If you’ve filled out a Las Vegas Raiders mock draft at any point in the past several years since Jon Gruden returned to coach the team, you’ve probably done better than the Raiders’ brain trust has at improving their roster.
Other than unearthing the unheralded revelation that superstar tight end Darren Waller has proven to be, Las Vegas’ personnel decisions have mostly consisted of one misfire after another. Their celebrated 2019 draft class, which featured three first-round picks, has flopped for the most part, and 2020 third-rounder Lynn Bowden Jr. got traded to Miami before even appearing in a game.
There doesn’t seem to be a rhyme or reason to many of the Raiders’ seemingly impulsive moves. Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock don’t appear to be on the same page, or at least that’s what we’ll tell ourselves. Because if they are, frankly, that’s even worse.
Let’s try to help Las Vegas out by actually upgrading its talent in key areas through this seven-round 2021 NFL Draft mock using The Draft Network’s simulator, so that quarterback Derek Carr isn’t left hanging out to dry against the likes of the mighty Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers in the AFC West this year.
Las Vegas Raiders mock draft: Dynamic, versatile defenders dominate early rounds
- First round, 17th pick: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame
- Second round, 43rd pick: Richie Grant, S, UCF
- Third round, 79th pick: Milton Williams, DL, Louisiana Tech
- Third round, 80th pick: Ben Cleveland, iOL, Georgia
The Raiders have invested so many draft picks in their cornerback position of late that at this point, they just have to hope those one or two of those players pop. They actually have a full depth chart of edge defenders now between Yannick Ngakoue, Clelin Ferrell, Maxx Crosby, Carl Nassib and Arden Key, which is a good thing.
Whether any of those players are capable of curing Las Vegas’ defensive woes and provide a legitimate pass rush remains to be seen. One way to address the team’s obvious weak side of the ball is to target a first-round prospect like Notre Dame’s Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah who can simply do it all.
A classic off-ball linebacker with the positional versatility teams in the modern NFL covet, Owusu-Koramoah could be moved all over the place in defensive coordinator Gus Bradley’s Cover 3-based scheme and cause serious confusion for opponents. Owusu-Koramoah is phenomenal at diagnosing plays and attacking against the run, and has the coverage skill set to play nickel cornerback. Sounds like a worthy Day 1 investment for the Raiders.
Speaking of playing against the pass, with UCF’s Richie Grant still on the board, Las Vegas made a trade with the San Francisco 49ers, sacrificing a mere sixth-round pick and a 2022 fourth-rounder to move up five spots and take the Horned Frogs stud safety. Grant had 16 passes defensed and 10 interceptions in his final three college seasons, and would be a huge, necessary upgrade for the Raiders on the back end.
If you need any reason as to why the Silver and Black would love to have Milton Williams in the defensive trenches — provided he’s still on the board this late in Day 2 — look no further than the off-the-charts numbers Williams posted at Louisiana Tech’s pro day:
At 6-foot-4 and 278 pounds with those movement skills and Pro Football Focus’ third-best interior defender grade among 2020 season qualifiers, Williams would be a no-brainer choice for the Raiders.
Finally, to close out Day 2, the second leg of Las Vegas’ back-to-back third-round selections is Georgia guard Ben Cleveland. He’s a mammoth of a man, and Raiders offensive line coach Tom Cable is one of the best in the business who can get the most out of Cleveland’s considerable physical skill set.
Las Vegas Raiders mock draft: Trench-building and a tantalizing slot receiver on Day 3
- Fourth round, 121st pick: Deonte Brown, iOL, Alabama
- Fifth round, 162nd pick: Adetokunbo Ogundeji, DL, Notre Dame
- Fifth round, 167th pick: Jaelon Darden, WR, North Texas
Why the Raiders decided to break up a massive, physically intimidating offensive line is beyond me. Keeping with the theme of adding the type of power-run blockers Gruden likes to deploy with tailback Josh Jacobs in the rushing attack, Alabama’s Deonte Brown is a mountain of a man who’s faced the best competition available coming out of college.
Las Vegas has loved to take players from prominent programs with multiple years as a starter under their belts. If Cable can get Brown in adequate NFL football shape, the combination he could form as a guard tandem with Cleveland is something Raiders opponents would truly fear.
Adetokunbo Ogundeji would join his former Notre Dame teammate Owusu-Koramoah in this scenario and provide similar versatility to what Williams brings to Las Vegas’ defensive line rotation. Rotating a trio of Ogundeji, Williams and Maurice Hurst on the interior sounds really good, at least on paper.
Hunter Renfrow is a fine slot receiver and one of the few draft picks the Raiders seem to have hit of late. But if they want an alternative who has game-breaking speed and even better short-area quickness, North Texas’ Jaelon Darden presents phenomenal value in Round 5. Darden is among the most elusive skill players in space in the entire 2021 class, and you can bet Gruden would devise creative ways to get the ball in his hands.