It was expected the Las Vegas Raiders would spend a lot of resources addressing their cornerback room this offseason but that hasn’t been the case. The team added some veteran cornerbacks on one-year deals and only used one draft pick to address the position. A reason for that could be confidence in some young players improving in 2023.
Nate Hobbs put together an impressive rookie season but spent most of his time in the slot. Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham had Hobbs play on the outside more in his second season and wasn’t as successful. A reason for that was due to him having to undergo hand surgery in the middle of the season and returning before he was 100% recovered.
It remains to be seen what exactly the plan for Hobbs is in 2023 but he certainly has fans in the Raiders’ orbit. Hall of Fame defensive back Charles Woodson is a big fan of Hobbs and believes Las Vegas need more players like him.
“I like Hobbs [because] Hobbs got dog in him,” Woodson said on the April 29 episode of the “BLACK OUT Podcast.” “You need more Hobbs. … Hobbs is a guy who can get the football. He’s a tough guy – I think he dealt with some injuries last year to his hand.”
Where Should Raiders Play Hobbs?
In 2022, Hobbs was one of the best rookies in the NFL despite being a fifth-round pick. He quickly earned a starting role and received a 79.1 Pro Football Focus grade. However, his grade dropped to 60.9 in Year 2. Pro Football Focus grades aren’t the only gauge of whether a player is having success or not but Hobbs clearly wasn’t the same player when he came back from injury.
It’s possible that he could be a very good outside cornerback but he has already proven he can be dominant in the slot. The Raiders should keep him there as often as they can. Hobbs is one of Graham’s favorite players so he’s going to utilize him as much as he can so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him on the outside for a good chunk of snaps but the majority of his playing time should be in the slot.
What to Expect From Jakorian Bennett
One of the most interesting picks the Raiders made this year was selecting Maryland cornerback Jakorian Bennett in the fourth round. He ran a 4.30 40-yard dash at the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine, which was the second fastest of any player. He’s not a huge player but he’s nearly 5-foot-11 and 188 pounds so he’s certainly not small. He’s a very aggressive player which is part of what makes him exciting but also may have scared teams.
The Raiders are a very good landing spot for Bennett. They want to see cornerbacks step up in training camp. If he puts together a strong offseason, there’s a chance he could start games in 2023. He has a lot of work to do but he has all the athletic traits a player needs to be successful. If he can just learn to channel his aggressive playing style into more consistent wins against wide receivers, he could be one of the steals of the draft.