King pulls back draft curtain for Raiders' pick
Peter King goes inside the draft room in Las Vegas for Year 2 of GM Dave Ziegler and head coach Josh McDaniels for a sneak peek into how and why the Raiders selected edge rusher Tyree Wilson with the No. 7 overall pick.
PETER KING: Let's talk a little bit about why the Raiders did what they did. So this year, I looked for a team to try to get in their draft room. It's always a fun thing. It's insightful.
By the time you get to Monday, I think the last thing you want to read is another sportswriter reviewing who had good drafts, and blah, blah, blah. So I try to get in draft rooms. Sometimes, it works. I got turned down by three teams this year, and then luckily, thanks to the Raiders, to Josh McDaniels and Dave Ziegler and Mark Davis, even though I don't know if Davis was involved in this at all. Thank them for letting me in their room to basically get a peek behind the curtain.
And I'll explain to you a little bit about why I thought the Raiders were interesting. This is year two of Ziegler, McDaniels. They had a bad year last year. They lost their quarterback. Things did not go well, and so now this is a big, big draft.
When they drafted Tyree Wilson, that is an important pick for them. And I'll get back to the Raiders in a second, but I'll tell you, I had intended, after doing the Raiders, on that first night, to go to Detroit to see the Lions, after round three, on Friday. This is a team that was scheduled to have five picks in the first three rounds, including 6 and 18, and I thought this is going to be a really, really interesting team. And don't get me wrong, the Lions are very interesting, and I think they're a really interesting Super Bowl dark horse pick.
But after CJ Stroud happened, I talked to our friend and boss Matt Casey at NBC about, man, what about the Texans? And he was very bullish on me switching my plans and getting up and going to Houston instead of Detroit. So that's what I did. I went to Houston, spent a couple hours at their facility, spent time with Nick Caserio, with CJ Stroud, and basically, just tried to get a feel of what happened with them. We'll talk about that a bit.
And then I decided, since, of course, the Houston Astros were in town to play the Phillies, I decided, I'm going to go watch three or four innings. So I watched the first four innings of the Houston-Philadelphia game, then went back to my hotel room, and watched pretty much all of round three. Got on the phone a little bit, and then got up pretty early on Saturday morning and flew home.
And I've been here at my home in Brooklyn since about mid-afternoon, Saturday. We record this late Sunday night. I am 500 words away from being finished with the column, which I'll do as soon as we get off here.
And the reason we wanted to do this and wanted to do the podcast right now is that, first of all, by the time-- if we did this at a normal time, like midday Tuesday, or put it out midday Tuesday, the draft is already-- the first round is five days old. We thought, let's just hit everything, and do it, and put the link in Football Morning in America. So people, if they want to, when they wake up, Monday morning, on their way into work, they can listen to this. They can certainly read the column, if they choose. So that is what I did this weekend, and I just simply wanted to explain what went into my thought process about doing the Raiders and then doing the Texans.
So Myles, a couple of things about the Raiders. People are going to say, well, jeez, what exactly happened with the Raiders, and why did they pick Tyree Wilson? So I'm walking through the facility, midday Thursday, and Josh-- I'm going to Dave Ziegler's office, the GM.
And Josh McDaniels and Dave Ziegler sit down in his office, and this is like their last pre-draft meeting. And McDaniels, they had just finished three months of work. They finished stacking their board, all the way down through seven rounds, late or midday Wednesday. So they were done. All the hay was in the barn, so the speak, and they were ready to go.
And McDaniels is sitting on a couch in the office of Dave Ziegler. Ziegler's 47 years old. McDaniels is 45. They-- even though Mark Davis said to me at one point, I didn't bring these guys in to be basically Patriots west. I brought them in because I thought they were really smart football people.
Anyway, Josh McDaniels says to-- just out of the clear blue sky-- he says to Dave Ziegler, you know what we need? We need three quarterbacks to be picked in the top six. So they go back and forth, and so we leave there.
And I say to McDaniels, what are you talking about? Why do you need three quarterbacks to go? And he said, we've basically got four players, non-quarterbacks, who are very, very close with their grades. It's almost a pick them, basically, with their grades between the offensive tackle, at Ohio State Paris Johnson, between the quarterback from Illinois, Devon Witherspoon, and between the two edge players, two defensive ends, obviously, Tyree Wilson of Texas Tech and Willie Anderson of Alabama.
So they had finished talking. And now they were going to go their separate ways before the draft. But the one thing that hit me is I said, man, I think three quarterbacks are going to get picked in the top six.
And so they go into the draft that night, and fast forward a little bit, they go into the room, and obviously, Bryce Young goes first. CJ Stroud goes second. Then, it's Willie Anderson third. And here come the Colts, and everybody thinks, this is where Will Levis goes. But honestly, the Raiders did not care whether it was Will Levis or Anthony Richardson
MYLES SIMMONS: Right.
PETER KING: They didn't care at all. They just wanted it to be one of those two guys, and when Anthony Richardson was announced as the pick in the room, Josh McDaniels got a huge grin on his face. And he and Dave Ziegler come up next to each other, slap hands, and are both thrilled.
Because this means that, no matter what happens at five and six, it means that they will get one of their four players at number seven, one of their four desired players. So obviously, Witherspoon goes five, and Paris Johnson, who I believe would have been the pick-- the Raiders wouldn't tell me. I believe he would have been the pick at seven, but anyway, so Paris Johnson goes six, and then obviously, Tyree Wilson becomes the pick of the Las Vegas Raiders.
But two interesting points about this. So right before this happened, right before, when they are still unsure of how exactly this is going to go, you've got Dave Ziegler on the phone with Monti Ossenfort, the general manager of the Arizona Cardinals. Now, remember, the Cardinals had gone down to number 12 and now the Cardinals were talking to teams above them, trying to figure out we want to trade back up.
So Ossenfort is on the phone with Dave Ziegler, but understand one thing, Myles. Dave Ziegler is-- Monti Ossenfort knows that Ziegler might be picking Paris Johnson. That's the player they want. So in other words, you know, although Monti Ossenfort is setting some groundwork, if Paris Johnson-- if Detroit doesn't trade, and Paris Johnson is still on the board at number seven, if they're setting groundwork for that, there was this feeling in the room that, even though-- in the Raiders room-- that, even though they were talking to Monti Ossenfort that if Monti Ossenfort wants Paris Johnson, he's probably not going to get him, if he has to trade with the Raiders. Because the Raiders, I think, wanted him too. So that was a little bit of a cat-and-mouse game that was really kind of fun.
But anyway, so that's sort of what I thought about that place. It was funny. At the end of the evening, the Raiders were trying, not feverishly by any stretch, but they made a couple of phone calls. At the end of the first round or high in the second, they wanted to get Michael Mayer, the tight end from Notre Dame.
So they talked to a couple of teams, and then they talked to Kansas City. And Kansas City gave them such a bad, lopsided offer in favor of Kansas City that Ziegler just gets off the phone, and he said, I'm not doing that. And there's a little part of their room, a big board that analyzes with point totals on it.
Because everybody now uses draft trade value charts, and it was very lopsided in Kansas City's favor. So they weren't going to do it. It ended up that they-- with the fourth pick of the third round or of the second round, on Friday, they ended up trading up and getting Michael Mayer, who I think will just step into either the starting job or 30 snaps a game, at least, at tight end, with the Raiders. But anyway, that's a little bit of what I saw with the Raiders, on Thursday night.
MYLES SIMMONS: You know what's interesting to me, Peter, is that it seems like the Raiders were very off of quarterback. And I don't know that everyone would have thought that heading into this draft, just based on the fact that they had Jimmy Garoppolo. Sure, but if one of those guys maybe would have fallen-- it just it doesn't seem like that's something that was really a consideration. They had those four non-quarterbacks, and those were the guys that they were targeting, and those were the guys that they figured that they really wanted. And when you see them, that they then pick a developmental guy, more later on day three, then I guess that all kind of comes together, and it makes sense.
PETER KING: You know, there was one other little, fun note, sort of an inside football note, that I haven't seen before. But I'm sure in this modern era of football, where everyone is concerned how they look publicly, about at 45 minutes after picking Tyree Wilson, Raiders, a few of their guys went out to either get a bite to eat or do a little research or to do whatever. But McDaniels went back to his office. He was going to have his first extended conversation now with Tyree Wilson.
So his football ops guy, a guy named Tom Jones, gets Tyree Wilson on the phone. Gives McDaniels the phone, and basically, Josh McDaniels said, hey, you know, so excited you're a Raider. You're going to help us win a lot of games and all that, and he goes, but I want to touch base on a few things, and I'll read you what I wrote in my column.
He goes, I just want to touch base on a few things. You're going to talk to me-- this is Josh McDaniels talking to Tyree Wilson. I just want to touch base on a few things. You're going to talk to the media here in a bit, and I wanted to give you a few points to consider.
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. Everybody knows, probably, that Tyree Wilson had foot surgery last November. He's doing fine and probably will be back, ready to go, at the start of training camp.
MYLES SIMMONS: He didn't stay away from the timelines with his foot, though, because he told the media right after that that he should be back by training camp.
PETER KING: Don't talk about timeline to your foot.
MYLES SIMMONS: Whoops, and then he did it.
PETER KING: You don't want your draft story to be all about your foot. Now, you've got a fan base that's second to none. They're going to love you. Just express how excited you are, which I know you are.
And so that was something I hadn't seen before. Sort of the first extended conversation that McDaniels had with him, there was a big chunk of it about media training. You know? And just say the right things, which most players do in their opening press conference with a team.