draft pick.

Or ... Las Vegas makes a strength even stronger by going defense.

Jack Jones, claimed off waivers in November, was a revelation at cornerback. And with Nate Hobbs in the slot in the Raiders' nickel defense, drafting a shutdown corner on other side might be tempting.

After all, Pierce is a defensive guy, having played nine years in the NFL as a linebacker who went to a Pro Bowl and won a Super Bowl with the Giants. And the Raiders gave up the fewest points per game in the NFL (16.0) after Pierce was made interim coach following the Halloween night firing of Josh McDaniels.

Paging, then, Alabama's duo of Terrion Arnold and Kool-Aid McKinstry, Toledo's Quinyon Mitchell, Iowa's Cooper DeJean and Clemson's Nate Wiggins.

"Yeah, I like Arnold, man," Pierce said. "We had some good conversations at the start of the combine because he kind of came in a little lackadaisical and I was like, 'Hey man, where's the juice? I heard you had a little stuff to you.' And that picked up.

"Whenever you can be around a good football player, you want to talk to him. And I think it's good for a person like myself, a former player, to tell him what to expect. ... He's got to start from scratch and earn his stripes. So, when you look at this draft, you do see a bunch of talented DBs, who I think can come in and play right away."

So long as they pass Crosby's initial tape test, right?