It’s no secret that the Las Vegas Raiders are looking to add a cornerback in the upcoming NFL Draft. The Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Vincent Bonsignore wrote an article last week about how the secondary is going to be a priority for the Raiders in the draft. Also, they’ve been linked to top corners Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez and Illinois’ Devon Witherspoon in several mock drafts throughout the offseason.
However, Las Vegas is not alone in needing a defensive back or two, and with the seventh pick overall, there are a few teams to keep an eye on who might end up taking the guy the Silver and Black want.
The Matthew Stafford trade has been fruitful for the Lions as they’re drafting one spot ahead of the Raiders in the first round, and both teams have a couple of similar needs, including at cornerback.
About two weeks ago, Detroit traded former first-round pick Jeff Okudah to the Atlanta Falcons for a fifth-rounder in return, creating a bigger need for a corner in the Motor City. The timing of that transaction has led many to believe that the Lions are comfortable using the sixth-overall selection on a cornerback, despite adding a couple of veterans in free agency.
Cameron Sutton and Emmanuel Moseley did sign with Detroit last month and both are currently projected to be the team’s starters. However, they could use some depth at the position, especially since Moseley only signed a one-year deal and he has missed 19 games over the last two seasons.
The former San Francisco 49er battled injuries in 2021 and 2022, spending two stints on injured reserve one of which was after suffering a torn ACL during Week 5 a year ago. Given Moseley’s injury history and short contract, picking up a top cornerback in this year’s draft will likely still be a priority for the Lions.
The rumors that the Carolina Panthers are going to take Alabama quarterback Byrce Young first overall and that the Houston Texans only have eyes for Young under center have really thrown draft projections for a loop. If Young does head to Carolina, then the assumption is Houston will draft the best defensive player available, likely Young’s teammate; Will Anderson Jr.
In that scenario, drafting a cornerback is in play for the Arizona Cardinals.
The Cardinals need help on all three levels of their defense, but especially at cornerback. After Byron Murphy signed with the Minnesota Vikings in free agency, Arizona’s starting corners are projected to be Marco Wilson and Antonio Hamilton.
Wilson was a fourth-round pick in 2021 and showed improvement this past season, but he has allowed 12 touchdowns and a 66.7 completion percentage during his first two years in the league. That has resulted in back-to-back years of sup-par grades from Pro Football Focus; 48.6 and 55.3, respectively.
As for Hamilton, he’s primarily been a backup during his six-year career—including two seasons with the Silver and Black in 2016 and 2017—and has never participated in more than 420 defensive snaps in a season.
In other words, the Cardinals are missing a cornerback with a good track record as a starter and could use one to develop over the next few years.
Even if Arizona trades out of the third pick, that could impact Las Vegas’s ability to get “their guy” at corner. For one, the Red Birds might only move back one spot by striking a deal with the Indianapolis Colts. Also, they could send No. 3 overall to a team like the Falcons or Chicago Bears, who could use a cornerback and might want to leap-frog the Raiders.
Beyond the first round, the Cardinals hold the 34th pick of the draft, and in a situation where they and the Raiders both go in a different direction on night one, Arizona will be in the driver’s seat once again on Friday evening.
Tariq Woolen had an excellent rookie season, finishing in third place for Defensive Rookie of the Year after being a fifth-round pick. Woolen has the makings of being Seattle’s top cornerback for years to come, however, they do need another starter on the other side of him.
After being the Dallas Cowboys’ fifth-round selection in 2019, last year was the first time Mike Jackson saw the field much as he had logged just 30 career snaps in the previous seasons combined. Jackson was the Seahawks’ other starting corner and performed admirably with 625 yards and three touchdowns surrendered for a 58.4 PFF grade.
However, Seattle would be wise to look for an upgrade over the veteran, especially since he’s on a one-year deal after the team gave him a qualifying offer as an exclusive rights free agent last month.
The Seahawks also have two first-round picks so they could opt to take a cornerback early and address a more pressing need with the 20th overall selection. That puts Gonzalez in play, who fits Seattle’s profile as a tall corner who can run, like Woolen. Also, it doesn’t hurt that the Oregon product is in the team’s backyard up in the Pacific Northwest.
Long story short, it’s not completely unfathomable that the Raiders miss out on both Gonzalez and Witherspoon as they could easily be the fifth and sixth players off the board on Thursday night.