Nick Popio | December 31st, 2019
Another football season is coming to an end which means a new league year is right around the corner. For the Oakland Raiders, it’s the beginning of a brand new era in Las Vegas. This historical move will officially commence on the night of April 23 in the aforementioned sin city. On that night the Raiders own two first-round picks that will become the new faces of the relocating franchise. They also have three third rounders, a fourth, a sixth, and a seventh to round out the event. With all those assets in tow, the time has arrived to scout some potential eligible draftees that they might be eyeing during the three day extravaganza in their latest hometown.
The Raiders need a backup or a guy who can challenge Derek Carr immediatley. Mike Glennon and Nathan Peterman are not the answer. To use a first round pick on a gunslinger is not out of the question, but it seems unlikely.
Justin Herbert Oregon
Herbert is exactly what the NFL looks for in a prototypical quarterback. At 6’6”, the four year signal caller has amassed quite a career in Eugene. Two consecutive years with over 3,000 yards passing and over 60% completion percentage in three of the four years. He’s got a big arm that can make the NFL throws. His touch on his throws and presence in the pocket are just a few of his attributes that decision makers will gush over.
Jalen Hurts Oklahoma
Hurts is one of the most decorated prospects in the entire draft. He is a guy who hasn’t lost much during both his Oklahoma and Alabama tenures. After his switch to Oklahoma, following in the footsteps of Kyler Murray and Baker Mayfield, the transition went seamlessly. His running ability sets him apart from other quarterbacks in this class. Hurts combined for 50 total touchdowns in 2019, just one shy of Heisman winner Joe Burrow. Finishes his career at 38-4 as a starter.
Anthony Gordon Washington State
Gordon threw for 45 scores in Mike Leach’s wacky offense, second behind Joe Burrow. He passed for an eye popping nine scores in a wild loss to UCLA. He broke the record for most touchdown passes in the Pac-12 altogether and is only the 16th player in history to throw for over 5,000 yards passing. Not to mention that he has good fortune on his side with the two prior quarterbacks before him making their respective marks on NFL teams. The concern for Gordon will be whether or not he is a one year wonder in Leach’s system.
After the Antonio Brown saga, it left the silver and black a man down at wideout. Tyrell Williams was hot for a while, but cooled off mainly because of an injury. Hunter Renfrow is a lock for the slot for years to come, so another outside option would be ideal here. Luckily for the Raiders this year’s crop is loaded.
Justin Jefferson LSU
The junior has yet to declare for the draft as of this written column. In 2019 though, he’s really elevated his game because of Joe Burrow. When LSU’s season is over, Jefferson has a chance to come relatively close to doubling his output in yards and catches from 2018. Jefferson has been able to find the endzone in every game but three during their unbeaten regular season. He’s a redzone nightmare for the opposition.
Tyler Johnson Minnesota
His solid production grew as he played more through the years. He was a very seasoned standout in the Big Ten conference. A reliable pass catcher for P.J. Fleck , but he lacks elite speed. Johnson can lineup in the slot or on the outside and has a knack for the ball in his hands.
Michael Pittman USC
Pittman finished his senior campaign with a flourish. 37 catches for 330 yards in his final three outings not counting the Holiday Bowl. He quickly became a favorite target of Kedon Slovis in Graham Harrell’s up-tempo offense. He did most of his damage on the road which will definitely turn some heads. The Biletnikoff award finalist proved this season that he can do a lot of good things when the ball is in his hands.
Tee Higgins Clemson
The current junior has scored eight of his 13 touchdowns in his last three matchups leading up to the showdown with Ohio State. He’s a nightmare to guard for smaller opposing corners. Higgins is a fluid receiver who looks and plays the part of the next great Tiger draftable wideout.
CeeDee Lamb Oklahoma
As many know by now, Lamb was caught in a Fred Biletnikoff jersey following his huge output against Texas in October. The match seems like one made in heaven if Lamb is still available when the Raiders are on the clock. The all-American is one of the primary stars in Oklahoma’s pass happy attack who knows how to get to the endzone consistently.
James Proche SMU
Proche is the definition of a gamer. He routinely showed up in SMU’s pass heavy attack over the last two years. He is poised to be one of the best sleepers in the upcoming draft that many will be talking about.
Antonio Gandy-Golden Liberty
Gandy-Golden is a physical force with size you can’t teach. Gandy is a reliable possession receiver with a small route tree. He’ll need to get quicker for the pros, but has a shot because of his height to retain jump balls.
The backup tackles need an instant upgrade. Richie Incognito will almost certainly be resigned, but he is 36. They have to get younger in the interior trenches. Center Rodney Hudson was also renewed and is on the back nine of his potential hall of fame career.
Shane Lemieux G Oregon
In 2018, Lemieux was graded as the best guard in the Pac-12 and third in the country according to Pro Football Focus. As a senior, he ranked second in the conference when it comes to his run blocking grade. He can play with a nasty streak that NFL coaches will no doubt try to get out of him at the next level.
Matt Peart T UConn
At one point draft analyst Mel Kiper rated Peart in his top three for offensive tackles. He’s been impressing scouts during his time with the Huskies. He accepted an invite to the Senior Bowl which should give everyone a good read on where he stands heading into April’s draft.
The silver and black don’t rely much on linebackers in their current scheme under Paul Guenther. That may change if Guenther gets axed after the season raps up. The current group needs a significant upgrade especially at covering pass catchers in the passing game.
Logan Wilson Wyoming
The Cowboys standout wound up as one of the country’s top rated linebackers as noted by Pro Football Focus. He’s not the fastest guy out there, but possesses the abilities that coaches look for in today’s linebacker role. He’s had a very productive four year stay in Laramie including leading the nation for linebackers with interceptions in 2019.
Isaiah Simmons Clemson
Simmons is a playmaker who jumps out on film all over the field. He is worth trading up for if Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden so desire to get him. He’s a linebacker who can cover with safety instincts. Simmons would step in day one and be the second level defender that Las Vegas can definitely use to enforce their defense.
Trayvon Mullen is slowly becoming the #1 corner that the front office brass saw in him. Besides him, they could stand to use another player who can help their secondary become one of the NFL’S youngest and brightest.
Amik Robertson Louisiana Tech
An undersized superstar who has produced consistently as a Bulldog. 14 interceptions in three years for a guy who looks like a true nickel corner in the NFL. His life changed in 2014 when his son was born. Because of that his work ethic on the field shows that this kid has what it takes to succeed in the league. He’ll be a popular name come draft time by many teams, especially with the way he performed against stiffer competition.
Kristian Fulton LSU
Fulton is very stingy when the ball comes his way. He needs to improve against the run though, as he can be indecisive at times. Fulton only gave up one reception in the SEC title game and one versus Alabama as well. The next big time corner prospect out of LSU that has lockdown qualities.
Isaiah Rodgers UMass
Arguably the nation’s top kick returner with 1,317 return yards. That extra versatility do something other than corner is always a plus. Only 5’10” which makes him seem like a nickel in the pros. Good enough numbers in four years with the Minutemen including 11 picks for the lesser known product.
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