Greetings, Raider Nation! It’s time for the latest installment of the Raiders Draft Prospect Watch, where I break down some of the college players who the Raiders may be looking at to fill the many holes on their roster.
One of the big problems with the Raiders defense is the back end, and specifically the safeties. They haven’t played physical in the run game nor have they limited big plays from opponents. The Raiders will almost certainly look to add at least one safety in the 2019 draft class. Here are a few top options:
Deionte Thompson, Alabama
This year’s version of the Crimson Tide might be the most dominant college football team of the last 40 years. They run through their opponents like butter, most recently defeating LSU on the road 29-0. Their defense is impenetrable, and Thompson has been a big part of that, taking over the role that Minkah Fitzpatrick played last season.
Thompson projects best as a free safety in the NFL, and he is a big boy at 6’2” and 196 pounds. He has the frame to add even more bulk for the pro game, enabling him to take the punishment of the NFL season. He is fast, with a forty time of around 4.4. He has the speed to cover a lot of ground quickly and terrific football instincts. Thompson is the sort of ball hawk that Alabama favors at free safety, playing center field and disrupting the opponents’ pass game with both his body and mind. He has the deep part of the field on absolute lockdown.
Thompson is playing his way into being a top-ten pick, and using the Cowboys’ selection on him may have to be the choice if the Raiders are determined not to let him get away.
Johnathan Abram, Mississippi State
While Thompson features best as a pass defender, Abram is a premier in the box safety whose primary focus is stopping the run. He acts as an additional linebacker much of the time, and is a physical enforcer who instills fear in his opponents.
Despite that, Abram also profiles as a good defender in coverage. He has displayed the ability to make plays in the passing game, with the instincts to find the ball. Abram shouldn’t be placed in that position too much, and like Deonne Buchannon he is a true ‘see ball, get ball’ type of player who is best paired with another safety with elite coverage skills. However, his big frame at 5’11” with a 74-inch wingspan and blazing 4.4 speed and his ability as a punishing tackler with a penchant for forcing fumbles is more than enough to put him into second-round consideration.
Marvell Tell, USC
Tell has a larger frame than most safety prospects in this draft, coming in at 6’3” and 190 pounds. This enables him to match up well in coverage against bigger receivers and tight ends.
Tell doesn’t always take the best angles and he isn’t the best tackler, but with the ball in his hands he is an absolute dynamo and is a playmaker of the highest order. If there’s one thing the Raiders lack, it’s elite playmaking. Tell might get a look in the third round.
Lukas Denis, Boston College
Boston College is having a good year, and their defense is stout, led by the safety Denis. He was second nationally last season with seven interceptions that went along with 10 passes defensed, and he shows natural coverage skills and the ability to disrupt an opposing passing game with the best of them. If he were bigger, he’d be a first-round prospect, but at 5’11” and 185 pounds he may struggle against larger pro receivers and blockers.
Playing the run isn’t Denis’ strong suit, and he is best used as a high safety where he can use his elite coverage ability to its full potential. A solid combine could launch him into second-round consideration.
Ugo Amadi, Oregon
Amadi isn’t the biggest guy at 5’10” and 200 pounds, but he is always making the big play and his coverage skills are among the best in this class. He is a senior who has spent his time at Oregon primarily in the box and covering the slot receiver, a very important skillset in today’s NFL. Amadi is quick and fluid, with the footwork and speed to be effective in both press and off-man coverage.
Amadi also brings the added bonus of being a premier punt returner, averaging almost 25 yards per punt return and the ability to break any return for a score. Amadi will need to work on his tackling technique, but he has the versatility teams look for in a secondary player with the playmaking ability to make a huge impact early on.