Wherever former Las Vegas Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther is, he must be jealous of the Silver and Black’s defensive additions in the 2021 NFL Draft. It’s true that they selected offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood 17th overall. However, they invested the following five picks on defensive players, including safety Tyree Gillespie and cornerback Nate Hobbs on Day 3 of the player selection meeting.
The Raiders drafted Gillespie 143rd overall in the fourth round. In the fifth, they took Hobbs with the 167th overall pick. New defensive coordinator Gus Bradley will have enough secondary talent to work with and neither player will have to start right off the gate. In fact, the coaching staff may be able to grant them time to adjust to the NFL.
Who are the Raiders’ new defensive backs?
A three-star prospect out of high school, Gillespie committed to Missouri over Iowa State and Louisville. Over his four-year collegiate career, he appeared in 34 games for the Tigers. Moreover, he logged 146 total tackles, six tackles for loss, and 12 passes defensed. The Florida native has outstanding range and is an asset in run support. Although he needs to work on his coverage awareness, he could develop into a solid starter down the road. Keep in mind he went face-to-face with Florida tight end Kyle Pitts and allowed just one catch for eight yards
. Las Vegas’ back end will surely benefit from that kind of coverage prowess.
On the other hand, there’s Hobbs. A three-star prospect out of high school, he committed to Illinois after decommiting from Western Kentucky. He played 38 games for the Fighting Illini and amassed 166 total tackles and two forced fumbles. Also, he registered 18 passes defended and three interceptions. Although he needs to play more disciplined, he has superb athleticism and could compete for playing time right out of the gate. Also, there’s the fact general manager Mike Mayock believes he can line up in the slot or out wide
How does the duo fit the team?
It’s unlikely that either Hobbs or Gillespie will compete for starting jobs. However, they could compete for playing time depending on how they fare in training camp. Other than Trayvon Mullen, the Raiders don’t have an established cornerback. Last year, they drafted Damon Arnette 20th overall. Nevertheless, Hobbs could earn snaps if the 2020 first-round pick struggles once again. Gillespie is in a similar situation. Second-round pick Trevon Moehrig could be an impact starter but Johnathan Abram was very inconsistent last year. If the Mississippi State product doesn’t improve, Gillespie could see the starting lineup in 2021.
While the Raiders surprised a few with the selection of Leatherwood, they had a solid draft haul in retrospect. Most of their position groups look in better shape than they did before the draft, including the secondary.