One of the beauties of the NFL offseason is that it’s an ever-evolving puzzle that can change in a matter of moments. Simultaneously, that’s also the most frustrating part about it...especially if you’re someone who’s been writing scouting reports based on who the Las Vegas Raiders might select in the NFL Draft...
Nonetheless, the Raiders certainly shook up their draft outlook over the past several days.
Not only did the Silver and Black address one of their biggest offseason needs with the trade for Davante Adams, but they also gave up their top two picks to do it. Of course, arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL is worth a first- and second-rounder, but it does impact how Dave Ziegler and Co. can address the rest of the team’s needs.
Plus, the additions of Chandler Jones, Rock Ya-Sin, Bilal Nichols, etc., and Las Vegas’ relative inactivity at other positions have added and removed pieces to the puzzle.
So, what are the Raiders’ draft needs now and which ones are the most pressing?
1. Offensive Line
Currently under contract: Kolton Miller (LT), John Simpson (LG), Andre James (C), Alex Leatherwood (RG/RT), Denzelle Good (RG/RT), Jackson Barton (OT), William Sweet (OT), Alex Bars (OT/OG), Brett Heggie (C), Hronis Grassu (C), Jordan Simmons (OG), Lester Cotton (OG), Jordan Meredith (OG)
I was surprised that the Raiders didn’t make at least one significant signing for their offensive line this week. I wasn’t expecting a big splash but more of a low-tide signing, if you will.
Granted, Leatherwood’s situation makes this a little more difficult to evaluate. He was drafted in the first round last year but it looks like he might be a more natural guard. The new regime might not care about how much capital was spent on the Alabama product since they weren’t the ones who spent it, so maybe they keep him inside. However, that still leaves the line with holes.
If Leatherwood plays right guard like he did last year, what does that mean for Denzelle Good? Does Good go to the left and replace John Simpson, or are the Raiders going to ask a 31-year-old who’s naturally a guard and coming off a torn ACL to play right tackle?
It’s easier to find guards than tackles so maybe the latter is the holdover situation for this year and they’ll readdress the right tackle spot next offseason. Even so, they can do better than Simpson on the inside, especially if they prioritize the position and look at third-round options.
Long story short, expect Las Vegas to bring in some big uglies either this next week or in late April.
Notable Free Agents remaining: Ereck Flowers (OG), Daryl Williams (RT), Germain Ifedi (RT/OG)
Draft options: Abraham Lucas - Washington St (OT), Max Mitchell - Louisiana (OT), Dylan Parham - Memphis (iOL)
2. Defensive Tackle
Currently under contract: Bilal Nichols, Andrew Billings, PJ Johnson, Kendal Vickers
Both of the Raiders' recent additions, Nichols and Billings, are currently projected to start but that says more about the rest of the position group than it does their abilities.
Nichols is a solid starter who the team would be fine within the lineup, but they can also potentially find an upgrade. Billings can be a good run defender but offers little to nothing as a pass rusher and it’s been two years since his last start, so again, Ziegler’s job isn’t quite done yet.
With only two other players as backups, the interior of the defensive line also needs to be addressed from a pure volume standpoint. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Raiders’ decision with their third-round pick, their first of the draft, comes down to an offensive lineman and defensive tackle.
Notable Free Agents remaining: Akiem Hicks, Calais Campbell, Sheldon Richardson
Currently under contract: Trayvon Mullen, Rock Ya-Sin, Nate Hobbs, Anthony Averett, Amik Robertson, Darius Phillips, Cre’von LeBlanc, Natrell Jamerson
It doesn’t seem like the Raiders are done making significant moves at corner, seeing as the Stephon Gilmore sweepstakes are still ongoing. However, until ink meets paper, the position is still a need.
Yes, Ya-Sin is a starting-caliber player to line up on the other side of Mullen, but this is a need that goes beyond 2022. Both of those guys are entering the last year of their rookie contracts, so the Raiders are likely going to be back in the starting cornerback market next offseason as bringing back those two will difficult, especially if they both play well.
Even the corners they signed this week — Averett and Phillips — are on one-year deals, so Las Vegas does need to think about the bigger picture when addressing the position moving forward.
Notable Free Agents remaining: Stephon Gilmore, Steven Nelson, Robert Alford
Draft options: Coby Bryant - Cincinnati, Mario Goodrich - Clemson, Tariq Castro-Fields - Penn St
Currently under contract: Tre’von Moehrig (FS), Johnathan Abram (SS), Tyree Gillespie (FS/SS), Roderic Teamer* (SS), Jordan Brown (SS), Dallin Leavitt (FS/SS)
I feel like safety hasn’t been talked about much as a need for the Silver and Black, but Patrick Graham loves to deploy several versatile safeties in his scheme. That bodes well for a guy like Moehrig, who played multiple roles in college but was pigeon-holed into a deep safety role last season as a necessity.
Las Vegas doesn’t have a second defensive back that will allow them to play the two-high coverages that gave some of the young, gunslinging quarterbacks so much trouble last season. Gillespie might be a solution to that problem since he played primarily as a free safety in college, but he’s far from a sure thing, and by now we know that will never be a part of Abram’s game. So, look for the Raiders to explore the safety market.
One could argue that safety is a bigger need than cornerback and honestly, I wouldn’t fight that too much.
Notable Free Agents remaining: Tyrann Mathieu, Kareem Jackson, Terrell Edmunds
Draft options: Byran Cook - Cincinnati, Nick Cross - Maryland, Verone McKinley III - Oregon
*Teamer is an exclusive rights free agent, meaning if the Raiders offer him a one-year contract at the league minimum he cannot negotiate with another team. No agreement has been made between the two parties as of right now and they have until April 22nd.
5. Wide Receiver
Currently under contract: Davante Adams, Hunter Renfrow, Bryan Edwards, Mack Hollins, Javon Wims, Tyron Johnson, DJ Turner, Dillon Stoner
One move pushed wide receiver from one of the Raiders’ biggest needs to about the middle of the pack. Yep, Mack Hollins is that big of a signing.
In all seriousness, Las Vegas could still afford to add some depth behind Adams and Renfrow, especially with the latter heading into a contract year. The clock is ticking on Edwards with his starting spot and role on the team are in question heading into year three, and the rest of the crew is an unproven bunch.
So, it would make sense for Zeigler to explore some late-round wideout options. Luckily, it’s a deep class this year.
Notable Free Agents remaining: Jarvis Landry, Will Fuller, Marquez Valdes-Scantling
QB, EDGE, LB, TE
Everyone relax, I’m not saying the Raiders need to replace Derek Carr, but they could invest in a backup even after the signing of Garret Gilbert.
Edge was a position that I thought Ziegler might surprise everyone and draft a player at the position in the first round, but obviously, that’s not an option anymore. It’s never been a huge need but finding some depth wouldn’t be a bad idea. Right now, their second-string options are Malcolm Koonce, Clelin Ferrell and Gerri Green.
Linebacker is a very interesting position for the Raiders. Graham has already talked about primarily using nickel personnel, and he has a young, promising backer in Divine Deablo to go along with Denzel Perryman, the proven veteran. On the other hand, Perryman is on a contract year and they have very little depth.
Darren Waller isn’t going anywhere and Foster Moreau is a solid second tight end who should have a bigger role this year in Josh McDaniels’ offense. However, Moreau is another member of the 2019 draft class whose deal is about to expire, and he really hasn’t been the same player since that gruesome knee injury he suffered as a rookie.
RB, FB, K, P, LS
McDaniels loves his pass-catching backs and between Kenyan Drake and Brandon Bolden, he should be set there. Plus, Jacobs can help in that department as well, and Trey Ragas is an option as more of a traditional runner.
With both Jakob Johnson and Sutton Smith at fullback, there’s really not much of a reason to bring someone else in.
As far as the specialists go, the Raiders have one of the best trios in the league. Daniel Carlson and AJ Cole both got paid not too long ago, and Trent Sieg is locked up for two more years with a cap hit below $1.1 million per year, according to OverTheCap.com.