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Mailbag: Is Jalen Carter worth the risk?

Bulldogs dominate the questions

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Texas Christian Horned Frogs v Georgia Bulldogs
Jalen Carter
Photo by Steve Limentani/ISI Photos/Getty Images

April is around the corner and that means the Las Vegas Raiders are in the thick of things with the NFL Draft. That’s the focus for the Raiders mailbag this week as we’re less than a month away from welcoming in some new players to the Nation.

Question: Who would you rather have Nolan Smith or Calijah Kancey?

Answer: Alright, this is like the third week in a row I’ve gotten a Kancey question so I think you guys are trolling me at this point, lol...(just kidding, of course).

I’ve been a big proponent of Smith’s game even before he lit it up at the NFL Combine. On tape, what stood out to me the most about him was how strong and physical at the point of attack he is, especially seeing as he’s slightly under 240 pounds. Now that we know he’s an elite athlete which gives him more potential as a pass-rusher, I’m all aboard the Smith hype train.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 08 Auburn at Georgia
Nolan Smith
Photo by Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

As for Kancey, I know I’m in the minority but I view him as more of a second-round prospect. To me, he’s too much of an outlier to be a first-rounder, and I think people are getting too enamored with his pass-rush skills and ignoring the fact that he struggles to anchor/hold ground as a run defender. It doesn't look like he’ll be around on Day 2, just judging off the mock drafts we’ve seen lately, but if he is, I’d be more than happy if the Raiders drafted Kancey with pick 38.

Circling back to the original question, Smith and it’s not that close to me.

Q: Would the Raiders even consider trading up to 5 if Jalen Carter is still on the board? He’s exactly what the Raiders need!

Q: Would you really pass on Jalen Carter over the off-the-field issues?

A: I’m combing two questions into one here since they’re similar.

I’m assuming the reason the Carter questions are circling again is The Athletic’s Vic Tafur reported that the Raiders crossed him off their list at No. 7 after he was charged with two misdemeanors for car racing and reckless driving. It’s also important to note that Carter reached a plea deal and was sentenced to one year of probation, a $1,000 fine and 80 hours of community service.

Tafur states: “While the cases are not the same, the comparison is too close to home for the Raiders and their fans in the Las Vegas community following the 2021 arrest of former receiver Henry Ruggs.” That was something I pointed out when the news broke during the combine, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Mark Davis and/or the organization’s PR department stepped up and told Dave Ziegler and Josh McDaniels: “Let’s go in a different direction.”

Given that, I definitely don’t think the Raiders are going to be trading up for Carter. However, there are conflicting reports as the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Vincent Bonsignore said the team is doing its due diligence on Carter. So, maybe the door is cracked a little bit.

Would I pass on him if I was hypothetically calling the shots? Honestly, yes.

Yes, his tape is great. Yes, I have a very high grade on him and think he could be the next Warren Sapp. However, Carter showing up out of shape and not being able to finish his pro-day workout is a major red flag to me. Everything he did in college isn’t going to matter if he gets complacent and doesn’t continue to put the work in.

Could he explain that his priorities were with getting the legal situation resolved rather than working out in a meeting with team officials? Sure, and that’s a justifiable answer, but I’m just going off what I know and there will be plenty of other good defensive players available with the seventh overall pick like Tyree Wilson, Myles Murphy or Christian Gonzalez.

Q: Should the Raiders trade up to secure a top 3 QB? Or sit and pick the best player?

A: I’d sit back and take the best player. The Raiders need about 10 players on defense and could use an offensive lineman or two too, so I’m in favor of holding onto as many premium picks as possible. Especially since they didn’t have a pick until the third-round last year after the Davante Adams trade—which was absolutely worth it—the best roster-building strategy is to hold onto those first- and second-rounders, in my opinion. I’d look into trading back and adding another second- or third-round pick before trading up.

Q: How pissed will Marcus be if Anthony Richardson falls and we don’t take him?

A: Below is Marcus’ reply and I’d be right there with him! If Richardson somehow falls to seven, Marcus and I will put on our track shoes and run to Kansas City to put the card in for McDaniels and Ziegler.

Q: Is there a reason why the Raiders did not want to upgrade their offensive line during free agency? Only focused on getting new Offensive weapons & having a QB with an injury history? IMO, relying on Parker, Eluemunor, & Muti is Not good enough against most DLines!

A: It’s funny, I think you probably could have asked the same question last year and the answer is the same. One thing I do have to give McDaniels and Ziegler credit for is they aren’t going to overpay for free agents just because the team has a need.

For example, Las Vegas could use a right tackle but Mike McGlinchey getting $17.5 million per year from the Broncos and becoming the fifth-highest-paid right tackle in the league is a ridiculous overpay. Denver has had issues at that spot for years and that contract is exactly what the Raiders are trying to avoid. So, I think that’s where your answer lies, the market was inflated due to a lack of supply this offseason.

Granted, the hole still exists as you point out, which means finding someone in the draft is going to be even more critical.

Dalton Risner is one name to keep an eye on, though. He’s been a good guard for the Broncos and I’m surprised he’s still available. I don’t want to speculate too much, but Risner did end the season with an elbow injury so maybe there are some health concerns.

Q: How can you best explain the Raiders’ not signing any big-name defensive players in free agency?

A: This one did surprise me as I thought they would be bigger players in the defensive free-agent market, and I honestly don’t have a great answer.

My best guess is they want to get younger, which also may be part of the reason they haven’t brought Duron Harmon back, and a lot of the top free agents like Javon Hargrave, James Bradberry and Jordan Poyer are going to be in their 30s next season. Granted, there were a few younger guys that they could have gone after too like Jessie Bates III, Tremaine Edmunds and Dre’Mont Joens, but this year’s draft class is also pretty loaded with defensive talent.

So it was probably a combination of wanting to get younger and relying on the draft. Now, they’ve just got to hit on the picks...

Q: Last year it seemed that Jim Harbaugh was in line to become the coach. Then it seemed instantly he wasn’t, and talking to Minnesota instead. Then we got McDonalds leftovers unfortunately. What exactly happened there? Please tell me it’s not mostly because Davis thought he could get Brady with McDonalds leftovers?! Do you see Harbaugh ever becoming the leader of the Raiders or has that pirate ship sunk?

A: I don’t have much of an inside scoop on the Harbaugh situation from last offseason, but I do know he was in the running and The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman reported that the belief around Michigan was Harbaugh would take the job if offered. So, hate to burst your bubble, but it doesn’t sound like Mark Davis made Harbaugh an offer.

Why he didn’t get the job? That I don’t know, but it was reported that he kind of rubbed the Vikigns the wrong way by walking into the interview and acting like it was more of a formality than an official interview. Of course, that doesn’t mean he took the same approach with the Raiders, but maybe something similar happened.

I don’t really think Harbaugh is all that interested in returning to the pros, either. He signed a big contract extension in Ann Arbor after flirting with the NFL and his coaching style is better suited for the college ranks. Plus, Michigan is his home and he’s basically a god there.

That’ll do it for this week’s mailbag. Thank you all for submitting questions and, as your weekly reminder, if you’d like to have your questions answered in a future column, tweet them at me, @MHolder95, or email them to