Perfect Picks: Las Vegas Raiders
With the NFL Draft approaching we will be looking at each team and evaluating where they need to improve. In this particular series we will run a seven round mock using the Draft Network Mock Machine and find the ‘Perfect Picks’ for each franchise.
We will highlight five players that could help each team. This will include a ‘flex’ pick where we give you two ways a potential pick could go depending on how the board falls. All in all you will get picks 1 and 2, a mid round gem and a late round sleeper.
Last year The Raiders gathered quite the arsenal of draft picks as new GM Mike Mayock started to lay the foundations of this team in Jon Gruden’s image. As the draft rolls round to their new home of Las Vegas in 2020, they’ll be looking to continue to stockpile young talent across the roster.
Round 1 - Pick 12 - Isaiah Simmons, LB/S, Clemson
An ambitious one to start this team draft off with, but he was there to be taken and I metaphorically raced to the podium with my card. Isaiah Simmons is one heck of a football player; a multi-dimensional chess piece that can play safety, corner, nickel or linebacker. Clemson DC Brent Venables built the Tigers’ defense around him last year. He has a feel for the game and a nose for the football that isn’t coachable.
Having said all that, I can reasonably see a scenario where he is there for the Raiders to take him at 12. Another way of saying ‘position versatile’ is ‘unsure of his best position’. Teams may be a litle wary of taking him in the top ten and if he ends up on the wrong team with a conservative, vanilla defensive co-ordinator then his potential may never be fulfilled.
In this siutation it’s the job of Paul Guenther to mitigate the boom or bust risk of Simmons. The Raiders are in desperate need of an off the ball, cover linebacker. Simmons could come in on day one and play all over the back seven on this unit, quickly becoming a favourite of Raider Nation.
Round 1 - Pick 19 - Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama
There is no question that Gruden and Mayock have been trying to inject speed into their offense. Last year’s risky decision to sign Antonio Brown blew up spectacularly in their faces, and despite rebounding nicely to have a promising season didn’t find their deep threat receiver.
Nobody in this draft epitomises deep speed better than Henry Ruggs. The Alabama speedster is going to run in the 4.2’s at the combine and has a very real chance of breaking John Ross’ 40 yard dash record. He’s a big play waiting to happen at any moment and defenses will be forced to shade their safeties his direction, opening up passing lanes for his teammates too. He’s exactly what Derek Carr – or the next Raiders quarterback? – needs.
Flex Pick - Pick 19 - Jordan Love, QB, Utah State
Whilst the Ruggs pick made sense, I was surprised to see Jordan Love still on the board at this point. Which got me thinking…
All Jon Gruden has done as a head coach is moan about quarterback play. He did it in Oakland with Rich Gannon and Tampa with Brad Johnson, despite having enormous success with both. And since he returned to the sideline there’s not a game that goes by where Chucky doesn’t cut a disappointing figure as Derek Carr trudges off the field.
Carr and Gruden are like chalk and cheese. One’s clean cut, the other rough around the edges. But despite personality differences, and the fact that Carr can win, he also isn’t a Gruden quarterback. Rumours have been abound for two years now that Mayock may be on the lookout for a QB his head coach wants to work with.
Whilst in the broadcast booth Gruden became obsessed with athletic, dynamic quarterbacks. Jordan Love has the traits that, at his best, could make him the next Pat Mahomes. He’s also unpolished and a risk – and may end up being more like Colin Kaepernick . You’re telling me Gruden wouldn’t bank on himself to develop a guy like Love? I’m not saying. I’m just saying…
Mid Round Gem - Pick 80 - Cameron Dantzler, CB, Mississippi State
It’s no secret that The Raiders were underwhelmed with the development (or lack thereof) of their secondary throughout 2019. First round rookie John Abram, their physical free safety, never saw the field due to injury. Then they shipped out former 2017 first rounder Gareon Conley to the Texans for a third rounder after a particularly poor game against Green Bay. Add to that starting corner Daryl Worley hitting free agency, and it’s clear that the back end is in need of upgrading.
Finding upgrades midway through the third round isn’t a guarantee, but if Cameron Dantzler is still there then I can see Mayock taking the plunge here. Much like last year’s second rounder Trayvon Mullen, Dantzler is one of the new breed of tall, long corners who love to press at the line and stymie receivers from the off. Sticky doesn’t begin to describe the former Bulldog, who irritates opponents with his presence and physicality throughout the play. One of my favourite prospects in this draft class, I can see Dantzler being a steal on day two.
Late Round Sleeper - Pick 141 - James Lynch, IDL, Baylor
Wanna talk about upside late in the draft? How about Baylor’s all-time leader in career sacks (22) in James Lynch? The admittedly raw interior pass rusher has concerns about his length but the production doesn’t lie. Looking the part at 6’4″ and 285lbs, Lynch has explosion and play strength to his game that simply overwhelmed offensive linemen in the Big 12. He’s 100% effort for sixty minutes and can start in the NFL as a rotational, passing-down piece as he develops his all-round game.
The Raiders are pretty happy with Maurice Hurst and Jonathan Hankins who currently start on the interior of that defensive line. But Lynch is a perfect fit in their four man front. Guenther will be salivating at the thought of throwing him in to spell his starters on third downs where he can be let off the leash and get after the quarterback.
Draft in full:
12. Isaiah Simmons, LB/S
19. Henry Ruggs III, WR
80. Cameron Dantzler, CB
81. Troy Dye, LB
91. Bradley Anae, EDGE
111. Ben Bredeson, IOL
141. James Lynch, IDL
Feature Image Credit: SI.com
PREVIOUSLY THE FOUNDER OF NFL DRAFT UK, SIMON HAS BEEN COVERING COLLEGE FOOTBALL AND THE NFL DRAFT SINCE 2009. BASED IN MANCHESTER, SIMON IS ALSO CO-CREATOR & WEEKLY GUEST OF THE COLLAPSING POCKET PODCAST.