It’s amazing to think we’re less than a week away from this thing finally getting under way. Despite the fact that Oakland is picking at the end of the first round and not the beginning (as we’ve become accustomed to), it’s still an exciting time of hopeful anticipation. With that in mind, stay tuned for the last few installments of the “Pick or Pass” series next week leading up to the first round on Thursday.
Much like Monday’s look at the offensive linemen in play at No. 24, this time we’ll look at any and all of the cornerbacks that could find themselves on the board when the Raiders pick.
What’s interesting about the cornerback market is the wide range of opinions you’ll see out there — for example, Mike Mayock has Washington’s Sidney Jones as his No. 1 corner, while his colleague Lance Zierlein at NFL.com has six corners coming off the board in the first round — none of whom are Sidney Jones (note: Jones tore his achilles at Washington’s pro day).
So what do our writers think? Should the Raiders be considering any corners when they’re on the clock? If so, who?
Jeff Spiegel (@JeffSpiegel)
When you’re in a spot like the Raiders — on the brink of greatness — you simply can’t afford to miss on a draft pick like this one. You can’t draft a guy with serious injury concerns, you can’t draft a high-risk / high reward type player, etc. (in my opinion). When I look at the cornerbacks that might be around at the end of the first round, none of them are appealing to me for these very reasons.
Sidney Jones — probably the most talented guy in this group — is out for a couple months (at least). Marshon Lattimore (who likely won’t be around anyways at No. 24) has chronic hamstring issues. Marlon Humphrey and Teez Tabor struggle against the deep ball. Tre’Davious White has concerns about whether he can be more than a nickel corner.
Obviously at No. 24 you’re not going to get a perfect player at any position, but I just don’t see a good fit amongst the guys projected to be available. If any of the guys mentioned above are around in Round 2, then I’m interested (and a couple might), but until then...
Daniel LeBaron (@DTLeBaron)
USC's Adoree' Jackson has shown steady improvement in coverage each year since he first suited up for the Trojans. That's not all that surprising given that he was unquestionably one of the best athletes in college football over that period. Though undersized at just 5-10, 186 pounds, Jackson would be an immediate upgrade in the slot over the departed DJ Hayden, with the potential to eventually move to the outside after spending some time in an NFL weight room.
He has elite speed—which is something the Raiders' defense has been sorely lacking— and also has above average ball skills (he racked up five INT's last season and was also utilized as a receiver). He is far from perfect with his technique and consistency, but of all the borderline first round corners, Jackson is the most likely to bridge the skill gap quickly because of the rare athleticism he possesses.
The Raiders' schedule is extremely bottom heavy, so they could afford some growing pains with Jackson over the first half of the season, because, as MJ would say, "his ceiling is the roof" in terms of what he could become in the NFL.
Unlike many teams projected to take a corner highly in the draft, the Raiders already have two good ones — but given last year’s performance and the loss of DJ Hayden, they could still use some help.
The good news is that this draft has any number of terrific cornerback prospects, some of whom may actually be available when the Raiders pick.
Among the guys who should be available is Gareon Conley from Ohio Steak, who has been projected all over the first round and has limitless versatility and potential. He can play inside or outside and made teams pay when they chose to avoid throwing Marshon Lattimore's way.
Then there are my two personal favorites: LSU's Tre'Davious White and USC's Adoree Jackson — both of whom are superlative athletes and dangerous punt returners. Of the pair, I prefer White because he doesn't get beat over the top as much.
Even still, there are others to consider — two of whom went to the University of Washington. The best corner in the draft is almost certainly Sidney Jones, who would be a top-5 pick if not for an achilles injury suffered earlier this year. His teammate, Kevin King, is also considered a possibility in the first round. He's a pretty solid cover guy and a beast of an athlete who doesn't get much attention because of the presence of Jones on the field with him
If the Raiders feel Jones can fully recover from his injury he is a no-brainer pick at 24. If not, Conley or White should be the guy. I'd prefer Oakland take a linebacker in the first, but I don't think Reggie McKenzie agrees with me on that. If there's a blue-chip corner available at 24, everything in Reggie's history says he will take him. And really, he can't go wrong with any of the guys I listed because they're all good.
Quite a class of corners in this draft. At this point, the only corner who figures to be gone well before the Raiders pick is Marshon Lattimore. Everyone else is a mystery. It depends on the team and their individual preferences.
For the Raiders, despite their preference for big corners, they may want to steer more towards those who can play the slot being that the slot is where they need immediate help. And if they get someone in the first round it would have to be a guy who could move outside in future to make it worth a top pick.
The corners who look like they could be a good pick at 24 are Tre’Davious White and Gareon Conley. Adoree Jackson would be a fit as well, but in my view if he were the only option available of those three, linebacker may be a better position to focus on at 24 and wait until the second round to consider a corner. Again, it’s a deep class which means there will likely be some first round caliber talent available when they pick at 56 should it come to that.