Christian Gonzalez should be the Raiders target in the 2023 NFL Draft

2023 NFL Draft: Raiders Should Target This Cornerback at No. 7

The Raiders could find themselves on the outside looking in with this quarterback class in the 2023 NFL Draft. At No. 7 overall and following a massive trade-up from the Panthers, a small move up the board is likely necessary if Vegas wants a rookie signal-caller.

Given the current state of the roster, is it in the Raiders’ best interest to package multiple assets to secure the third or fourth-rated quarterback? My answer is no, it’s not. Rather than forcing a player at the most important position, the front office would be wise to take a best-player-available approach in this draft.

2023 NFL Draft: Raiders Should Take Best Available Player at No. 7

So, who is that at No. 7? A pass rusher is a realistic target, but with the legal issues surrounding Jalen Carter, and the likelihood of Will Anderson and Tyree Wilson going top six, it makes more sense to look to the secondary.

No safety in this draft class holds a high enough grade to look at here, although Brian Branch is an intriguing fit with his Alabama roots and versatility. Still, the most stacked position in the 2023 NFL Draft is cornerback. And the Raiders can have the pick of the litter.

Joey Porter Jr. sits atop my personal rankings, and Devon Witherspoon is a favorite among Raiders fans that I have spoken to. Both of these guys would look incredible in the Silver & Black, but there is an even better option out there.

Christian Gonzalez Should Be the Pick

Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez possesses the idyllic build for an NFL corner. He is plenty tall, quite stocky, and athletic as can be. Gonzalez proved all of this at the NFL Draft Scouting Combine, posting some impressive numbers in several workouts:
•4.38 40-Yard Dash
•1.54 10-Second Split
•41.5” Vertical Jump
•11’1” Broad Jump

In college, Gonzalez began his career with the Colorado program. He started all six games during the COVID-shortened 2020 season as a true freshman and went on to start 12 more for the Buffalo in 2021. After this two-year stint, Gonzalez announced his transfer to another Pac-12 school — the Oregon Ducks.

With the Ducks, Gonzalez found more screen time and a bigger following around the country. Talent evaluators began swooning over the new Duck cornerback, projecting a stark rise up draft boards as the 2022 season got underway. And a rise is exactly what happened.

He developed into a significantly better tackler and started to make his presence felt as a run defender. According to PFF, Gonzalez only missed three tackles all of 2022. He recorded four interceptions and took most snaps from the outside, with some box snaps and slot snaps sprinkled in.

Raiders: Current Cornerback Situation Heading into Free Agency

This type of production is something the Raiders are sorely lacking. Rock Ya-Sin is headed to free agency, leaving Nate Hobbs as the only semi-proven player in the cornerback room. Gonzalez is an immediate contributor and also brings potential that could make him one of the best in the league.

Patrick Graham loves a versatile defensive back. He looks for guys that can play zone coverage first and foremost, but having a cornerback to throw on an island is something any NFL coach covets. Gonzalez can do both things at a high level, no less.

His ball skills are among the best in the draft class, and he tends to make a big splash play when needed. Gonzalez uses his supreme athleticism to stay tied to his assignment downfield, and his jaw-dropping burst helps him react quickly when working his zone.

One area Gonzalez could be better is his wasted motions downfield. More often than not, Gonzalez flips his hips properly and does a nice job re-directing. However, over a handful of times, I saw choppy footwork that led directly to big gains by the offense.

Some NFL coaching can hammer this issue out. Gonzalez will always be susceptible to getting beaten by shiftier receivers, but his strength and instincts allow him to make a play on the ball even if he gets beat. His recovery speed is special and covers up the few shortcomings in his game.

Draft Christian Gonzalez, Solve the Long-Running CB1 Issue

Gonzalez instantly boosts the secondary if the Raiders look his way in the 2023 NFL Draft. He will take over the top of the depth chart, giving Vegas the first true, lockdown cornerback since Nnamdi Asomugha.

If available when the Raiders come to the podium, the pick should be Christian Gonzalez. Get Patrick Graham a difference-maker and a bonafide CB1.

*Top Photo: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

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