Former top draft pick DJ Hayden is expected to leave in free agency and veteran David Amerson’s play declined in 2016, so the Raiders are expected to add cornerback help this offseason. Some, in fact, are expecting Oakland to use its top choice, the 24th overall pick, to add a potential starter at the position.
If Hayden leaves, the Raiders would need someone to step in at the slot position, alongside outside starters Amerson and Sean Smith. Or, any cornerback brought in – through the draft or free agency – could challenge Amerson as well.
As Steve Palazzolo of the analytic website Pro Football Focus noted Monday, cornerback appears to be one of the deepest areas of this draft.
“This is a draft in which a secondary can be re-built with the variety of corners and safeties available in the early rounds,” he wrote.
Palazzolo singled out Washington’s Sidney Jones, Cordrea Tankersley of Clemson, Alabama’s Marion Humphrey, Florida’s Teez Tabor, Iowa’s Desmond King and Ohio State’s Marshon Lattimore as the top-echelon prospects, along with LSU’s Tre’Davious White and Jourdan Lewis of Michigan, whose talents lend themselves more to playing the slot.
ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. most recently linked the Raiders to Florida cornerback Quincy Wilson with the 24th overall pick in his second NFL mock draft, after having the Raiders take Michigan State defensive tackle Malik McDowell with the pick in his first mock.
As Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com noted, if the Raiders can upgrade their corps of cornerbacks to provide better pass coverage, forcing opposing quarterbacks to hold the ball longer, the Oakland front seven may be able to get more sacks in 2017.
Gutierrez notes, too, that Wilson played on a Florida team this past season that also featured an Oakland connection – starting quarterback Luke Del Rio, the son of Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio. Wilson, at 6-foot-1 and 213 pounds, has good size. He had three interceptions in 2016 with six passes defensed.
“Wilson, who has six career interceptions and was a starter the past two seasons, is probably too big to play in the slot,” wrote Gutierrez. But, he wrote, Wilson has a skill set comparable to Smith.
Charlie Campbell, who writes for the Walter Camp football site, predicts Wilson to go possibly as high as the top 20 picks. Even if he should be gone, there are plenty of prospects who should be available in the second or third rounds that general manager Reggie McKenzie could draft, including USC’s Adoree’ Jackson, Ohio State’s Gareon Conley, UCLA’s Fabian Moreau and Rasul Douglas of West Virginia.
The Raiders will get a chance to start getting a closer look at these prospects Tuesday, with the start of the annual NFL Combine in Indianapolis.