Last year, Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie felt compelled to use his top pick in the draft on cornerback D.J. Hayden.
This year, McKenzie goes into the draft with a much better situation at cornerback. For the first time in a while, the position isn’t a projected weak point in the Raiders defense. The Raiders can use their top picks in the draft to shore up other positions.
Hayden, of course, is back for his second year – with much to prove.
The rookie had some highlights (a game-saving interception vs. the Chargers) and lowlights (almost an entire game vs. the Eagles) before having his season cut short by injury. Now, he’s projected as the team’s No. 3 corner.
Manning the team’s two starting spots will be Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown, the free-agent tandem that began 2013 as the starting corners for the 49ers.
And Rogers is confident the duo can replicate the success they had across the bay.
“We were a big part of the puzzle that turned San Francisco’s defense around, so hopefully we can translate that over here and be ever better,” Rogers told Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle after signing a one-year deal in Oakland.
In his three seasons with the 49ers, Rogers, who will turn 33 in July, played an NFL-high 1,259 snaps as a slot cornerback with the 49ers, according to Pro Football Focus, Tafur reported.
It’s projected that when Oakland faces three-receiver sets, Rogers would cover the slot receiver with Hayden moving into a corner spot opposite Brown.
The new cornerback duo could go a long way toward improving Oakland’s pass defense, which ranked 28th in the NFL in 2013, giving up 256 yards per game.
Brown, 29, who played seven seasons with the Niners, also signed a one-year deal in Oakland. He has started 42 games over the past three seasons with six interceptions and 39 passes defensed.
Brown noted that he’s excited to be playing on a defense that has added linemen LaMarr Woodley, Justin Tuck and Antonio Smith – and still has some further moves it can make.
“This was the best fit for me,” Brown said after signing his deal. “They’ve been adding some defenders to this team and I’m excited to join the group. … This team really wanted me, and I wanted to be somewhere where I could be appreciated. There was no other place as good a fit as this one right here.”