The Las Vegas Raiders were one of the biggest disappointments of the 2020 season. The team had playoff expectations as they entered year three of the Jon Gruden era. With players such as quarterback Derek Carr, running back Josh Jacobs, and tight end Darren Waller, a strong offensive line, and some key free agent additions on defense, this was supposed to be the year the team makes the postseason.
Well, things didn’t go according to plan. The Raiders started the season strong and at one point were 6-3, which included an impressive road win against the defending Super Bowl Champions, the Kansas City Chiefs. It was almost a foregone conclusion that the 6-3 Raiders would wind up making the playoffs—especially in the first year that the league expanded the playoff field from six to seven teams. The Raiders went on to lose five of their last seven games, finishing 8-8 and missing the playoffs for the third straight season under Gruden’s watch.
The Raiders will now enter an offseason where they have to figure out a way to get over the hump. After finishing 4-12, 7-9, and now 8-8, the team has seen upward progression but must take that next step to officially make Gruden’s 10-year, $100 million contract worth it.
Offensively, this team is in good shape. They have a lot of talent at their disposal with their group of skill guys, and while the offensive line is aging, they still performed at a high level in 2020. Defensively, on the other hand, there is plenty of work to be done. The team lacks any real pass rush threat, and their linebacking corps, which added free agents Nick Kwiatkoski and Cory Littleton, could still be improved. The secondary has some youthful talent, specifically at corner, but the team could use a playmaker in the backend.
Las Vegas will have their hands full in adding talent to this team, and I believe they’ll have a big opportunity to do so in this upcoming draft. Let’s take a look at what a seven-round draft could look like for the Raiders.
ROUND 1 (NO. 17 OVERALL): GREGORY ROUSSEAU, EDGE, MIAMI
This would be an outstanding selection by the Raiders. Rousseau is my No. 1 edge rusher in this class and fills a huge position of need for the Raiders. Outside of Maxx Crosby, the Raiders don’t really have any sack artists on this roster, and Crosby is more solid than spectacular. Rousseau has the upside and potential to be a perennial Pro Bowler. He has rare length and athleticism for the position and has bend and flexibility that is unique for guys his size. He may only have one year of production after sitting out the 2020 season, but his tape in 2019 was off the charts. Rousseau would give the Raiders some much-needed juice off the edge.
ROUND 2 (NO. 49 OVERALL): JEVON HOLLAND, S, OREGON
Another 2020 opt out here for the Raiders, but again they are getting outstanding value. I’m very high on Holland as I believe his instincts, natural ball skills, and versatility more than make up for the questions about his top speed. Holland can step in and be that rangy deep third safety that’s needed in Gus Bradley’s Cover 3 scheme. He also provides versatility in that he can hold his own at nickel and would be a dynamic return specialist.
ROUND 3 (NO. 80 OVERALL): TYLER SHELVIN, NT, LSU
Three picks, three defensive players. That’s the type of urgency and investment general manager Mike Mayock and Gruden need to have when addressing this defense this offseason. Shelvin is a load in the middle playing 0-tech. He has the power to take on doubles and hold the point of attack and is explosive enough to split the double team to make plays in the backfield. He would be an excellent player to replace Johnathan Hankins if the team lets him walk in free agency.
ROUND 4 (NO. 121 OVERALL): BEN CLEVELAND, G, GEORGIA
The Raiders could use some more depth along the interior of their offensive line. Richie Incognito is 38 years old, and Gabe Jackson has often been at the center of trade rumors. Cleveland may not be a great athlete, but he excels in the running game with power to generate movement at the point of attack. He would be a great fit in Gruden’s running attack clearing the way for Jacobs.
ROUND 5 (NO. 161 OVERALL): SHAKA TONEY, EDGE, PENN STATE
Las Vegas double dips here at the edge position because that’s how dire they need pass rush help. In Bradley’s scheme, the team doesn’t blitz a lot. The defense is predicated on the front four generating pressure so they can drop more into coverage. Having the guys up front who can win on passing downs is vital. Toney has the perfect skill set to be a situational pass rusher early in his career who can develop into a starting weakside edge rusher for this defense.
ROUND 7 (NO. 244 OVERALL): ROBERT ROCHELL, CB, CENTRAL ARKANSAS
Long press corners are hard to find, and with the Raiders' last pick in the draft, they find one. Rochell has the length, movement skills, and ball production to warrant a late-round pick. He would fit in nicely behind corners Trayvon Mullen and Damon Arnette. This would be a steal this late in the draft.