The Las Vegas Raiders have some clearly defined needs in the 2024 NFL Draft, starting with quarterback. Antonio Pierce’s team also needs help on the offensive line, with three starters becoming free agents, and on defense at cornerback and defensive tackle. Due to these needs, the two sneaky good players the Raiders must take in the NFL draft are college football national champion adversaries Washington QB Michael Penix Jr. and Texas DT T’Vondre Sweat.

While Aidan O’Connell had his moments in 2023, the Raiders quarterback didn’t show any signs that he will ever be near the level of his AFC West foes Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert. And with Jimmy Garoppolo now likely out after his PED suspension, it’s time for the Raiders to find their next quarterback of the future.

Las Vegas could make a bold move and trade up for one of the top three QBs — Caleb Williams, Drake Maye, or Jayden Daniels — but if they don’t, they are in a bit of a no-man’s land at No. 13 for a signal-caller.

The Raiders would be best served dropping back for a QB in Round 1 or taking a signal-caller who falls to Round 2.

Additionally, Coach Pierce was a Pro Bowl linebacker in the NFL, so he’ll surely want to fix the defense. The best way to do that immediately is to get a defensive tackle who can take some attention away from Maxx Crosby and help stop the run, something Las Vegas couldn’t do at all in 2023.

With all that in mind, here are the two sneaky good players the Raiders must take in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Michael Penix Jr., QB, Washington

Trading up to one of the top three picks in the NFL draft would cost the Raiders an obscene amount of draft capital. And taking JJ McCarthy or Bo Nix at No. 13 would be a reach. Nix is likely maxed out as a prospect, and McCarthy was a game-manager in college.

Neither is an ideal fit for this Raiders team.

Michael Penix Jr. comes in with a lot of questions, but also a lot of skills. If he didn’t have the health concerns he does, he would likely be in the mix with Williams, Maye, and Daniels — or more likely with CJ Stroud and Bryce Young last season or even Kenny Pickett the year before.

Will Penix play 10 or more years in the NFL with his injury history? Probably not.

You know who doesn’t care if Penix is still a starting NFL QB in 2034? Davante Adams, Crosby, Josh Jacobs (If Vegas keeps him), and probably even Pierce if we’re being honest.

If the former Huskies signal-caller can give the Raiders three to five good years, picking him in the back half of Round 1 or Round 2 would still be a win for this current crop of Raiders. And if the team can pick him up in Round 2, it would allow them to take a blue-chip defensive prospect at No. 9 like Alabama cornerback Terrion Arnold.

T’Vondre Sweat, DT, Texas

Texas Longhorns defensive lineman T'Vondre Sweat (93) watches Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. (9) before a snap during the Sugar Bowl College Football Playoff semifinals game at the Caesars Superdome on Monday, Jan. 1, 2024 in New Orleans, Louisiana.
© Aaron E. Martinez/American-Statesman / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Raiders were brutal against the run last season. They ranked in the bottom half of the league in rushing yards, yards per attempt, and rushing touchdowns allowed. This team needs a big run-stuffer in the middle of the D to solve that problem and take pressure off of Crosby and the linebackers.

Enter the 6-foot-4, 364-pound mountain of a man T’Vondre Sweat.

Sweat is the epitome of a run-stuffing, space-eating defensive tackle. It will take a minimum of two offensive linemen to block him if an opponent wants to run up the middle, and while he is not an elite pass rusher by any means, his sheer size and strength can push the pocket into the QB’s face if he holds the ball too long.

Sweat was a standout at the Senior Bowl, putting interior offensive linemen on their backs in 1v1s, and if he impresses with his athleticism for his size at the combine, He could easily get into Round 1, and maybe even the middle of it.

Wherever T’Vondre Sweat ends up when the final mocks shake out, this is a sneaky valuable player that the Raiders must take in the 2024 NFL Draft. He is the missing piece to this defense and could turn it into a top-10 unit in his rookie season.