It’s officially mock draft season for the Las Vegas Raiders and Raider Nation alike. With the core of a new regime in place, all focus should be placed on free agency and the upcoming draft in April. The Raiders have some glaring holes to fill, and the draft is one of the best ways to fill those holes with a long-term answer.
The 2021 season for the Raiders is being viewed by many as a relative success. Given all that transpired throughout the year, it’s incredible this team managed to win four straight games to close out the year. In total, they had 10 wins to make the playoffs and hold their own against the eventual Super Bowl representative, the Cincinnati Bengals. While making the playoffs for the second time in 20 years is a good thing, it’s clear that the team isn’t satisfied with “good enough.”
At the season’s conclusion, the Raiders had a laundry list of things to get done to be ready for the 2022 season. Some things have been crossed out and taken care of. With new general manager Dave Ziegler and head coach Josh McDaniels in place, it would seem most of the focus is on the upcoming draft. The Raiders have a few holes and needs that should and can be addressed come April. Here are three players that can have an immediate impact on Las Vegas in 2022.
Raiders’ Round 1, Pick 22: Wide Receiver, Treylon Burks, Arkansas
Davante Adams should draw a lot of interest from the Raiders in the offseason. Adams would be the perfect addition to the offense and a big get. However, it’s possible the former college teammate of Derek Carr might be just a pipe dream. The offensive line was a glaring issue all year for the Raiders, and the lack of talent at wideout was a major issue as well, especially in the red zone. Treylon Burks could fix both of those issues instantaneously.
Standing at six-foot-three and weighing in at 225 pounds, Burks is quite the physical specimen. Based on size alone, he’d profile as a linebacker more than a wide receiver. However, Burks’ size does very little to hinder his mobility and athleticism. Having a guy that can run and move like that would be a huge boost to the new offense McDaniels is sure to employ. He also has the best receiving grade in the red zone in 2021, according to Pro Football Focus.
With all that being said, no prospect is perfect. The Arkansas native didn’t show a deep route tree while in college. While that could be due to the simplistic scheme Arkansas ran, it’s fair to wonder if Burks has that in his arsenal. Also, there are some instances of drops occurring. This is strange, especially when you take into account that Burks wears a 5X glove size. These concerns are minimal and could be correctable. All in all, Burks would be a huge boost to a receiver room desperate for talent.
Raiders’ Round 2, Pick 53: Offensive Tackle, Daniel Faalele, Minnesota
Six-foot-nine, 387 pounds. Those are the measurements Daniel Faalele boasts. That is nothing short of a mountain of a man, even for a game of full-grown men like football. The Raiders desperately need to upgrade the talent along the offensive line. This is where the Minnesota product can help.
All year long, it was apparent the offensive line was not up to snuff. Especially against some of the league’s better rushing units. Faalele would step in and be an instant upgrade over current options at right tackle, including last year’s first round pick in Alex Leatherwood. While the size is enough to gawk at, Faalele is a solid all-around guard in both pass protection and especially in the run game.
However, as previously mentioned, no prospect is perfect. While his size alone wins Faalele most battles, he struggles with smaller, shiftier pass rushers. He’ll have to work on his balance issues when attacking his man.
On the bright side, despite the size, he’s relatively agile in lateral movement. Furthermore, he possesses size, which is something that can’t be coached.
Raiders’ Round 3, Pick 86: Safety, Verone McKinley III, Oregon
This pick might be a perfect opportunity for the Raiders to trade back. It all depends on how draft night plays out. If the Raiders don’t move out of 86 here, they could be inclined to grab a safety. Johnathan Abram’s future with the team could be up in the air. That is truer due to a new defensive coordinator coming to town. He values players that are smart but also adaptable in any situation.
Abram is definitely a liability when it comes to coverage situations. You know, a safety’s primary job. However, I digress. While McKinley might be viewed as a target to be a free safety in the NFL, he is no slouch in the ability to bring down the ball carrier. The Oregon product managed to rack up 78 tackles, 44 solo and one for loss.
McKinley is also a natural ball hawk. He racked up six interceptions and six pass deflections. However, the Texas native stands at only five-foot-11, weighing 194 pounds. This could lead to him being viewed as undersized and could lead to him struggling to cover bigger receivers or tight ends. He’s also not going to be the fastest guy in the backfield. However, he’s smart enough to realize his weakness and doesn’t allow those to beat him often. McKinley would be a nice addition if the new regime does decide to move on from Abram.
Las Vegas should look to retool not rebuild
These three players would add some talent in areas that are lacking for the Raiders. Needs could very well change between now and April 28th, especially as free agency progresses. If big-time talent, a la that of Adams, is added, it could shake up the draft process entirely for the Raiders. Trades also play a factor. In other words, there’s a lot of dust that needs to settle.
The Raiders finished the season with a respectable 10-7, despite all the turmoil that occurred throughout the season. It made many fans wonder whether or not they could have made a deeper run if they were at full strength. Despite all this, you’d imagine this new staff would look to simply fill in some holes rather than tear it all down. However, only time will tell.
*Top Photo: Wesley Hitt/Getty Images