The Las Vegas Raiders are about midseason now and sitting at 5-2. Nevertheless, mock season is upon us, and Pro Football Focus has the team going in an interesting direction.
One of the biggest headlines of the 2021 season has been the defensive turnaround for the Silver and Black. Led by Gus Bradley, the unit has turned things around with a formidable pass rush and improvements in the backfield, most notably Johnathan Abram’s play. The linebacker group seems to be flying under the radar due to Maxx Crosby and Yannick Ngakoue’s play; however, they are doing their job. Be that as it may, PFF has the Raiders selecting Georgia’s Nakobe Dean in the first round. Not an offensive lineman but a linebacker; rather interesting.
LB or OL?
Denzel Perryman and Cory Littleton have been the heart of the linebacking corps after the team suffered injuries during the offseason. As our own Phil RobinsonÂ alluded to this weekend, the unit has been the weak point but only by default, not because of a lack of effort.
‘The linebackers are without a doubt, a tremendous improvement over the 2020 season. Perryman leads the league in tackles, and Littleton is eighth. They are in the unenviable position of being the weak point of the defense. In terms of the passing game, playing zone leaves them with an incredible amount of field to cover. While the completion percentage may be high, they are usually short passes, hence the high quarterback rankings against them.’
While the offensive line had been coming together before the bye week, the unit still needs help long-term. Their run-blocking is still a weakness that needs to be addressed. Also, if Alex Leatherwood is to be used inside moving forward, the team might still need to draft a right tackle. Is everyone banking on Brandon Parker becoming a Pro Bowl tackle?
If the offensive line is the bigger concern (as it should be), maybe picking up Northern Iowa’s Trevor Penning to improve the run game would be a better choice. PFF’s justification for the Raiders selecting Dean is his coverage prowess, which is what Bradley has his linebackers focused on.
‘If Dean keeps playing like this, he won’t last long in the 2021 NFL Draft. He’s earned a 91.2 overall grade this season and been outstanding in coverage. He has allowed 11 catches on 20 targets for 49 yards all season to go along with two picks and a pass breakup.’
The problem with this scenario is we still don’t know what the Raiders’ front office and coaching staff will look like after this season. There are many question marks, and more importantly, the second half of the season remains to be played. What are your thoughts, Raider Nation? Linebacker or offensive line in the first round?
*Top Photo: Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images