The Las Vegas Raiders head into April’s NFL draft still needing to address some holes in their defense as they retool Gus Bradley’s unit.
With NFL free agency fully underway, the Raiders made a huge splash on the first day right out of the gate. They decided to do something about their pass rush, or lack thereof, by signing edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue. He’s certainly an upgrade over anything the Raiders have had in recent seasons. While Maxx Crosby and Clelin Ferrell still have promise, Las Vegas needed a proven commodity to jump-start their 2021 campaign.
As far as this most recent mock scenario, the defensive line’s interior still needs help. Defensive tackle Maliek Collins is gone but Johnathan Hankins is back to help stop the run. While moving the ‘Cle Missile’ to the inside is a possibility, the team opts to address their hole at defensive tackle early. In addition, the team still needs another safety assuming they don’t splurge on a free agent.
The first two picks for the Raiders are…
1st Round: Levi Onwuzurike, DL, Washington
Christian Barmore was an option here at number 17 but he’s seen his stock drop recently. There are concerns about his inability to create separation, so Las Vegas opts for Washington’s Levi Onwuzurike, who could be a reach considering that many see him falling to the second round.
It has become the Raiders’ trademark to overreach on prospects as we’ve seen these past two drafts. This isn’t a knock on Onwuzurike though. The six-foot-three, 288-pound lineman would be an interesting addition. He accumulated 16 tackles for a loss, seven sacks, and 47 solo tackles from 2017-2019, opting not to play last year.
Drae Harris of The Draft Network is high on his run defense and believes his technique allows him to maintain gap control. Ideally, he’ll be a starting interior lineman which should bode well if Ferrell’s moved inside. A duo of ‘Cle’ and Onwuzurike could be something worth watching.
2nd Round: Richie Grant, S, UCF
The Silver and Black passed on signing any big-name safeties this past offseason. To be fair though, most of them were franchised tagged, which left the Raiders with limited options. The organization decided that overpaying for a veteran safety might not be wise, picking up Richie Grant in the second round made too much sense in this scenario. Pro Football Focus graded Grant 79.4 overall, which is solid considering his collegiate numbers. He accumulated 17 passes defensed, ten interceptions, and five forced fumbles from 2017-2020.
PFF also graded Grant’s run defense at an impressive 90.0 along with a coverage grade of 71.5 for 2020. Furthermore, Grant totaled 341 snaps last year as PFF’s breakdown of those snaps shows versatility for the six-foot-tall defensive back. He played 237 snaps in the box, 144 in the slot, and 226 as a free safety. Landing a starting safety and interior lineman in the first two rounds would be an excellent way to start for the Raiders this coming draft.
Thoughts Raider Nation? How would you feel about Grant and Onwuzurike in the first two rounds?
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*Top Photo: Courtesy UCFKnights.com