After five games, the Las Vegas Raiders currently sit at 3-2, which is no small feat considering who they have played so far. They have beaten quarterback Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints as well as reigning Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs; the latter was easily the biggest win under head coach Jon Gruden's current tenure.
The Raiders are currently on a bye for Week 6, but things don’t get any easier for the organization as it is set to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cleveland Browns, and the Los Angeles Chargers, respectively.
While the Raiders’ schedule does them no favors, facing an explosive offense and energetic defense, they should not be counted out of any game. Las Vegas has difference-makers along the offensive line and at every skill position. The Raiders have gotten good quarterback play from Derek Carr, who entered this season on the hot seat as there were rumors he and Gruden weren’t seeing eye to eye. It is safe to say that if Carr continues to play this well for the rest of the year, he will be back in the Silver and Black in 2021.
The Raiders have a legitimate shot at a wild-card berth this season, and that would be a tremendous success for a franchise that relocated to a new city in the offseason. But there are still positions on this roster that need to be addressed via the 2021 NFL Draft if Las Vegas hopes to be a Super Bowl contender next season.
Raider fans should keep an eye on these five players Saturday as they watch college football.
Quincy Roche, EDGE, Miami
Pittsburgh at #13 Miami 12 p.m. ET
It was extremely important for the Raiders to try and improve their pass rush, which ranked 25th in sacks in 2019. Unfortunately, they haven’t been able to find more production and currently rank 26th in sacks. Maxx Crosby is a good player, but fellow 2019 draftee and fourth-overall pick Clelin Ferrell still has yet to live up to his draft selection. Young pass rushers are arguably the Raiders’ biggest need when looking at the draft class. Quincy Roche would be an outstanding addition to this front four and give the Raiders that athletic sack artist they so desperately need.
Chazz Surratt, LB, North Carolina
#5 North Carolina at Florida State 7:30 p.m. ET
Las Vegas identified the linebacker position as a huge area of need in the offseason and made it a priority to improve the unit by signing Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski in free agency. Both Littleton and Kwiatkoski have had their moments in 2020, but with SAM linebacker Nick Morrow still in the lineup when the team is in base, the Raiders still need to add talent to this room. Enter North Carolina’s Chazz Surratt, who was a quarterback before making the position switch to linebacker in 2019. Surratt is a rangy and athletic linebacker with outstanding physical tools. His ability in pass coverage would be a vast upgrade over Morrow in base.
ALEX LEATHERWOOD, OT, ALABAMA
#3 Georgia at #2 Alabama 8 p.m. ET
In recent seasons the Raiders offensive line has been one of the best in the NFL. However, this current unit’s play has suffered due to injuries and aging players. Pro Bowl left guard Richie Incognito was put on the injured reserve after suffering an Achilles injury in Week 1. Incognito’s injury isn’t thought to be season-ending, and he is eligible to return after the bye. Even if Incognito returns and plays well for the rest of the year, it would be wise to add a young interior lineman, as Incognito is 37 years old, and the Raiders could get out of his contract very easily. Alabama’s Alex Leatherwood would be a great addition to the Raiders. Leatherwood currently lines up at left tackle for the Crimson Tide, but many believe he is best suited inside at guard. With very good strength and a strong active hands, he would be an ideal candidate to replace or learn from Incognito.
RICHARD LECOUNTE III, S, GEORGIA
#3 Georgia at #2 Alabama 8 p.m. ET
One of the biggest storylines for the Raiders has been the play of second-year strong safety Jonathan Abrams. Abrams missed all of last season after suffering a torn labrum, and his return to the lineup has been huge. Abrams is a true tone-setter for the defense, and his energy and physical temperament is contagious; his instincts in both run support and pass coverage have been phenomenal. The Raiders could stand to improve the position next to Abrams at free safety, where the likes of Erik Harris and Lamarcus Joyner have seen significant snaps. Georgia’s Richard LeCounte III would be an ideal fit next to Abrams. LeCounte is an instinctual and rangy centerfield defender; his instincts and ball skills would be a great complement to Abrams down in the box. LeCounte will have a tough assignment this week playing against Alabama’s Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith, but he can really help his stock with a big game.
Hunter Long, TE, Boston College
Boston College at #23 Virginia Tech 8:00 p.m. ET
Raiders tight end Darren Waller is the third-best player at his position. It’s no insult to Mark Andrews or Zach Ertz, but I’m taking Waller all day long. The Raiders could stand to add some more depth behind Waller, however, as Jason Witten is most likely going to hang the cleats up for good following the 2020 season and third-year player Fabian Moreau has yet to truly show significant promise. Hunter Long has burst onto the scene this season and raised his stock perhaps no more than any other college player. Long has been playing like a top-five player at his position and has shown to be a game-changing pass-catcher with athleticism and ball skills.