Raiders coach credits Chiefs for visions of tight end supremacy

The Raiders have used early picks on tight ends in each of the last two drafts and they credit the Chiefs in part for their inspiration.
NFL Combine - Portraits
NFL Combine - Portraits / Todd Rosenberg/GettyImages

The Brock Bowers selection raised eyebrows for more than one reason in this year's NFL Draft.

On the one hand, Bowers fell a bit farther than a lot of draftniks predicted, bringing greater value with each passing draft slot. On the other, the team that grabbed him, the Las Vegas Raiders, already had invested significant value in the position just one year prior.

The Raiders have used early picks on tight ends in each of the last two drafts and they credit the Chiefs in part for their inspiration.

Just a few weeks ago, the Raiders used their first-round selection on a tight end despite having significant needs at positions viewed as having greater impact or importance. It was a shock that they selected Bowers, yet he was also the best player available on most draft boards, which created an interesting scenario in terms of how to "judge" it.

Adding to the potential tension of the entire selection was the fact that Michael Mayer, a well-rounded tight end out of Notre Dame, was an early second-round selection for the Raiders just a year prior. For a needy franchise to use two early draft picks on a tight end feels like a waste of resources—but is it?

On paper, having Bowers and Mayer is a bit much—like ordering two desserts when hungry for real sustenance. But the NFL is more nuanced than such one-dimensional analysis will allow and the Raiders have spent the days since then doing their best to explain things when asked.

“You’re talking about [two] skill players who can catch the ball, who can come out the backfield, who can do a lot of different things for you, and you see it," said head coach Antonio Pierce to the media from offseason training activities. "Kansas City does it a lot with their tight ends.”

It's true. The Chiefs have had success moving around both Travis Kelce and Noah Gray at times in line or out wide in the hopes of creating mismatches and confusing a defense. The Chiefs tend to desire such versatility in most of their playmakers—not just tight ends—and the Raiders are picking up something much more than just "another talented tight end" with the selection of Bowers.

If the Raiders had taken one of the top wideouts—e.g. Brian Thomas Jr., for example—would anyone care as much about the selection? Bowers has the ability to line up all over for Luke Getsy's offense and most defenses will have trouble preparing for looks with both Bowers and Mayer along with Davante Adams and Jakobi Meyers in play.

It's understandable for analysts and fans to wonder why the Raiders would ignore the chance to add an offensive tackle, for instance, at such a premium draft slot. Such arguments are valid. But reducing the pick of Bowers down to "he's just another tight end" is not exactly fair or accurate. At the very least, he adds another dimension to a Raiders' offense that should be that much more exciting. And their opponents sort of have the Chiefs to thank for it.