Christian Gonzalez is no lame Duck.
With a rare combination of size and blazing speed along with strong collegiate production, the University of Oregon product has the makeup and moxie to be CB1 in the NFL. And the Las Vegas Raiders are in dire need of a top-flight cornerback who matches up with the opposition’s best.
After starting in the Colorado Buffaloes secondary in 2020 and 2021, Gonzalez moved over to become an Oregon Ducks mainstay in 2022 while staying in the Pac-12. The transfer proved very fruitful as Gonzalez showcased shadow/matchup skillset along with a takeaway mentality with four interceptions, to go along with decent tackling ability.
Gonzalez draft stock was bolstered strongly with electric testing numbers at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. NFL teams already knew going into the combine Gonzalez was a fast, tall, and strong prospect and the numbers in Indy solidified the notion. He clocked in at 4.38 in the 40-yard dash, showcased a 41.5” vertical leap, and put up 14 reps on the 225-pound bench press.
Tale of the Tape: Christian Gonzalez
- School: Oregon
- Position: Cornerback
- Height: 6-foot-1
- Weight: 197 pounds
- 2022 Stats: 50 total tackles (35 solo), 1 tackle for loss, 4 interceptions, 7 passes defensed
- Career Stats: 128 total tackles (100 solo), six tackles for loss, 4 interceptions, 17 passes defensed
#Oregon CB Christian Gonzalez says why he is the #1 corner in this years draft@nflnetwork pic.twitter.com/5Qxq4bsTdn— Taylor Bisciotti (@TaylorBisciotti) March 14, 2023
During drills, Gonzalez fluid hips were on full display as he turned smoothly from backpedal to cover sprint without losing any momentum. That part is something that’s not found in bigger corners like Gonzalez. He appears to be gliding while cornerback his size look like their using every ounce of energy and ability to maintain speed or build it up.
Gonzalez also uses his size well in press coverage as he can bully receivers at the line of scrimmage with a jam, throwing off the timing enough for a pass rush to disrupt the quarterback. That ability, along with takeaways, are something absent from the Raiders cornerback room.
Yet, as with any prospect, Gonzalez comes with plenty areas of opportunity, too. One in particular, has been the bane of the Raiders secondary’s existence: Turning and finding the ball. Gonzalez is slow to get his head around to and find the football when covering downfield. That can spell doom for a cornerback in the NFL.
Gonzalez is also has bouts of inconsistency. His athletic profile and ability speaks to a prospect that has heavy ball production. Instead of its hit or miss. The up-and-down effort also shows up when defending the run and being an open-field tackler. His awareness during run plays dips and that affects his ability to square up properly for tackles in the open field.
But the basis for a CB1 is all there.
Gonzalez can muddy receivers’ ability to release and separate due to his size. He has the agility and speed to mirror the opposition’s top receiving option. And if he is beaten, he has the speed to recover an continuously be a nuisance to offenses.
Once Gonzalez finds consistency and hones his abilities, he can become a shutdown corner that opposing teams fear. He’s a projected first-round pick in this April’s NFL Draft for good reason.
The 6-foot-1, 197-pound cornerback has the potential to become the next great Silver & Black defensive back, but based on where Las Vegas is currently slotted in the first round — No. 7 overall — is taking Gonzalez there too high? With the AFC West littered with talented passing attacks, investing the seventh pick in Gonzalez is a worthwhile investment. As would taking a pass rusher or defensive lineman that can disrupt opposing quarterbacks.
With the Raiders defense in dire need of talent infusion — and no clear-cut No. 1 cornerback — taking Gonzalez goes a long way to solving that issue. Or, perhaps, trading down to acquire addition picks and potentially snag Gonzalez lower in the first round — may be a proper investment for Las Vegas.