Inside Las Vegas Raiders’ draft room during Round 1


HENDERSON, Nev.—Just before noon on Thursday, hours before the start of the NFL Draft, Raiders coach Josh McDaniels popped into GM Dave Ziegler’s office for one last bit of strategy talk. The team’s draft board had been set with finality Wednesday, after three months of debate. The Raiders, after conversations with teams above them about trading up from number seven in the first round, decided to stay in their slot, barring a surprise.

“What we need is for three quarterbacks to go before we pick,” McDaniels said.

It seemed logical, with Carolina going Bryce Young at number one and then Houston at two and Indianapolis at four and Seattle at five all in the QB market. But nothing in this draft after Carolina was a sure thing. All McDaniels and Ziegler knew was that these four non-QBs sat at the top of their board a short spiral away, graded closely:





But as Ziegler and McDaniels hashed it out, and McDaniels talked about the latest intel he’d heard about the top six (“I hope I’ll have something coming in on Houston at two, but Nick’s tight,” he said, referring to Texans GM/CIA agent Nick Caserio), they realized they were just like the rest of America: They doubted Houston would pick a quarterback at two, they didn’t know which GM was fixing to pay a ransom to trade up with Arizona at three, they didn’t know which quarterback Indianapolis would choose at four, and they didn’t know if Seattle would go QB or best defensive weapon at five.

No surprise, all this mystery. This is the modern draft, where lips are no longer loose, where mock drafts are a mockery of reality. It sounds counterintuitive, but in the hours before the NFL Draft, the people running drafts for $6 billion franchises didn’t know much more than the rest of us. Ziegler and McDaniels did know by staying put—and they would get a phone call that surprised and tempted them minutes before their pick—they were not in control of their fate. They needed help. The Raiders needed two teams post-Carolina to pick passers in the next five picks. Likely. Not certain.

At 4:43 p.m. Pacific Time, Ziegler was on his way into the draft room, a large square conference room on the third floor of the Raiders’ facility six miles west of the Vegas Strip. He stopped by the floor-to-ceiling photograph of the man who lords over this franchise 12 years after his death, and Ziegler patted the photograph of Al Davis.

“Goosebumps,” Ziegler said. “I feel his presence every day.”

Then Ziegler—47, in gray suit, black Oxford shirt, no tie, white and black sneakers—entered the draft room, where 13 scouts, personnel people, one coach and one owner would plot the immediate future of Al Davis’ team. At 4:59 p.m., 11 minutes before the draft kicked off, owner Mark Davis slipped into the room, in his white satin Raiders jacket and stonewashed faded jeans.

“Gameday, baby!” Son of Al announced to the room.

Gameday, as Mark Davis said. “We’re still undefeated!” Davis said as Roger Goodell kicked off the draft. One wall taken up entirely with the draft board, ranking the players by position from top to bottom, on magnetic cards, the old-school way. One wall, controlled by pro personnel director Dwayne Joseph, with pick-by-pick order and team-by-team needs that change with every pick. One wall, which McDaniels, Ziegler, assistant GM Champ Kelly and Davis face, with three things: a big TV tuned to the draft, computerized pick-by-pick directly from the league, so it’s faster than what you see on TV, and a constantly updated list of trade discussions with draft-trade charts showing trade proposals broken down by a value chart.

(Left to right) Kelly, Ziegler, and McDaniels, old-school draft board behind them.

Kelly, Ziegler (cell phone to his ear at least half of the evening), McDaniels, Davis, left to right in front of the room, in swivel chairs, able to look ahead at trade possibilities or back at the state of the draft board. Ziegler flitted from senior personnel adviser Shaun Herock to McDaniels to Davis to Kelly to director of football analytics David Christoff to senior national scouts DuJuan Daniels, Andy Dengler and Lenny McGill, having mostly hushed conversations.

5:18 p.m. PT: Panthers picked Young. “This is where the draft starts,” Ziegler, stating the obvious, said.

Four minutes later, the tinny voice from draft headquarters said, “Houston has made its pick. Arizona now on the clock.” All eyes turn to the board where the pick will show up first. C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State popped onto the screen. “Oooooh,” someone in the room said. Seven minutes passed. Arizona traded down to 12 with Houston. Big compensation: For this pick and a fourth- this year, the Texans gave the Colts the 12th and 33rd overall picks this year and their first- and third-round picks next year.

5:32 p.m.: Will Anderson to Houston at three. One Vegas target down.

5:33 p.m.: Ziegler on his cell, briefly. Ziegler to McDaniels in a hushed tone: “Arizona wants to trade back up.”

Ziegler and McDaniels stared at the trade-value board in the back of the room, analyzing trade possibilities—the values, plus or minus for the Raiders, based on the numerical values Ziegler assigns to each pick:

1-7 down to 1-12

Potential Counters

+177 ARI sends 2-33, LV gives back 4th (109)

+68 ARI sends 2-33 and 6-213, LV gives back 3-100 and 4-109

+30 ARI sends 2-33, LV gives back 3-70

At 5:37 p.m., Anthony Richardson, the Florida quarterback, got picked by the Colts. The third quarterback was off the board. McDaniels beamed. He and Ziegler slapped hands. Now the Raiders were sure to get one of their four guys.

5:42 p.m.: Cards GM Monti Ossenfort called Ziegler. Hushed discussion, presumably exchanging potential offers for the pick. Then Ziegler and McDaniels huddled. Having the 12th and 33rd overall picks, to go along with the Raiders’ 38th choice, would be tempting. “We could get [Oklahoma tackle Anton] Harrison at 12,” McDaniels said. The Raiders loved Harrison—not as much as Johnson, but enough maybe to lose the fourth non-QB they love in order to pick up the 33rd pick. They mulled.

The phone went cold for a few minutes. Seemed obvious Ossenfort wanted Paris Johnson. He had to be dealing with Detroit, trying to get ahead of Vegas to ensure getting Johnson. Smart move by Ossenfort, choosing not to close a deal for the seventh pick and instead dealing for the sixth–ensuring that the Cards would get the tackle they wanted.

5:47 p.m.: Witherspoon to Seattle at five. Detroit up. No action on Ziegler’s phone. Not surprising. Arizona was targeting Johnson.

5:50 p.m.: Tinny voice from Draft HQ: “Detroit has traded its pick to Arizona. Arizona is on the clock.” For Vegas, there goes day-one starting right tackle Paris Johnson.

5:54 p.m. Paris Johnson to Arizona. “Las Vegas is on the clock,” tinny voice says.

So no real drama. The plan was preordained. There was no real debate now, no discussion about moving. Only this:

5:58 p.m.: “Tyree, this is coach McDaniels. We’re gonna turn the pick in here, and you’re gonna be a Raider.”

In a lull in front of the room, McDaniels said quietly: “Our board was right. We needed three quarterbacks to go, and we’re so happy we got one of the four non-quarterbacks who were our top-rated guys on the board. Look, we gotta rush the passer. We gotta go get [Patrick] Mahomes and [Justin] Herbert. That’s four games a year for the next few years against these great young quarterbacks. And the AFC is full of these great young quarterbacks. This is a great outcome for us.”

This is the draft. The Raiders needed long-term help opposite Maxx Crosby (edge player Chandler Jones is 33), and Anderson or Wilson would have been great. Witherspoon would have been great to add to a needy secondary. Johnson would have been great to bookend Kolton Miller. It’s capricious. The choice wasn’t up to Ziegler; other teams decided for him. But the vibe in the room, the smiles, showed this staff loves Wilson, even with the foot injury that made him an iffy candidate to some teams.

In his office 20 minutes later, McDaniels waited to be connected to Wilson to converse. “I mean, hallelujah,” McDaniels said. “His motivation, his drive, how he handles adversity … off the charts. We value the TAP test (a test in the pre-draft process that measures mental toughness, drive and composure under pressure), and Tyree got one of the highest grades on it, a Green plus-plus. He’ll fit in great here.”

McDaniels’ football ops guy, Tom Jones, walked in with a phone. Wilson. “Tyree, welcome to the nation,” McDaniels said. “Dude, I am so excited you’re a Raider. I know you’re gonna help us win a lot of games. So, just wanted to touch base on a few things. You’re gonna talk to the media here in a bit. Wanted to give you a few points. Be humble, which you are. Stay away from predictions—that way, you won’t have to eat them later. Don’t talk about timelines with your foot. You don’t want your draft story to be all about your foot. Now, you got a fan base that’s second to none. They’re gonna love you. Just express how excited you—which I know you are.”

Back in the Raiders draft room, after pick 19, Ziegler said, “Josh, you wanna look at trades?” On the board were four players with similar grades: Georgia defensive end Nolan Smith, Maryland corner Deonte Banks, Harrison the Oklahoma tackle, and Arkansas linebacker Drew Sanders. Close to them: Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer.

But there wasn’t much enthusiasm to deal after Banks and Harrison went off the board. Ziegler made a couple of calls about moving up to fill a hole left by the trade of tight end Darren Waller with Mayer, but never got far—or appeared enthusiastic to do it.

7:36 p.m.: Crosby sent a video message to Wilson, and in the draft room, Ziegler had it and he showed it to McDaniels and Davis on his phone. The tenor of the message: Congrats, Tyree. Now, time to go work, son. “Love it,” McDaniels said.

There are lulls in all drafts, and after Banks and Harrison went at 24 and 27, this was the Raider lull. Davis kept things interesting. When the TV showed a crestfallen Will Levis, undrafted, still in the green room in Kansas City, he said: “Someone should tell him careers are not made on draft day. Tell him this happened to Aaron Rodgers too.” And when he looked up and saw speedy Jalin Hyatt, the wide receiver, still on the board with a high Raider grade, Davis said to McDaniels: “Too bad we don’t have a need at receiver. Can he run?”

“Like the wind,” McDaniels said.

Davis started laughing, like he could sense Ziegler and McDaniels did not want him to start lobbying for the best speed receiver in the draft.

“It’s part of my DNA,” Davis said. “I see a fast receiver, I want him. I can’t help it.” Spoken like his father’s son.

(Left to right) Ziegler, McDaniels, and Davis.

As the round wound down, quietly, I asked Davis what he thought of Ziegler and McDaniels, the ex-Pats, entering year two of their regime. “I like ‘em,” he said. “When we hired them, everybody thought we were trying to re-create the Patriots. That wasn’t it. I was trying to find two great football men. Now, this is their chance to build something.  They’re young, they love football, and I’m thrilled with them. It’s a huge weekend for them.

“My dad’s drafts were different—a lot more tense.”

“The tense conversations were already had,” McDaniels said later. “We had them in the last six weeks. We ended up with the board where we all felt it needed to be.”

8:30 p.m.: Two picks left, including Kansas City at 31. Mayer on the mind in the draft room. “If KC comes back to us,” Ziegler said, “wanna do it?”

“Yes,” said McDaniels.

“Best tight end in the draft,” Kelly said.

Short conversation with KC. “Not gonna work,” Ziegler said. KC would have given 31 and 217 (sixth round) for 38 and 70, a net on the points chart of minus-147. “Too many players we like,” Ziegler said. (Ziegler, on Friday, traded from 38 to 35 with the Colts to snag Mayer, the tight end Vegas wanted above all.)

An hour after the round ended, McDaniels and Ziegler unwound in the draft room. Wilson underwent surgery by the top athletic foot surgeon in the field, Dr. Robert Anderson, to repair a fracture last Nov. 21. Six weeks ago, Anderson sent a letter to each team, saying Wilson has responded “extremely well” to surgery. The Raiders expect Wilson to be ready to play this season on schedule. “Our doctors ultimately felt like it was something that we were going to be okay with,” Ziegler said. “If we wouldn’t have felt comfortable with it, we wouldn’t have [picked Wilson].”

In all, the needy Raiders, trying to rebound from a few years of failed top picks, got two likely starters out of the draft—Wilson and Mayer. After that, it’s up in the air, as all drafts are. The Raiders got their presumptive backup to Jimmy Garoppolo, Aidan O’Connell, in the middle of the fourth round—about two rounds earlier than the consensus of where he deserved to go. They got a speed cornerback, Banks’ teammate Jakorian Bennett, with pick 104, and the Raiders hope he plays early.

Mel Kiper, for one, liked the first two picks but the others, not so much. After the top two, Kiper said, “I don’t see value with the rest of this class.”

That’s why they play the games. In three years, we’ll see if Ziegler picked right in the NFL’s 88th draft.

Read more in Peter King’s full Football Morning in America column

NFL quarterback rankings 2023: Chris Simms’ top 40 QB countdown ahead of upcoming NFL season


While the NFL is a league that is ever-changing, some things are set to stay the same in 2023 — like the revealing of Chris Simms’ top 40 QB countdown.

Last year’s list saw Josh Allen take his place atop the quarterback throne, with Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes and Los Angeles’ Justin Herbert not far behind at No. 2 and No. 3, respectively. It was, however, Mahomes who would ultimately reign over all NFL quarterbacks at the end of the season, as the 27-year-old collected both the NFL MVP honors and his second Lombardi Trophy.

This NFL offseason, however, has brought some intriguing adjustments that are likely to shake up Simms’ rankings.

While some signal-callers such as Jalen Hurts and Lamar Jackson found their prolonged home with massive contract signings, others will be venturing to a new franchise in search of a fresh start. Aaron Rodgers‘ trade to the New York Jets is unquestionably the most staggering shift, but other quarterbacks on the move such as Derek Carr and Jimmy Garoppolo cannot be forgotten.

RELATED: Mike Florio gives an inside look into the Lamar Jackson deal

And with three of the first four picks in the 2023 NFL Draft being spent on a quarterback, emerging talent will likely turn the tides for some franchises this upcoming season.

See below for Chris Simms’ top 40 QB countdown ahead of the upcoming season. Be sure to subscribe to Chris Simms Unbuttoned for more on the 2023 NFL season as well as an unfiltered look at the NFL featuring player access, unabashed opinion, X&O film breakdown and stories from a life in and around football.

RELATED: Peter King’s latest offseason NFL power rankings

Chris Simms’ 2023 Top 40 QB Countdown:

40. Desmond Ridder (ATL)

39. Sam Howell (WAS)

38. Bryce Young (CAR)

37. CJ Stroud (HOU)

36. Anthony Richardson (IND)

35. Mike White (MIA)

34. Gardner Minshew (IND)

33. Taylor Heinicke (ATL)

32. Jarrett Stidham (DEN)

31. Jordan Love (GB)

30. Davis Mills (HOU)

29. Tyler Huntley (BAL)

28. Andy Dalton (CAR)

27. Sam Darnold (SF)

26. Brock Purdy (SF)

25. Kenny Pickett (PIT)

24. Baker Mayfield (TB)

23. Justin Fields (CHI)

22. Jimmy Garoppolo (LV)

21. Tua Tagovailoa (MIA)

20. Mac Jones (NE)

2023 NFL Schedule Release: Start time, how to watch, live stream, channel


With another exciting NFL Draft in the books, teams can now turn their gaze toward the road to Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas. The path to Super Bowl glory, however, is about to become abundantly more clear with the 2023 NFL season schedule release.

This year’s NFL season schedule release is nearly here, with the entirety of the 2023 NFL schedule being unveiled on Thursday, May 11 at 8 p.m. ET on both Peacock and NFL Network. See below for everything you need to know for one of the offseason’s most anticipated events.

RELATED: Click here for full analysis on Rounds 1-7 of the 2023 NFL Draft

When will the 2023 NFL season schedule be released?

While all 272 matchups have been known since the conclusion of the 2022 regular season, the order and dates for these games have remained a mystery. The secret is nearly out, however, with every NFL game on the brink of revelation.

The full 2023 NFL schedule will be released on Thursday, May 11 at 8:00 p.m. ET.

How can I watch the 2023 NFL season schedule release?

The 2023 NFL season schedule release will take place Thursday, May 11 on Peacock, NFL Network, and the NFL app at 8 p.m. ET.

While the entirety of the schedule will be unveiled at that time, select games have already been and will continue to be released prior to the official event. Ahead of the 2023 NFL season schedule release, the following games will be announced:

Who will play in the 2023 NFL Kickoff game?

The first game of the 2023-24 NFL season will see the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs take the field in Arrowhead Stadium.

The opponent that will meet Patrick Mahomes and company in Kansas City, however, remains to be revealed.

Which NFL teams have international games in 2023?

While the majority of the matchups set to take place next season have yet to be announced, the league has already revealed which teams will head overseas for international showdowns.

Below is the full list of international NFL games for the 2023-24 season, with three in London, U.K., and two in Frankfurt, Germany.

Falcons vs. Jaguars: Week 4, Oct. 1 at 9:30 a.m. ET | Wembley Stadium in London, U.K.

Jaguars vs. Bills: Week 5, Oct. 8 at 9:30 a.m. ET | Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, U.K.

Ravens vs. Titans: Week 6, Oct. 15 at 9:30 a.m. ET | Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, U.K.

Dolphins vs. Chiefs: Week 9, Nov. 5 at 9:30 a.m. ET | Frankfurt Stadium in Frankfurt, Germany

Colts vs. Patriots: Week 10, Nov. 12 at 9:30 a.m. ET | Frankfurt Stadium in Frankfurt, Germany

RELATED: NFL’s 2023 international games full of “star power”

When is the Super Bowl and where will it be taking place?

Stars will be shining bright in Las Vegas, Nevada, for Super Bowl LVIII, set to take place on Feb. 11, 2024, at the home of the Raiders in Allegiant Stadium.

This will be the first Super Bowl to ever take place in Las Vegas, which hosted the 2023 Pro Bowl and 2022 NFL Draft.

Be sure to follow ProFootballTalk for the latest news, updates, and storylines about the upcoming NFL season!