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Clemson vs. LSU: Ranking seven NFL draft prospects Raiders should watch

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Clemson vs. LSU: Ranking seven NFL draft prospects Raiders should watch

Another giant NFL draft faces Jon Gruden, Mike Mayock and the Raiders in April.

After hitting a home run in their first draft together, the Silver and Black must layer another solid class on top of last year's to set them up for what Josh Jacobs and Co. believe can be a dynastic run.

There will be a number of elite NFL prospects on the field Monday night at Mercedes-Benz Stadium when the No. 1-ranked LSU Tigers face the No. 3-seeded Clemson Tigers in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game. 

The Raiders have needs at wide receiver, cornerback, safety, running back and linebacker, many of which could be filled by players vying for the title in New Orleans.

Here are seven prospects for the Raiders to watch Monday night, ranked from best fit on down. (LSU quarterback Joe Burrow and Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons are not listed, despite their obvious fit, because they are not expected to be available when the Raiders pick.)

7. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, LSU

Much like Etienne, Edwards-Helaire fits the modern-day running back mold perfectly. He's great at catching the ball out of the backfield with a stellar combination of good route-running and solid hands.

The LSU back has great power and agility making him difficult to bring down. He's another later round guy for the Silver and Black to look at to compliment Jacobs.


6. Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson

Running back? But the Raiders just took Jacobs, the likely Offensive Rookie of the Year. Yes, and when Jacobs got hurt and they had to turn to DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard, the run game fell off.

The Raiders would be smart to look at guy like Etienne, who likely will go in the third or fourth round. He's a powerful runner who is a weapon in the passing game with his game-breaking speed.

Having a Jacobs-Etienne backfield would be the stuff of nightmares for teams to defend.

His ability to go from zero to 60 his unreal.

[RELATED: 2020 Mock draft 1.0: Raiders projections ahead of LSU-Clemson]

5. Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU

Fulton is this low, not because he lacks talent, but because he might not even make it to the Raiders at No. 12. He certainly won't make it to No. 19 overall.

He's a smart corner with good coverage skills. His ability to close on routes and read coverage trees to create leverage positions. He must get better tackling and timing jump balls to be more of a factor in 50/50 balls.

He, like Terrell, would be great on the other side of Mullen.

4. Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU

The Raiders need more than one receiver to revamp their offense.

Higgins would be a nice start, but being able to snag a guy like Jefferson would be a big win.

The LSU star has great body control and is a polished route-runner who has the ability to adjust his route on the fly to beat man coverage. Jefferson, 6-foot-3, 192 pounds, is great at making contested catches. He has exploded onto the scene as LSU's revamped passing attack has allowed his talent to shine through. He has the ability to play outside and in the slot. His versatility would be something Gruden would love to scheme ways to take advantage of.

Jefferson is shooting up draft boards, so the Raiders might have to find a way to jump into the second round to snag him, but he would be well worth it.

3. K'Lavon Chaisson, Edge, LSU

Yes, the Raiders still need help getting after the quarterback. Maxx Crosby was a nice surprise and Clelin Ferrell is set up for an improved sophomore season.

But the Raiders need to add more pass-rushing juice. Chaisson is the perfect prospect for defensive coordinator Paul Guenther's defense.

He has an elite blend of athletic traits that make him the type of edge prospect scouts dream about. He has broad shoulders and oily hips. He's explosive in transition and uses his athleticism to make up for what he lacks in length. LSU has moved him all over their defensive sets and his versatility is something Guenther would love to play with.


2. A.J. Terrell, CB, Clemson

The Raiders grabbed a shutdown corner in the second round last year in Trayvon Mullen. His defensive backfield-mate at Clemson would be a nice fit on the other side of the field. 

No, corner isn't the Raiders' most pressing need, but Terrell and Mullen combined to form one of the best cornerback duos in recent college football history last season, Just ask Tua Tagovailoa how hard it is to move the ball against a secondary anchored by Mullen and Terrell.

Terrell is long and rangy at 6-foot-1. He has elite coverage skills, fits great in both press and man schemes and thrives at disrupting the ball at the point of attack. He has great instincts but does need to work on his ability to read the quarterback's eyes and not have his aggressiveness used against him.

He has yet to allow more than 60 yards against him this season.

[RELATED: Raiders should follow draft blueprint, raid title game]

1. Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson

After Antonio Brown turned in his NFL card to be an aspiring rapper, the Raiders' offense struggled to make big plays in the passing game.

Rookie Hunter Renfrow and tight end Darren Waller were dynamite, but the Silver and Black need a big body to be a threat on the outside, no matter who the quarterback is. 

Higgins, 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, is adept at using his size to his advantage. He has great ball-tracking skills on nine routes and is able to use his range to snag off-target throws and win 50/50 balls. Higgins averaged 20.8 yards per catch and was Pro Football Focus' highest-graded Power 5 receiver.

Gruden should be salivating over the thought of Higgins in Silver and Black.

Higgins might be putting on a Raider hat when they go on the clock at No. 12 overall.

Tom Brady to Las Vegas Raiders 'has legs,' UFC's Dana White believes

Tom Brady to Las Vegas Raiders 'has legs,' UFC's Dana White believes

Given the uneven performance Derek Carr had in the Raiders' final season in Oakland, it wouldn't be surprising if the team brought in another quarterback to start for the franchise' in its first season in Las Vegas.

Whether it's veterans like Cam Newton and Marcus Mariota or draft prospects like Tua Tagovaiola and Justin Herbert, there's no shortage of possibilities for Jon Gruden to consider as Carr's replacement and/or backup.

By the looks of the Connor McGregor-Cowboy Cerrone UFC fight Saturday night, it appears there's another name on the list, and it's the biggest one possible.

Yep. That would be Raiders owner Mark Davis in the white, and six-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady in the black leather jacket on the right. If that doesn't get the rumor mill swirling, the following context might do the trick.

According to Adam Hill of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, UFC president Dana White -- who is a friend of Brady's and already is a suiteholder at Allegiant Stadium -- believes a Brady-Raiders pairing isn't all that farfetched. 

Carr is set to make $18.9 million in base salary in 2020, so it's difficult to see a scenario in which he and Brady are on the same team. Brady might be the best QB of all-time, and simply put, he's not taking a major pay cut. However, the Raiders would save $16.5 million and take a cap hit of just $5 million if they trade or release Carr prior to June 1, which would appear to be a precondition for bringing Brady to Sin City.

Of course, if the Raiders did that, it would be under the assumption that Brady could regain some of his three-time MVP form -- which, if you watched him in New England this past season, is nowhere near a certainty. In fact, one could argue that Carr is a superior QB to Brady right now, thus making that hypothetical move both illogical and unnecessary. While throwing for nearly an identical number of passing yards in 2019, Carr posted a far superior completion percentage than Brady (70.4 percent to 60.8 percent) and averaged 1.3 more yards per pass attempt. Of the 30 quarterbacks that qualified for ESPN's Total QBR rating -- which values the quarterback on all play types on a 0-100 scale adjusted for the strength of opposing defenses faced -- Carr was ranked ninth (62.4), while Brady was ranked 17th (53.7)

[RELATED: Mayock gives glowing review of Carr's 2019 with Raiders]

One would imagine that Gruden knows what he has in Carr, and considering his lukewarm-at-best endorsement of the Raiders' incumbent QB at the conclusion of the season, it wouldn't be surprising if the team opted to go in another direction. Brady certainly would provide plenty of excitement -- and would sell plenty of tickets -- but it would also be a big gamble on the Raiders' part.

Given it's Las Vegas, maybe that's the way to go.

Raiders' Derek Carr 'progressed at rapid rate' in 2019, Mike Mayock says

Raiders' Derek Carr 'progressed at rapid rate' in 2019, Mike Mayock says

As the Raiders pack up their stuff in Oakland and prepare to embrace the bright lights of Las Vegas, they have a number of questions to answer.

How will they address the gaping holes at wide receiver? What about linebacker? And, of course, is Derek Carr the right guy for the job?

With a lack of offensive talent on the outside last season, Carr was serviceable. He led game-winning drives against the Detroit Lions and Los Angeles Chargers. The Raiders were 6-4 and flying high. Then the team, Carr included, laid four straight duds to fall out of the playoff picture. Carr remains an average NFL quarterback. He can win games when everything around him is perfect, but he was unable to will the Raiders to wins down the stretch that would have stopped the skid and kept playoff hopes alive. 

It was Year 2 for Carr in head coach Jon Gruden's system and questions about their long-term viability together constantly linger. General manager Mike Mayock, though, was pleased with Carr's play during the 7-9 season.

"As far as Derek is concerned, look, it, Jon demands a lot from his quarterbacks," Mayock told Raiders.com. "People don't understand how much, just from a verbiage standpoint all the way to control, pre-snap at the line of scrimmage, you know, his percentage of completions, his ability to command the huddle, his ability to command the pre-snap process at the line of scrimmage, his accuracy. He's got arm talent.

"You look at his development between him and Darren Waller, you know, Darren Waller had 90 catches for over 1,000 yards. Darren Waller is a Pro-Bowl tight end by any definition. And then the chemistry he developed with Hunter Renfrow. I think we've got a good offensive line and what we have to do is a better job of supporting him with some more wide receiver talent, the ability to catch the football, uh, the ability to spread the ball around a little bit. You know, Derek handled everything Jon threw at him mentally. I thought he progressed at a rapid rate in year two in Jon's system."

That certainly sounds like the Raiders will be bringing Carr back. 

There will be a number of quarterbacks on the free-agent market for Gruden to bring it to provide competition for Carr should he desire.

The Raiders also have two first-round draft picks and could use one to select a high-end prospect like Oregon's Justin Herbert, Utah State's Jordan Love or Washington's Jacob Eason if one of them appeals to Gruden. 

[RELATED: Raiders should stick to draft blueprint, raid Clemson-LSU]

With more talent on the outside and a defense capable of getting off the field at a more regular clip, perhaps Carr will play at a higher level in Las Vegas.

If not, his time with the Raiders could be over shortly.