The Raiders' first year in Las Vegas has been a roller coaster. The team started the year 2-0 with two big wins beating the Carolina Panthers, a tough team on the road, and then beating the New Orleans Saints in their home opener in Week 2. The team then went to lose badly to both the New England Patriots and then the Buffalo Bills, just to rebound with a statement win against the Kansas City Chiefs—one could argue the biggest win yet in the Jon Gruden and Derek Carr era. Unfortunately, the Raiders couldn’t hold onto that positive momentum as they suffered their biggest loss yet against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 7, leaving them with a 3-3 record heading into a huge game against the Cleveland Browns in Week 8.
The fact of the matter is that even though this team is inconsistent week to week, they are a talented team that is more than capable of making the postseason—in my opinion, it would be a major disappointment if they didn’t. They have one of the best offenses in the entire NFL with an elite group of skill players, and Carr playing some of the best ball of his career. Their defense, which has been a liability to this point of the season, does at least play with energy and effort.
There is enough talent overall for this team to win enough games to earn a wild-card spot. But making the playoffs is just the first step. The team must look to address key holes in this roster in order to not just make the playoffs, but actually be able to compete and win games once they are in the dance.
As Raiders fans look to set their Saturday college football viewing lineup, here are five players they should focus on as it pertains to who their team might look to add in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan
Michigan State vs Michigan 12 p.m. ET
The Raiders' biggest need by far is a difference-making player to rush the passer. I like second-year player Maxx Crosby, I actually like him a lot, but Crosby is more of a really good No. 2 EDGE defender and would be best suited playing across a real sack artist. Michigan’s Kwity Paye is a high-upside edge defender with double-digit sack potential. Paye is an athletic freak who has the burst and raw athleticism to inspire fear in opposing offensive lineman. He’s essentially the opposite type of player as 2019 No. 4 overall selection Clelin Ferrell, who was never regarded to be a great athlete, and won more with sheer effort and functional strength. Paye is already off to a great start this year as he dominated in his debut against Minnesota, finishing the game with four tackles and two sacks.
Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia
#5 Georgia at Kentucky 12 p.m ET
I'm double-dipping here with the edge rushers, but I truly think that having a stronger, more consistent pass rush would help fix this Raiders defense in a hurry. The Raiders secondary has struggled to cover all season and having more pass-rushers that can actually get home with speed and suddenness will help the secondary immensely. A player like Azeez Ojulari would be a dream come true for the Raiders’ defense. Ojulari has had a fantastic year for the Bulldogs and even though he is just a redshirt sophomore, his blend of speed and bend off the edge would be a welcomed addition to the Silver and Black.
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame
#4 Notre Dame at Georgia Tech 7:30 p.m. ET
Sticking with the defense here, I believe the Raiders still need to look to find more talent to add to their linebacker group. The Raiders wisely addressed the linebacker position last offseason with the free agent signings of Corey Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski, but unfortunately, they haven’t seen the results they were hoping for. While I'm not ready to wave the white flag on either player, I think looking to draft a young talented linebacker makes a lot of sense and perhaps no linebacker has raised their stock more this year than Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. The Golden Domer has outstanding movement skills and can be that coverage linebacker with the range to play sideline to sideline they have been looking for.
Landon Dickerson, IOL, Alabama
Mississippi State at #2 Alabama 7 p.m. ET
What is usually a stalwart unit, the Raiders' offensive line has seen some regression so far in 2020. Now, injuries to key starters have played a factor, but the fact of the matter is the Raiders are aging fast along the offensive line and it would be wise to add a young interior offensive lineman to be able to insert into the lineup in case Richie Incognito or Gabe Jackson are no longer with the team in 2020. I’m a huge fan of Landon Dickerson’s game. He’s tough, nasty, and plays with excellent technique. He has versatility and could play any spot in the interior or even at tackle in a bad pinch. He would be an ideal player to target in round four or five.
Caden Sterns, S, Texas
Texas at #6 Oklahoma State 4 p.m. ET
Back to the defensive side of the ball here. Las Vegas needs to shore up their secondary, and while they have invested early picks at corner, and strong safety Jonathan Abrams looks to be a stud, the team could stand to upgrade their free safety spot. Veterans Jeff Heath and Erik Harris aren’t bad players by any means, but they aren’t difference-makers either—and I’d like to see a safety with a little more natural range and coverage skills in the deep middle of the field for the Raiders. Texas’ Caden Sterns is a good cover man with a natural feel for the game. His instincts in zone are excellent and he has the movement skills to be able to cover in man. He hasn’t had the best year this season, but he has a big game this week to turn things around.