Adding Sean Smith in the offseason was huge for this team. And absolute must that can't be understated. Now it's time to build around him and fellow starter David Amerson. That means depth, and planning for the future.
Just having two starters isn't enough. TJ Carrie can play the nickel corner as well as safety if needed and after that, there is a whole lotta uncertainty. Adding another corner from this draft may be a must. How high they make that pick will depend on who is on the board.
Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida - Round 1
There are two proven top cornerbacks in this draft - Jalen Ramsey and Hargreaves. And with Ramsey a lock for the top five, Hargreaves is the only one the Raiders have a legitimate chance of landing (unless they trade up, which seems unlikely). If he were here, they would be getting a player who can play the boundary or the slot and excels in zone coverage.
There are arguments that can be made for other cornerbacks like Mackensie Alexander or William Jackson III. Alexander and Hargreaves numbers are very similar across the board except for a couple glaring stats - interceptions and pass breakups. Hargreaves had 10 career interceptions in three seasons. Alexander has zero over two. Hargreaves also averaged 12.7 passes defended each season. Alexander averaged 5.5.
While Jackson was boom or bust, he had 23 pass breakups but was targeted twice as often (97) as Hargreaves (48), and gave up twice as many catches (48) and touchdowns (2) as a result. He also gave up a catch every 10 coverage snap compared to Hargreaves 14 according to Pro Football Focus figures.
The 5'10.5" Hargreaves consistently performed at a high level against top competition in the SEC over three seasons. People talk about the Raiders liking big corners, and they have a few including the 6-1 David Amerson and 6-2 Sean Smith. But being a corner isn't all about being big. Sometimes you need guys who are quick and can get up. Hargreaves showed a 39" vertical, a 10-10 broad jump, and a 3.98 short shuttle - all top five at the position at the combine.
Mackensie Alexander, Clemson - Round 2
A lack of interceptions and an attitude that is said to be putting off a lot of teams could drop this talented corner well into the second round. The farther he falls (if he falls that far at all), the more likely teams are to take a chance on him. There are a few things that make Alexander an attractive option.
Of the top corners in this draft, he's probably the best suited to play the slot. The Raiders have their two starters, neither of whom are ideal slot corners. The Raiders play a nickel defense 60-70% of the time which means even if he weren't starting, Alexander would be on the field a lot, solidifying the Raiders cornerback group. Alexander is a true shutdown corner which is a big reason why he doesn't have any picks along with low pass breakup numbers. They just stayed away from him. They won't stay away from him as much at the NFL level, so it will be interesting to see what he can do when he finally sees a ball he can get his hands on.
Xavien Howard, Baylor - Round 3
His numbers over the past couple seasons are outstanding - 9 interceptions and 32 passes defended, giving up a catch on just 37.3% of his targets. He's also a larger cornerback at 6-1, 205 pounds. He still needs work, though. He will at times allow receivers to get behind him and when that happens, his lackluster 4.58 speed isn't enough to recover. A former high school quarterback, he has seen the field from both angles, which makes him a very smart defender with the ability to read the quarterback and react.
KeiVarae Russell, Notre Dame -- Round 4-5
There is little question about the talent Russell possesses. His questions revolved around being suspended the entire 2014 seasons for academic misconduct and a broken leg he suffered late last season. Reggie McKenzie likes to meet guys like this to get a feel for him as a person and use his 'gut' to make a judgment. Usually it leads to a late round pick, but those players are the types whose transgressions were enough to get them kicked off the team and transfer to another school (Shelby Harris, Jonathan Dowling). Russell served his suspension, remained at Notre Dame and came back motivated and showed maturity in his handling of the situation.
Ryan Smith, North Carolina Central - Round 5
Having not focused on football until his senior year in high school, he didn't catch the attention of any FBS schools. He signed with NCCU as a safety and started there his first two years, collecting 5 interceptions and 13 passes defended over that time. He was then switched to cornerback where he started his final two years, posting 2 interceptions (both as a senior) and 18 passes defended. His numbers as a senior would have been better but opposing quarterbacks pretty much stayed away from him. He can also return kicks.
Anthony Brown, Purdue - Round 6
If this were the Raiders still under Al Davis guidance, Brown would be the pick two round earlier based on his 4.33 speed. It's important, though, to not think Brown is just a speedy corner. He had great numbers last season for the Boilermakers, giving up catches on less than 50% of his targets with 4 interceptions. He's also had 10 passes defended each of the past two seasons. He tends to gamble a bit too much, probably due to confidence in his speed, but that can be fixed. As they say, you can't teach speed.