Holding eight selections in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Las Vegas Raiders have quite a few holes on their roster that they need to fill. Needing to address their offensive line and defensive secondary the most, general manager Mike Mayock and head coach Jon Gruden will have their hands full.
This was a strange offseason for the Raiders, as they set out to disassemble their starting OL, having sent tackle Gabe Jackson to the Seattle Seahawks, center Rodney Hudson to the Arizona Cardinals, and tackle Trent Brown to the New England Patriots. With this going from one of their strongest to one of their weakest roster areas, the front office will likely look to address it early and often over the seven rounds.
With that and other needs in mind, here are three perfect options for the Raiders in the first round, sitting at 17th overall.
Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
Jaycee Horn at South Carolina's Pro Day:
🔥 4.37s 40
🔥 41.5” vertical
🔥 11’1” broad jump
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) March 24, 2021
With Damon Arnette and Trayvon Mullen looking like two of the better cornerback options that are on the Raiders roster, they desperately need a solid CB option–which is what makes South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn such an important addition if he is still on the board at 17.
The 6-foot-1 junior was a mainstay for the Gamecock defense, manning the boundary and helping shut down opposing wide receivers with his physicality and ball skills. While his physicality may translate into being a little flag-happy early in his career, Horn profiles right alongside the likes of both Patrick Surtain II and Caleb Farley for the cream of the CB crop.
The Raiders would be absolutely enamored if Horn is still on the board when they pick, especially with some teams cooling on Farley due to his littered injury history. With the kind of production, projections, and tape that Horn has, he certainly would go a long way to helping give this Raiders defense its identity back.
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame
The 2020 Butkus Award winner and ACC Defensive Player of the year. 💪
— NFL (@NFL) April 11, 2021
Another uber-athlete that somewhat fits the mold of what Isaiah Simmons from Clemson was in last year’s draft, Notre Dame’s Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah is a multi-positional defensive gem, someone that is the prototype of a linebacker but has the coverage abilities of a safety.
Having taken home the Dick Butkus Award for being the nation’s best linebacker, the ACC Defensive Player of the Year Award, and AP All-ACC First Team honors, Owusu-Koramoah is a household name for many reasons, and coming out of a high-character program like Notre Dame is just perfect for what Gruden loves in a player. Seen almost unanimously as the first LB off the board in April, Owusu-Koramoah’s impact on the LV defense would be felt from day one.
An underrated aspect of bringing him on would be his ability to help on the back-end as well in coverage instances, which would then help push the need to draft a top-flight CB a little farther down the list and let the front office tackle other areas of need.
Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
"He looks like a future, long-time starting NFL tackle."
— NFL (@NFL) April 10, 2021
The lone offensive player on this list is a big-time one, even if Christian Darrisaw is not a position player. But filling a big-time area of need (offensive tackle) with arguably a member of the Top 3 at that position would be a home run for Gruden and Mayock to make.
Darrisaw is a 6-foot-5 road grader that loves to get dirty and has an especially strong rapport for his abilities in the run game. While some shortcomings about how he can handle incoming blitzing schemes could create a bit of pause when looking at the OT prospects, Darrisaw is a polished product that would be a solid fit for the Raiders and their two-headed rushing attack.
Putting Darrisaw on the right side of the line, opposite recently-extended left tackle Kolton Miller, would do a lot to helping both Josh Jacobs and free-agent signee Kenyan Drake get open lanes and into the second level of the defense. Plus, with Darrisaw more than able to hold his own in pass protection, Carr’s protection would be solidified, helping him connect with tight end Darren Waller and second-year wideout Henry Ruggs III.
The Raiders can easily get themselves back into the AFC West divisional hunt with a strong draft, something that can happen only if they start strong and make the right moves to fill their needs. If the board falls right and they are able to select one of these three players mentioned, both Gruden and Mayock would be doing a lot to helping make football exciting in Las Vegas once again.