The Las Vegas Raiders finished 8-8 in 2020 – their best win total since 2016 and their most wins under current head coach Jon Gruden. The results could havce been better, but the Raiders lost five of their last seven games after a 6-3 start. Despite their failure to make the playoffs, the Raiders have positives to build upon in 2021. They have plenty of young talent and showed at some points last season that they’re able to compete and beat some of the best teams in the NFL (wins against the Chiefs, Saints and Browns). A good draft in 2021 could push the Raiders over the edge and make them a playoff team once again.
Some quick history. The following are the Raiders’ last five years’ worth of first-round draft picks:
- 2020: Henry Ruggs (WR), Damon Arnette (CB)
- 2019: Clelin Ferrell (DE), Josh Jacobs (RB), Johnathan Abram (S)
- 2018: Kolton Miller (OT)
- 2017: Gareon Conley (CB)
- 2016: Karl Joseph (S)
Of the Raiders’ first-round picks from 2019 and 2020, only one of their five players selected played over 70% of the offensive/defensive snaps for the Raiders.
The following players could possibly be on the move, either through trade or being cut, due to their 2021 cap hit. Ages in parentheses:
- Trent Brown (27)
- Tyrell Williams (29) (team announced he is to be cut at the beginning of the league year on March 17)
- Marcus Mariota (27)
- Richie Incognito (37)
- Jalen Richard (27)
- Jeff Heath (29)
The Raiders’ are $13.68 million over the cap for the 2021 season, not including any of the possible trade or cut candidates listed above.
This is the first draft since 2018 in which the Raiders won’t have multiple first-round draft picks. With the lack of production and play of some of their recent first-round draft picks, finding an impact player in the first round of this year’s draft will be crucial.
Possibility #1: University of Miami EDGE Gregory Rousseau
2019 stat line: 13 games, 54 tackles, 19.5 TFLs, 15.5 sacks, 2 FFs; 2020 Opt Out
Why: Las Vegas finished 2020 with the fourth-fewest sacks in the NFL. They had just one player eclipse 5 sacks and have had trouble turning pressures into sacks. In a division that has both Patrick Mahomes and rising star Justin Herbert, generating pressure and taking advantage of sack opportunities will be crucial in finding success within their division.
Gregory Rousseau is a physical specimen. He stands at 6-7, 265 pounds, making him an EDGE rusher with rare length along with his monstrous size. He’s not the most polished EDGE rusher but still managed to finish the 2019 season with 15.5 sacks. His combination of length and athleticism makes it hard for blockers to get an initial punch on him when he rushes. He lacks twitch/suddenness and instincts, but his instincts will only get better as he continues to gain experience. Rousseau has all the tools to become an All-Pro caliber player if he’s able to put it all together.
Possibility #2: Virginia Tech OT Christian Darrisaw
Career: 34 game starter, 9 games in 2020
Why: The Raiders have question marks at the offensive tackle position as they head into this offseason. Trent Brown struggled with injuries last season. With a much smaller projected salary cap in 2021, he’s a candidate to be cut. Starter Denzelle Good and backup Sam Young are both free agents this offseason and the Raiders are currently $13.68 million over the cap.
Darrisaw has the ideal size, length and a talented skill set to become a franchise caliber left tackle. He started 34 games during his collegiate career and started at left tackle in all of those games. He shows the ability to roll his hips and drive blockers in the run game and mobility at the second level. He has good patience when pass blocking and the foot quickness/get-off to get into his pass sets. Darrisaw’s biggest flaws come from a lack of aggression and change of direction. He has a high ceiling as an NFL left tackle.
Possibility #3: Tulsa LB Zaven Collins
2020 stat line: 8 games, 54 tackles, 7.5 TFLs, 4 sacks, 4 INTs
Why: Finding a linebacker may not be their top priority in the draft but — after struggling against the run in 2020 — they may pull the trigger on one if the opportunity arises. Finding someone with the size and athletic ability to play in both the run game and, at times, in coverage will be key when they focus on a linebacker.
Zaven Collins is another player in this draft with outstanding size and length. At 6-6, 260, his size doesn’t impact his straight-line speed as he can really move when he wants to. He’s an ideal north/south player who can play well in the run game when gaps open up for him. He struggles with block shedding and in coverage. His lack of lateral quickness hurts his overall upside in coverage but his combination of size and athletic ability is outstanding and if he can put them together could be an above average coverage player. He’s shown ball skills in college, racking up a career 5 interceptions, including 4 in 2020. He’s a player who is dripping with potential. If he is able to unlock that potential and put it all together at the next level, he will be a very good player.
Possibility #4: Alabama DT Christian Barmore
2020 stat line: 11 games, 37 tackles, 9.5 TFLs, 8 sacks, 3 FFs, 3 PDs
Why: Interior pressure is one of the best ways of disrupting opposing offenses and quarterbacks. Being able to rupture the pocket on pass plays and force quarterbacks to move outside of the pocket is huge in the NFL. The most sacks recorded by a Raiders interior defensive lineman in 2020 was 2.
Barmore is an instant plug and start for this Raiders defense. He showed a much improved pass rush ability in 2020, when he recorded 8 sacks in 11games this past season. He is able to play multiple different techniques along the defensive line and his natural athletic ability paired with his physical gifts make him a high upside player along the defensive line. He does need to improve his hand technique, which will be crucial, because he won’t be able to win with just his natural athletic ability at the next level.
Players to Watch: TCU S Trevon Moehrig
2020 stat line: 10 games, 47 tackles, 9 PBUs, 2 INTs
Why: Las Vegas struggled generating any kind of turnovers in 2020. They managed 15 forced turnovers, which ranked 30th in the NFL. They finished with the second-worst turnover differential in the NFL, and their inability to create turnovers was a glaring issue throughout their season.
Trevon Moehrig has above-the-line ball skills and was able to create interceptions throughout his career at TCU. Moehrig has the range to play single high and Cover 2 at the NFL, while his size and physicality will allow him to play man coverage on a variety of positions at the next level. His size, length and productivity will shine during the pre-draft process and move him up draft boards. He can be an immediate contributor on special teams and would pair nicely with Johnathan Abram in the Raider secondary.
SEE ALSO: On the Clock archive