With the NFL Draft scheduled to happen on time, the Las Vegas Raiders are going to have a couple of major decisions on its hands in the coming weeks. After a solid free agency where the team was able to address some of its biggest needs, they still have major needs at wide receiver and in the defensive backfield. Armed with two first-round picks, the Raiders should be able to find some very talented players to fit those needs.
Wide receiver appears to be the biggest need and Las Vegas could have its pick of the best one in the class with the 12th pick. Many mocks draft have the Raiders going after Jerry Jeudy or CeeDee Lamb, but Matt Miller of Bleacher Report predicted that the team will take Alabama speedster Henry Ruggs:
When you’ve had to game-plan to stop Tyreek Hill of the Kansas City Chiefs twice a year, you get an appreciation for what speed can do. Wide receiver Henry Ruggs III has that kind of speed and game-changing ability. And he’s actually better than Hill was coming into the league.
Ruggs gets classified as a speed receiver—and he is with that 4.27 40-yard-dash time—but he’s also a polished route-runner and an all-around threat. Get him the football, and beautiful things happen. And maybe you’re surprised he’s the first receiver off the board, but you shouldn’t be. NFL teams covet speed over polish.
Jeudy gets most of the hype out of Alabama receivers because of his polish and dominance in college. However, Ruggs is very enticing. Tyreek Hill is close to unstoppable and Jon Gruden is very aware of that. If he thinks that’s what Ruggs is going to turn into, then it’s hard to imagine he’ll pass on him.
Raiders Take Another Alabama Standout at 19
The Raiders tried to get a cornerback in free agency but ended up striking out. The best they could find was Eli Apple and that deal ended up falling apart. It’s easy to imagine the team taking the best cornerback available with its second first-round pick, but Miller thinks the team goes after Alabama safety Xavier McKinney:
At No. 19 overall, general manager Mike Mayock will dip back into Nick Saban’s program to add a utility-knife defender with coverage skills who might be the answer to the tight ends in the AFC West.
McKinney can play free safety, allowing Johnathan Abram to roam in the box, but he’s also proved himself capable of playing all over the secondary and could be an excellent matchup cover man. If you’re seeing Travis Kelce, Noah Fant and Hunter Henry six times a season, having more options in coverage isn’t a bad thing.
Safety would rank behind cornerback as the biggest need for the Raiders, but the value of McKinney and how well he and Abram would work together make this a great pick.
The Raiders did recently sign Damarious Randall and while he’s a good player, he’s a not a long-term solution at safety. Pairing McKinney with Abram will certainly be enticing and would give the team a couple of good safeties for the foreseeable future. However, it’s hard to imagine they won’t take a cornerback in the first round.
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Raiders Miss out on Jalen Hurts
There is perhaps no player who helped his draft stock more at the NFL Combine than Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts. After a disastrous end to his college career, Hurts saw his draft stock plummet. Well, he’s foughten his way back up draft boards and Miller has him going to the Indianapolis Colts with the 34th overall pick. Considering it was thought he could go as late as the fourth round, he’s made a serious jump.
That will be a blow to the Raiders who reportedly were interested in him and hoping to get him in the third round. It’s still possible he falls, but if the team really likes him, they may just need to trade into the second round.