Antonio Pierce wants his Las Vegas Raiders too ooze of machismo — a group that exudes confidence and swagger. The head coach is big on team history and the old-school braggadocious attitude of the championship Silver & Black squads is what he wants to bring back.
The defensive side of Raiders ball definitely exhibited that confidence and swagger in 2023. And the group is likely going to be ahead of the curve on that when compared to the offense.
Pierce, a defensive-minded head coach, keeps a big piece of the formula in defensive coordinator Patrick Graham. Now it’s about Pierce working in unison with general manager Tom Telesco to give Graham more ingredients to cook as the defensive play caller.
One area that would do well with supplementation is cornerback. The team did well to claim Jack Jones off waivers from the New England Patriots as the aggressive and confident cornerback produced back-to-back pick sixes in Weeks 13 and 14 against two division foes in the Los Angeles Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs. Both were electrifying takeaways and Las Vegas can surely use a boost in those in 2024.
The upcoming NFL Draft boasts talented prospects that can become takeaway artists on the Raiders defense. And Las Vegas can always use more talent and depth at a cornerback position that habitually showcased thieves.
Let’s take a look:
Cooper DeJean, Iowa: The 6-foot-1, 203-pound Hawkeye was earmarked as a first-round talent long before the 2024 NFL Draft and his performance in 2023 didn’t dissipate the anticipation. With 41 total tackles, two interceptions, and five passes defended his junior year, the cornerback that’s built like a safety, now has seven picks and 13 pass deflections over the course of two seasons in Iowa. He combines physicality, instincts, ball skills, and tackling ability into a well-built body.
Nate Wiggins, Clemson: At 6-foot-2 and 175 pounds, this Tigers corner boasts prototypical size and is a read-and-react defender who makes plays on the ball. He had two interceptions (one returned for touchdown) along with six pass deflections and 29 total tackles this past season for Clemson. And his two-year total jumps to three interceptions (two pick sixes) and 19 passes defended. He will need more mass in the NFL but he has the height, length, and instincts to be a taller shadow corner.
Terrion Arnold, Alabama: The 6-foot, 180-pound corner for the Crimson Tide will quickly remind the Raiders of Jones. An attacking corner who is supremely aggressive in man coverage and a willing tackler, Arnold snared five interceptions and 12 pass deflections (63 total tackles, 6.5 for loss, and a sack) this past year for Alabama. He has the speed and foot work to be a press-man cornerback in the NFL. But his aggressiveness may lead to holding and pass interference calls in the pros.
Kool-Aid McKinstry, Alabama: Well built at 6-foot-1 and 180 pound, completing passes against this cornerback has proved tough over the last two seasons. McKinstry is stingy in coverage with 23 pass deflection over the course of the 2022-23 seasons (along with one interception) and he’s a throwback to bump-and-run man coverage. Like his teammate Arnold, McKinstry is ultra-aggressive and while that creates swagger, it can create laundry, too.
Quinyon Mitchell, Toledo: This 6-foot, 200-pound Rocket is a classic old-school Al Davis Raiders prospect. Mitchell has the size and speed to go along with gameday production as he had an electrifying 2022 (five interceptions — two pick sixes — to go along with 19 pass deflections) and a standout 2023 (one interception and 18 passes defensed) before turning heads at the Senior Bowl. Mitchell brings instant swagger and confidence to any team that drafts him.
Beanie Bishop Jr., West Virginia University: At 5-foot-10 and 184 pounds, the Mountaineer corner is more of a nickel/slot defender but he did lead the nation with 20 pass deflections this past season. Bishop also snagged four interceptions to along with 67 total tackles (54 solo), showcasing his ability to make plays on the ball and be a willing tackler. He isn’t a heralded prospect like others on the list but can be a late-round steal.
Kris Abrams-Draine, Missouri: The 5-foot-11, 179-pound Tiger is opportunistic and has the ball skills of a wide receiver. Abrams-Draine intercepted four passes this past year for Missouri and deflected 13 passes. He also had 14 passes defensed the previous year. While he does show excellent burst, he has given up big plays in his collegiate career and doesn’t exhibit sound recovery speed.
Mike Sainristil, Michigan: A 5-foot-10 and 185-pound defender who can bounce from boundary/perimeter to nickel/slot corner, this Wolverine snagged six interceptions (two returned for touchdowns) this past season. Sainristil made the conversion from wideout to defensive back and it paid off for Michigan as he has a smooth backpedal and change of direction. His tackling, however, can be suspect.