The first round of the NFL Draft is steadily approaching and the Las Vegas Raiders have been linked to a handful of prospects. Texas Tech’s Tyree Wilson, Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez, Illinois’ Devon Witherspoon, Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud and Peter Skoronski from Northwestern are probably the five most common names tied to the No. 7 overall pick.
Obviously, the Raiders won’t be able to draft all five and it’s highly unlikely that they will all be available for their taking on night one. So, if Las Vegas misses out on any of the players above, what guys will be around later in the draft who have a similar skill set?
Zach Harrison, DL, Ohio State
A big part of what makes Wilson such a special prospect is his unique size, measuring in at 6’5 5/8” and 271 pounds with 35 3/8” arms. Zach Harrison is only an eighth of an inch shorter, three pounds heavier and—here’s the kicker—his arms are nearly an inch longer at 36 1/4”.
Like the former Red Raider, the former Buckeye is physical and strong at the point of attack to be an effective run defender and win with power as a pass-rusher. Both can also play multiple spots on the defensive line. They even have similar weaknesses with questionable athleticism and bend.
Now, Wilson is more explosive and that’s why he’s the more highly-touted prospect, but Harrison is currently projected to be a third-round pick, per NFL Mock Draft Database. So, he’d be an excellent value selection for the Raiders if they’re looking for a versatile defensive end.
Below is an excerpt from Harrison’s scouting report via Bleacher Report (full report):
There aren’t many flaws to Zach Harrison’s game. He’s as strong as a bull, can easily lock out offensive tackles against the run and has plenty of ways to win around the edge as a pass-rusher. He also has good technique across the board, but he does leave a little something to be desired.
The word “solid” kept coming up for me when watching Harrison’s tape. He’s a player you can win with, but he probably won’t be a guy you win because of. In other words, he’ll make some plays against average to below-average competition, but expecting him to be a perpetual Pro Bowler would be a lofty goal.
Julius Brents, CB, Kansas State
Part of the reason the draft community is drooling over Gonzalez is he’s a tall and long corner who can run, standing at 6’1 3/8” with 32” arms and a 4.38-second 40-yard dash time. Julius Brents was 0.15 seconds slower in the 40, but matched Ganzalez’s 20-yard split and beat him in the 10-yard split while measuring in nearly an inch and a half taller with arms that are two inches longer.
As seen by the comparison of RAS scores above, the Kansas State product is just as athletic as the Oregon product. Brents has good ball skills too, picking up three pass breakups and four interceptions last season to Gonzalez’s six and four, respectively. The latter is more refined with his technique in press coverage, but the former is a second-round projection, per NMDD, who could develop into a quality starter with the Silver and Black.
Below is an excerpt from Brents’ scouting report via B/R (full report):
The Kansas State product has played from multiple alignments but mostly chooses to play from press. While there, he does a good job of using his hands to reroute receivers at the line of scrimmage but occasionally gets beat because of his lack of foot movement to stay in position.
He uses his hands very well to control receivers as they work downfield. With his height, he struggles to keep his pad level low when transitioning. Brents shows understanding of routes and where he should be in zone coverage but can struggle getting out of breaks at times.
Cam Smith, CB, South Carolina
Witherspoon is the other cornerback who has been tied to the Raiders with the seventh overall pick, and he’s on the smaller side at 5’11 1/2”, 181 pounds and 31 1/4” arms. Smith has a similar physical profile at 6’0 3/4”, 180 pounds and 31 5/8” arms. Both players also ran nearly identical 40 times with the former clocking in at 4.45 seconds and 4.43 for the latter.
Like Witherspoon, Smith also shows some impressive instincts to make plays on the ball in the air. However, the Illinois product did have significantly more PBUs and interceptions this season with 17 combined compared to the South Carolina product’s seven. That is part of the reason why the Gamecock is projected to be a second-round pick, according to NMDD, and not at the top of draft boards.
Below is an excerpt from Smith’s scouting report via B/R (full report):
Cam Smith is a long-armed athlete with a lean frame, with the ability to add more weight. He’s a lockdown defender who can play in a zone scheme but excels in man coverage. Within the schemes, Smith has shown himself to play from both press and off alignment. Although he has played a majority of his snaps from the open shuffle technique, he has demonstrated a smooth pedal, quick transitions and fluid hips to open and run.
A long strider, Smith has the speed to run with most receivers, although he can fall a step or two behind some of the more electric players he has matched up against. He has good short-area quickness but can give up some ground out of his breaks due to slower transitions. When out of his breaks, Smith has displayed a very good burst and closing speed with the ball in the air. He has instincts to locate and attack the ball while also showing great timing to break up passes. Though he has aligned in the slot at times, he is best when out wide.
Tanner McKee, QB, Stanford
The Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Vincent Bonsignore recently said that he thinks Stroud is one of two quarterbacks that the Raiders are considering with the seventh overall pick, however, there’s a question of if Stroud will still be on the board.
The former Buckeye is an accurate passer who has good but not great arm strength, and the same statement can be said about Tanner McKee. Both also have NFL quarterback size—6’3” and 214 pounds for Stroud, 6’6 1/4” and 231 pounds for McKee—and are good at working through their reads.
One negative trait that they share is creating plays out of structure, but Stroud is a better athlete and proved he’s capable of adding that to his game during the College Football Playoffs, whereas McKee hasn’t. That’s why the latter has a fourth-round projection, per NMDD.
Below is an excerpt from McKee’s scouting report via B/R (full report):
He has a lot of translatable skills as an NFL passer. First, he has the requisite arm talent, as he throws with good velocity, especially outside the numbers, and has the juice to push the ball downfield regularly.
The 22-year-old also has no fear in using that arm strength, regularly showing the willingness to rifle throws into tight windows or give his guys chances in one-on-one scenarios. Furthermore, McKee maximizes his arm talent through comprehending how to throw receivers open. He has a good understanding of how zone windows shift and how to throw away from defender leverage, which helps him complete some high-difficulty attempts.
Cody Mauch, OL, North Dakota State
Skoronski heading to Las Vegas picked up steam earlier this week with Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer reporting that Josh McDaniels and Dave Ziegler will likely play it safe in the first round, and Breer named the Northwestern offensive lineman as one of two safe picks. That makes sense as he’s projected to be a versatile blocker who can lineup at guard or tackle.
If McDaniels and Ziegler opt to go with someone like Witherspoon—the other player Breer mentioned—in round one, then Cody Mauch from North Dakota State would be a good option in the second or third rounds.
Mauch also has some position versatility as he originally was a tight end at NDSU and took reps as a guard and center at the Senior Bowl. His measurables are also comparable to Skoronski’s, as seen by their RAS comparison below.
Below is an excerpt from Mauch’s scouting report via B/R (full report):
Mauch has good upper-body strength with heavy hands and an aggressive, attacking mentality that he uses to consistently jolt and displace defenders on down, double-team and kick-out blocks. He has a strong inside hand and rotational strength to torque and uproot defenders off of their spots with the grip strength to maintain his latch and control through contact and shed attempts.
He has good athletic ability, burst and quickness to effectively track down smaller targets as a puller, lead blocker and on second-level climbs with the power to create knockdowns in space.