The Raiders entered the 2015 season fielding one of the worst secondaries in the NFL. Their defensive backfield took a huge hit Sunday when free safety Nate Allen was diagnosed with a torn MCL and future Hall of Famer Charles Woodson suffered a dislocated shoulder.
To make matters worse, former first round pick D.J. Hayden struggled mightily against the Bengals. Hayden was targeted nine times and allowed seven completions for 67 yards and a touchdown. He has some of the best footwork I have seen in a cornerback, but his coverage skills need serious improvement.
The lone bright spot in the secondary has been seventh round pick T.J. Carrie who impressed last season and played well in the Raiders season opener giving up only one positive gain.
The Raiders will be looking to seriously upgrade their secondary in the off-season, here are the top cornerbacks in the 2016 NFL Draft.
Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida
5'11", 198 lbs
The 2016 cornerback class is strong, but Hargreaves is far and away the best of the batch. Hargraves merits a top-five pick in the upcoming draft, he is that good. He and Marcus Peters are the two best cornerbacks I have scouted.
What I love about Hargreaves is that he is versatile. You can play him in off-man, zone, or press and trust that he will lockdown the opposing receiver. He is the only true lockdown cornerback in this draft class.
Another aspect where Hargreaves stands above the rest is tackling. He is very aggressive and flys to the football. Instead of diving which is how cornerbacks often tackle, Hargreaves uses his entire body to make tackles.
Jalen Ramsey, Florida State
6'1", 202 lbs
Florida State had two cornerbacks drafted in the first three rounds last season (Ronald Darby (2nd) and P.J. Williams (3rd). But neither was the best defensive back on Florida State's roster as that title belongs to Jalen Ramsey. When I watch Ramsey, all I can think is that he would make a great free safety and would easily be the top safety in the 2016 NFL Draft. But he is listed at cornerback so that is where I am placing him.
Ramsey may just have the best combination of athleticism and size in the 2016 NFL Draft. He plays very smooth and looks like he is gliding when he runs. I was impressed with Ramsey's anticipation when watching him.
Ramsey will likely end up as a top-10 pick come next April. While he excels at cornerback, I think Ramsey would be even more effective playing free safety.
KeiVarae Russell, Notre Dame
6'0", 190 lbs
Russell missed the entire 2014 season after a two semester suspension for academic misconduct. As a result, he technically still has two years of eligibility remaining. But Russell likely won't need that extra year as he is a projected first round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.
Russell has a prototypical blend of size and athleticism that NFL coaches love. He has impressive ball skills and led the Fighting Irish in passes defended (9) during their 2013 run at the BCS Championship. Russell is also not afraid to provide run support.
As the video shows, Texas only targeted Russell once because he shutdown their receivers. And the one completion he gave up was solid coverage.
Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech
6'0", 197 lbs
Fuller is the most interesting of these prospects because if you asked me last year, I would say he was a mid-first round pick after an impressive 2014 season. But after struggling against Ohio State in Virginia Tech's season opener, Fuller's stock took a hit and now looks like a mid-second round prospect.
On paper, Fuller only gave up two receptions for 46 yards and a touchdown against a first round wide receiver (Mike Thomas). But Thomas burned Fuller bad on both receptions and easily could have had over 100 yards receiving as Thomas was open on many plays. To put it bluntly, Mike Thomas embarrassed Kendall Fuller.
If Fuller can rebound and play like he did last season, he could be a late first round prospect.