As of right now, David Amerson is the only cornerback on this Raiders team whose starting spot is secure, although T.J. Carrie offers the flexibility to play safety and nickel cornerback. But as our own Levi Damien pointed out, the 2016 offseason offers a deep market for cornerbacks and safeties, one that is rarely seen in free agency.
With an expected $75.775 million to spend under the salary cap, the Silver and Black will have plenty of money to sign one of those talented free agent cornerbacks.
The 2016 NFL Draft also offers a prime opportunity for the Raiders infuse their secondary with talent. As Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said Wednesday, he intends to use both free agency and the draft to fill the needs in the secondary.
"We have to attack our secondary with draft picks and free agents," Del Rio said. "We're going to do that. We're going to add talent to that group and make it really competitive."
We've covered the talent in free agency, but what of the cornerbacks showcasing their talent at the Scouting combine in Indianapolis this week? Here are some to keep an eye on who could be a tempting target when the Raiders make their selection:
First Round (14th overall)
Vernon Hargreaves, Florida
Hargreaves is arguably the best cornerback in the 2016 NFL Draft. He was asked to play a lot of lockdown man coverage in his three seasons at Florida and he excelled. Hargreaves can play both off-man and press effectively. But questions of his size (5'11", 199 lbs) have dropped his stock to where there is a realistic possibility he will be on the board when the Raiders select in the first round. While Hargreaves may struggle on the outside because of his frame, he has the ability to develop into an elite nickel cornerback similar to Chris Harris.
Mackensie Alexander, Clemson
There has never been a cornerback drafted who didn't have a single interception while in college. But as the most projected Raiders draft pick, there is a legitimate chance this could happen. One of the reasons Alexander did not have an interception was because he was rarely targeted by offenses as he was often in great coverage. While that is a positive, it makes it difficult for teams to judge his ball-skills as there are not many examples to watch. Alexander lacks ideal size (5'10", 195 lbs) but has great movement skills and toughness that should develop him into an elite nickel cornerback.
Eli Apple, Ohio State
Reggie McKenzie loves his big cornerbacks, and at 6'1", 200 lbs, Eli Apple fits the mold that NFL teams are looking for. Apple uses his size to be physical in press coverage but also shows agility and looseness that you would expect in a smaller cornerback. His biggest drawback is that he uses his hands too much when the ball is in the air and as a result, projects to draw many penalties unless this is fixed. While Apple is rawer than Hargreaves and Alexander, he has a high ceiling along with the frame and skillset to develop into a number one cornerback.
Second Round (44th overall)
William Jackson III, Houston
At 6'1", 195 lbs, Jackson is another cornerback that fits the mold Reggie McKenzie loves. He is one of the best tackling cornerbacks in the 2016 NFL Draft and is a very physical run defender. Jackson plays with great awareness, but has rigid hips which is a red flag. Jackson has the size and necessary tools to become a reliable starting cornerback.
Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech
Fuller looked like a potential top-15 pick his first two seasons at Virginia Tech. But he regressed in 2015 and a torn meniscus ended his season. Fuller may not have the best top-end speed, but he has great awareness and experience. He also finished his career at Virginia Tech with 35 passes defended and 8 interceptions over 28 career starts. But which Kendall Fuller are you getting? If it is the one from his first two seasons, this is a steal.
Prospect to keep an eye on:
KeiVarae Russell, Notre Dame
After sitting out the 2014 season due to academic issues, Russell was reinstated at Notre Dame for the 2015 season. Russell finished fourth on the team with 60 tackles, but missed the final two games with a broken right leg (the leg is expected to be fully healed by March). Russell was a top prospect coming out of high school, and at 5'11", 200 lbs, he has the raw athleticism necessary to be an effective cover corner in the NFL. Because of the off-field concerns and medical questions, Russell's stock will fall in the NFL Draft. It is tough to project where he be drafted as he has the talent to merit a second round selection, but CBS Sports projects him to be drafted in the sixth round.
Regardless of what happens in free agency, there is a very high chance the Raiders will select a cornerback in the first or second round of the 2016 NFL Draft. It will be interesting to see if McKenzie opts for a talented cornerback with a smaller frame (Hargreaves, Alexander), or sticks to his draft history of selecting cornerbacks with a large frame. Either way, there is a lot of talent available to upgrade the Raiders secondary this offseason.