The Las Vegas Raiders posted the third-worst coverage grade via Pro Football Focus in 2022. One way to correct this is by adding some capable players in the secondary this off-season. Step one: draft USC cornerback Mekhi Blackmon. Vegas can get a closer look at the former Trojan at the 2023 Scouting Combine.
Mekhi Blackmon 2023 NFL Draft Profile
Blackmon grew up in California and spent all his free time playing sports. He is the oldest sibling in a big family, and his cousin, KeeSean Johnson, became the leading receiver in Fresno State history en route to a sixth-round selection in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Furthermore, via the Colorado page, Blackmon is from the same hometown as current Raiders’ star Davante Adams. The two played in the same AAU basketball program, but never shared the court as their ages didn’t match up.
Blackmon failed to garner interest on the recruiting trail, even with his impressive numbers as a two-way player. His senior year, Blackmon averaged an absurd 27 yards per reception as a receiver and hauled in six interceptions at cornerback.
Still, Blackmon wound up at the JUCO level with the College of San Mateo. He instantly looked like a different caliber player from his peers. Blackmon helped lead the school to its best season in nearly a century, using this success to earn an opportunity with the Colorado Buffalo program.
Following his transfer to Colorado, Blackmon started five games in 2018 and 2019. He was a difference-maker, but a clogged depth chart and injury in 2019 stifled any momentum he attempted to build.
Thankfully, the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign saw Blackmon play his best ball yet. He started all six games and ranked second on the team in defensive snaps, finally dispelling some durability concerns. The star cornerback suffered a minor setback by missing three games in 2021, but Blackmon made a statement in the nine games he saw action.
Following his senior year and using the extra COVID eligibility, Blackmon entered the transfer portal and became a hot commodity. He chose to stay in the Pac-12, trading in the black and gold for the legendary USC Trojan jersey.
Blackmon starred for the USC defense, quickly earning his starting gig and stepping up in key moments of the season when his squad needed it most. He set a career-high in interceptions (3) and graded as the third-best cornerback in coverage (91.1).
Mekhi Blackmon Heads to NFL Draft Scouting Combine
Mekhi Blackmon is on his way to the 2023 Scouting Combine to make a name for himself in the NFL Draft world. He lacks an ideal frame, and this will be a talking point when assessing Blackmon as a pro.
He measured 5-foot-10 3/4 inches at the Senior Bowl and weighed 182 pounds, making him an inch shorter than expected and nearly ten pounds heavier. While these numbers are not elite, they are more than serviceable when you factor in his talent.
Blackmon’s ability to stick to his assignment like glue is as good as any in the 2023 NFL Draft. He is a fluid mover, easily flipping his hips and changing directions to mirror the receiver. Blackmon boasts a high football IQ and uses it to impact the game as a zone defender.
Blackmon only allowed one touchdown in 2022 and improved his tackling grade substantially, ranking third-best in the country via PFF (89.7). Simply put, this guy is a football player.
Blackmon showcased his coverage chops and elite ball skills at the Senior Bowl. During one-on-one drills, the USC cornerback displayed impeccable recovery speed, flawless footwork, and tenacity when working downfield. Hopefully Blackmon can impress at the Scouting Combine, too.
Potential Fit with the Raiders
Mekhi Blackmon is a perfect prospect to start the overhaul in the secondary for Vegas. Sure, he may lack the ideal size of a boundary cornerback, but Patrick Graham is willing to look past that if the player is smart and zone-capable â€” which Blackmon is.
He is at his best in man coverage, but backed by his top-tier tackling grade, Blackmon projects as a willing tackler in the run game. His work ethic has received rave reviews at every stop; the Raiders would be getting a tone-setter at the position.
Durability is the one true concern for Blackmon. His 784 snaps in 2022 should quell the flames a bit, but given his size, this red flag will stick until Blackmon proves his longevity in the NFL. His medicals at the Scouting Combine are crucial.
The Raiders need all the help they can get in coverage and tackling. Blackmon would be the best man-coverage defender on the roster immediately and possesses high-end potential as a zone defender, too. The USC star is a prime target on day two.
*Top Photo: Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG