While the world believes the Las Vegas Raiders are a sure-thing to draft a wide receiver like CeeDee Lamb or Jerry Jeudy at No. 12, we take a look at how Las Vegas can continue their defensive makeover by taking a CB at No. 19.
As the Las Vegas Raiders rebuild enters year three under coach Jon Gruden, general manager Mike Mayock gets his second crack at the NFL Draft after proving his ability to judge talent after a successful 2019 go around. While most agree the Raiders will be hard-pressed to pass on one of this year’s top wide receivers at pick No. 12, could the team continue their offseason makeover on defense by taking a cornerback at No. 19?
While it’s true Gruden and Mayock have done a lot of work to improve the defense during free agency by inking players like Cory Littleton, Nick Kwiatkoski, Maliek Collins, and Eli Apple, the greatest needs remaining are on Paul Guenther’s defense. Short of a true No. 1 wideout, the Raiders offense is stocked at almost every position and perhaps just needs some infill depth at a few positions.
The defense though needs more love. While there is still a need at safety, the Raiders need help and depth at the cover corner position urgently. Fortunately, although wide receivers are stealing the headlines when it comes to depth in the 2020 draft, it’s also a good year for defensive backs.
Here are three cornerbacks that would fit the Raiders needs and fit nicely into Guenther’s defensive scheme. Any of the three would be a good pick but we’re focusing on what we think is the best fit. Note: we’re backing out Jeff Okudah who – barring a miracle – will already be gone.
Kristian Fulton, LSU
Although Fulton played just one full season out of his three at LSU, his talent and ability make you forget that very quickly. Yes, he did get suspended for the entire 2017 season for tampering with a drug test, but he made the most of his only full season by helping the Tigers win the National Championship in convincing fashion.
In his paltry 24 games as a Division I player, Fulton notched 56 total tackles, two interceptions, two sacks, and 20 passes defended and was a second team Associated Press All-SEC honors selection in 2019.
“Fulton has good size for a press-man corner,” our own draft expert Kelly Kriner said of Fulton. “He has elite ball skills especially with his back to the football. He’s also not scared to make a tackle when the ball is in his area and he’d be a great selection at No. 19. I’d have no qualms about taking him there.”
Although he didn’t blow up the charts or tests at the NFL Combine, watching tape of the 6-foot, 197-pound player convinces you he has “it.” You see how good he is in press coverage and successfully defended some of the best receivers in the country. He limited separation with his physical prowess. His top-notch footwork and ability to turn his hips allowed him to keep up with the all-star team that is almost every receiving corps in the SEC.
Perhaps most impressive in watching game film of Fulton is his downright knack to stick with the receiver with the ball in the air and then turn his head and swat away passes. The fluidity of his game is fun to watch and convinces us he’s worth the pick even at No. 19
While some other names tend to top others list, we think Fulton will be there and could be exactly the type of CB Las Vegas needs in a division with Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs.
CJ Henderson, Florida
Henderson is the leader amongst Raiders fans and some observers who peg Las Vegas with selecting a cornerback with their second first-round pick. It’s easy to see why as he’s a fan and media favorite.
Henderson was an NFL Combine poster boy running a 4.39 40 yard dash, performing a 37.5 vertical jump, and a 10’7″ broad jump – just to name a few. His athleticism is never in question and his play as a Gator has earned him most of the accolades that come along with being the consensus second-best CB in this year’s draft.
Like Fulton, Henderson also excels in press coverage and has lightning-fast quickness to mirror over top of releases in press. He also showed an amazing ability to sit on routes and play even the best SEC receivers effectively downfield at full sprint.
In addition to his highly honed skills in press coverage, he’s also equally as talented in zone coverage, although he sometimes gets a bit greedy leading to too many easy receptions.
And while you’ll be impressed watching film of his footwork, its Henderson’s hips and rotation that are his best quality. He’s so fluid, watching game tape in slow motion is a bit addicting. You see how he uses his flexibility to play tough, sharp angles with ease.
Henderson would also be a great fit for the Raiders defense but there is some question if he’ll make it past the Atlanta Falcons at 16 who are in dire need of help at CB too.
Trevon Diggs, Alabama
Yes, the SEC is full of ungodly talent at every position including cornerback. Diggs is another one of the conference’s big, strong, and quick defenders who is a complete package. For teams – like the Raiders – looking for physicality, length, and strength, Diggs checks every box.
The younger brother of Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs, he’s an intimidating figure at the line of scrimmage. Watching Diggs over and over again, his ability to track and attack the ball is remarkable. In press coverage, he’s immediately physical with his hands to disrupt the route of his assigned receiver.
In the zone, he doesn’t lose effectiveness. As a former wide receiver himself, he’s comfortable in and can stay with deep threats on the offensive side all the way down the field.
While his swagger and physical nature make him one of the game’s best, it’s also his biggest weakness and can lead to penalties and a loss of control. At the pro level, he’s going to have to play with better control but the upside is so good, he’s hard to pass up.
Whether the Raiders keep their No. 19 pick or not, the ability for Mayock and Gruden to acquire more talent on defense will present itself. Even if they don’t go defensive back in the first round, there are several young cornerbacks available in 2020 to also choose from.