The 2023 NFL Draft is fast approaching and the Top 30 visits news is flying left and right. As teams do their due diligence and really dig into prospects, let’s explore explosive collegiate talent for the Las Vegas Raiders.
What’s the Silver & Black definition of “explosive”?
“Yeah, that’s — when I say explosive on defense, I mean, you either got to touch the quarterback or touch the ball. And so, we’re looking for guys that can do those things, you know?,” Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels said at the NFL Combine. “And so, to be able to get after the quarterback, to be able to, you know, affect the passing game in that way or to be able to get the ball out, whether that’s creating fumbles, touching the ball, deflections, interceptions, you know, certainly, I think we’d all agree that our defense, you know, could improve in those areas. You know, we have some players that did some of those things. We need more of them.”
“The more explosive we can get the better we’re going to be,” McDaniels added.
The type of players the Raiders seek are littered across the collegiate landscape and isn’t relegated to the early rounds, either. Day 1 (first round) and Day 2 (second and third rounds) tend to draw the most attention, but there are potential gems in the latter stanzas, too.
So let’s take a look. (First and foremost, the prospects below are based on draft projections and can always go higher or lower than said prognostications — as prior drafts have shown us).
Tyree Wilson, Edge, Texas Tech. A chiseled 6-6, 271-pound senior, Wilson’s explosion, wing span, and brute-strength are mouth-watering foundational traits. He has game-wrecking ability that if honed and becomes consistent, will make Wilson an equal-opportunist terrorizer that drops the quarterback and ruins a run game.
Devon Witherspoon, cornerback, Illinois. Supreme alpha mentality that is a true enforcer as a tackler and ascending shadow corner, the 5-11, 181-pound Witherspoon is a tone-setter. A stingy 34.9 percent completion rate as a senior is just the surface. He gets his hands on the ball with 17 pass deflections and three interceptions.
Other prospects: Anthony Richardson (quarterback, Florida); Jalen Carter (defensive tackle, Georgia); Christian Gonzalez (cornerback, Oregon).
Darnell Washington, tight end, Georgia. The prototype inline prospect, the 6-7, 264-pound Washington is essentially a sixth offensive lineman who just so happens to be able to run routes and catch the ball. He’s an explosive blocker and ascending pass catcher that can be a unique pro tight end.
Darnell Wright, offensive tackle, Tennessee. A mammoth 6-5, 333-pound force, Wright is a mean, pure power drive blocker that immediately becomes the Raiders nastiest lineman. His functional strength stands out as he over powers defenders and he’s a plug-and-play right tackle.
Adetomiwa Adebawore, defensive tackle, Northwestern. Running a 4.49 40-yard dash at 6-2, 282 pounds, Adebawore is a freakish athlete. He’s got long arms to be a headache to block and he generates explosive power to styme the run and get after the quarterback.
Tuli Tuipulotu, Edge, USC. The Tongan bulldozer is another powerhouse at 6-3 and 266 pounds. His Terminator-esque relentlessness combined with his high football IQ has this rusher always finding the football — as evidenced by his 13.5 sacks this past season.
Yasir Abdullah, linebacker, Louisville. He may be considered small at 6-1, 237 pounds, but this kid has a strong pass rush toolkit with the ability to drop into coverage. With his 4.47 speed, he racked up 19.5 sacks and two interceptions the last two seasons.
Owen Pappoe, linebacker, Auburn. Another speed demon of a linebacker who clocked in at 4.39, Pappoe is raw but has tantalizing strength and explosive movement skills. While it may take him time to set up in a pro defense, he’s a ready-made special teamer.
Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson, cornerback, TCU. With 41 career pass deflections and five interceptions, this diminutive cornerback (5-8, 178 pounds) shows up big on film. He gets his hands on the ball, is aggressive in coverage, and has alpha mentality.
Riley Moss, cornerback, Iowa. A fiery corner with good size (6-1, 193 pounds) and speed (4.45), Moss is another nuisance cover man with 37 career pass deflections and 11 interceptions. He’s instinctive and good tackler (which makes some think he’s a safety).
Derius Davis, wide receiver, TCU. Although super sleight of frame at 5-8 and 165 pounds, Davis would provide instant electricity to the Raiders return game. His 4.36 speed was on full display as a return specialist with five career punt return touchdowns.
Jake Witt, offensive tackle, Northern Michigan. A classic project pick whose elevator is on the ground floor, the 6-7, 301-pound Witt has off-the-chart athleticism. The Raiders could stash and develop him into a starter as he not only moves well, but generates outstanding power.
Karl Brooks, defensive tackle, Bowling Green. The 6-3, 296-pound small school product but up big numbers. Displaying urgency and power, he’s a bull rusher with light feet that can find his way to the ball. Racking up 17.5 sacks the last two season, Brooks can play all along the line.
Malik Cunningham, quarterback, Louisville. A developmental prospect at 6-feet, 192 pounds, Cunningham is a dangerous runner who can stack explosive plays on top of another. He’ll need refinement as a passer but is a project that Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels is keen to have.