How Raiders' free-agent signings impact their 2020 NFL Draft plans

How Raiders' free-agent signings impact their 2020 NFL Draft plans

Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock entered free agency with a plan, and they executed it to near-perfection

The Raiders agreed to terms with six defensive players, including linebackers Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski, shoring up what had been a literal black hole for years. With two three-down, playmaking linebackers now in the fold, the Silver and Black could take a different approach to the 2020 NFL Draft than initially presumed. 

With the No. 12 and No. 19 picks, many had presumed the Raiders would use the first pick on one of the best wide receivers in a loaded class and the second on the likes of LSU's Patrick Queen or Oklahoma's Kenneth Murray to help fix the linebacking issue. That likely won't be the case now with Littleton and Kwiatkoski in the fold. 

The Raiders still are likely to take a receiver with one of their first two selections, but their first-round strategy almost certainly has changed after free agency. Let's take a look at a few ways the Raiders could attack the first round, with linebacking needs now on the backburner. 

Draft CeeDee Lamb (duh) and go corner at No. 19

If I were a betting man, and I am, I'd still put money on the Raiders selecting either Oklahoma's CeeDee Lamb or Alabama's Jerry Jeudy at No. 12. Lamb is more of a threat with the ball in his hands, a tenacious competitor and he has the speed to be a deep vertical threat at the next level. Jeudy is the most-polished receiver of the class and likely will settle in as a slot guy at the next level.

Either way, the Raiders can't lose. But if Lamb is on the board, they should sprint to turn in the card with his name on it. 

After addressing the offense with their first pick, the Raiders go back to defense and get defensive coordinator Paul Guenther another athlete for his new-look defense. The Raiders have Trayvon Mullen, a blossoming star at one corner, and took swings at Byron Jones and Chris Harris in free agency before missing out. They ultimately agreed to a deal with Eli Apple, but don't pencil him into the other starting corner spot. 

While Ohio State's Jeff Okudah will be long gone by No. 19, the Raiders could look at LSU's Kristian Fulton, Florida's C.J. Henderson or Clemson's A.J. Terrell to form a young duo with Mullen. 

There are some concerns about Fulton's size and speed, but the LSU product gave up only 48 catches over the past two seasons while notching 20 pass breakups.

Henderson is a gifted athlete and the second-best man cover corner in the class after Okudah. He has shown a tendency to not be physical with receivers, which has led to some big plays. 

As for Terrell, the last time we saw him he was having an awful game against LSU in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game. That's going to happen against the likes of Ja'Marr Chase. Contrast that with the 2019 title game when Terrell was all over Alabama's DeVonta Smith Jr. and you can see why the Raiders might like him. He's long, rangy, athletic and comes from a culture the Raiders love to farm from. 

Get big Kinlaw energy early and see which receiver falls

It seems unlikely the Raiders don't draft a receiver at No. 12. If South Carolina's Javon Kinlaw still is available, however, I could see the Raiders locking him down and further cementing their defensive line. Kinlaw is an absolute monster on the interior at 6-foot-6, 310 pounds. He's long, explosive and powerful. Kinlaw needs to play with a consistent motor, but you have to think Guenther would love to add him to the DL rotation. 

If the Raiders do snap up Kinlaw at No. 12, they'll be hoping Alabama's Henry Ruggs falls to No. 19. Since that's pretty unlikely given the 4.27 40 Ruggs blazed at the NFL Scouting Combine, the Raiders will be left to choose between LSU's Justin Jefferson, Clemson's Tee Higgins, Colorado's Laviska Shenault and Baylor's Denzel Mims, who also was a combine star. 

Adding Kinlaw and Jefferson would get top marks across the board. 

Gruden gets his toys

The Raiders' defense just got loads better in free agency, so it's time to get Derek Carr, Marcus Mariota or the QB of the future (more on that in a minute) some weapons. 

Not only do the Raiders draft Lamb at No. 12, but they go back to the well at No. 19 and take Jefferson, giving the Raiders two dynamic playmakers who can operate from anywhere on the field. 

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

Look, we reeeeeeeallllllly like Jalen Hurts

It's no secret the Raiders like Oklahoma's Jalen Hurts. He has a lot of skills that would make him a great quarterback in the modern NFL. Hurts has great pocket awareness, can beat you with his legs, is good in the RPO game and has a strong arm. The footwork and delivery have to be cleaned up, but it looks like he's already working on that based on his combine and pro day results. 

With Hurts shooting up draft boards, could the Raiders take Lamb at No. 12 and their potential QB of the future at No. 19? It would be a huge gamble, but they could feel compelled to make that move if they like Hurts, considering they have zero second-round picks. 

But I'd call it unlikely. 

The Raiders also still need to address the safety spot opposite Johnathan Abram, but unless they like LSU's Grant Delpit, that doesn't seem like an option in the first round. 

The additions of Littleton and Kwiatkoski has changed the look of the Raiders' defense, and likely their draft plans. As someone who wasn't sold on Queen's meteoric rise up the boards or Murray's ability to cover tight ends, I'd say this is the best-case scenario for the Silver and Black. 

Now, Mayock and Gruden can draft two elite players without having to gamble on one based solely on need. 

NFL Draft 2020: Raiders in solid salary-cap standing heading into event

NFL Draft 2020: Raiders in solid salary-cap standing heading into event

Damarious Randall’s deal with the Raiders went across the NFL transaction wire on Tuesday. The defensive back was the last veteran free-agent addition to get processed by the league and the players union, meaning all of the Silver and Black’s new players are now official.

That gives us a crystal-clear look at the Raiders salary cap situation and where they stand heading into the NFL draft.

The Raiders have $8.128 million in salary-cap space, according to a daily public report issued Thursday morning by the NFL Players Association. That’s a smidge under the roughly $9.4 million estimates required to sign their NFL draft class as currently slotted, but certainly not a big deal that won’t have to be addressed until picks start signing in May and June.

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There are plenty of corrections to be made through cutting expendable players -- they still have four veteran quarterbacks on the roster -- or a minor restructure to get under the financial threshold.

The draft could also take care of the issue, especially if the Raiders trade down or end up with few selections than they currently own.

The Raiders were able to add 12 veterans in unrestricted free agents and retained eight through extensions or various contract tenders.

Restructuring Rodney Hudson’s contract was key to adding this many new folks, as they shuffled his money around to spread out what would’ve been a significant 2020 salary cap hit.

[RELATED: Raiders' 2020 offseason scorecard: Trades, signings, NFL draft picks]

The Raiders would be in a different space had the Eli Apple deal gone through. He was set to sign a one-year deal worth $6 million before the pact fell apart. Randall came aboard after that on a one-year contract worth up to $3.25 million, but it comes with a $1.5 million base salary and a $2.1 million cap hit.

That swap was a win for the on-field product and salary-cap standing, though it intensifies the need to find a cornerback in the NFL draft.

NFL Draft 2020: Raiders could strike gold with Day 2 cornerback gems

NFL Draft 2020: Raiders could strike gold with Day 2 cornerback gems

The Raiders struck gold in the 2019 NFL Draft by finding Trayvon Mullen, a potential lockdown corner in the second round.

You can pencil Mullen as the starting cornerback on one side of the field for the foreseeable future. The Raiders tried to address the cornerback position in free agency, but they missed out on Byron Jones and Chris Harris Jr. After their deal with Eli Apple fell apart, cornerback became a pressing need to be addressed in the NFL draft.

The 2020 cornerback class has one surefire star in Ohio State's Jeff Okudah and two-to-five other likely NFL starters that should go in the first 40 picks. That's pretty much the range for elite cornerbacks. Over the last four years, Richard Sherman (fifth-round), A.J. Bouye (undrafted) and Malcolm Butler (undrafted) were the only three All-Pro cornerbacks who weren't drafted in the first two rounds. The other 13 all were taken at the top of the draft.

That doesn't mean it's impossible to find talent at cornerback later in the draft, it just means it's a little less likely. The Raiders should be able to address their cornerback need in Round 1, but there are a few later-round guys who they should target if the draft goes a different way.

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Noah Igbinoghene, Auburn

Igbinoghene arrived on The Plains as a talented receiver recruit and turned into one of the draft's most intriguing cornerback prospects.

A relatively new corner, Igbinoghene has the athleticism and physicality to play at the NFL but he will need to get more comfortable with his coverage instincts. He's an explosive athlete with a high NFL ceiling, but there's no telling how long it will take him to reach it. Over 878 coverage snaps at Auburn, Igbinoghene allowed only three touchdowns. Not bad for a converted wide receiver.

Here's the athleticism:

And improving coverage skills.

Bryce Hall, Virginia

Hall returned for his senior season at Viriginia, but an ankle injury limited him to just six games, hurting his draft stock.

The 6-foot-1 defensive back is long and explosive with tremendous ball skills. He struggled at times in man coverage at Virginia and many analysts beleive he might be best suited for a zone-heavy scheme. While he comes with question marks, Hall has is an intelligent player, high character locker room presence and has the ability to make game-changing plays on the field.

He projects as an NFL starter as long as the fit is right.

Damon Arnette, Ohio State

If you're looking for a starter in press coverage, Damon Arnette is your man.

Overshadowed by his teammate Okudah, the 6-foot cornerback has great quickness, is sticky in man coverage, has the anticipation to play zone and brings exceptional ball skills and body control to the table. He had the lowest passer rating allowed in single man coverage in the NCAA last year.

The Raiders kicked the tires on a Darius Slay trade, but it fell through. Arnette has drawn comparisons to Slay and should be able to start in the NFL on Day 1.

Cameron Dantzler, Mississippi State

One of the best cornerbacks in the NFL, Dantzler has the height, length, competitiveness and versatility to be a solid NFL cornerback. While some scouts worry about his narrow frame, the tape shows a corner with great coverage skills in man, press and zone.

Dantzler's anticipation and instincts have some analysts believing he'd be a better zone-scheme fit in the NFL. His production across 22 starts at Mississippi State shows a corner who has the tools to fit into any scheme if given the time.

The 6-foot-2 corner also played LSU's Ja'Marr Chase -- the Biletnikoff Award winner and likely top-10 2021 pick -- the best of any corner. While Chase torched Clemson's A.J. Terrell, a likely top 40 pick, in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game, Dantzler only allowed two catches for 13 yards when targeted by LSU.

However, Dantlzer's 4.64 40 time and 30.5-inch arms will raise a lot of questions about his staying power in the NFL.

[RELATED: Why trading up to draft Okudah is perfect move for Raiders

Troy Pride Jr., Notre Dame

Potentially one of the most underrated prospects in the draft, Notre Dame's Troy Pride Jr. played well at the Senior Bowl and could be one of the steals of the 2020 NFL Draft.

The 5-foot-11 corner has the requisite quickness, speed and change of direction to thrive in man coverage. While he thrives in man, Pride also has the instincts to play zone and has played in a press-scheme as well, making him not scheme dependent.

Hurting Pride are his less than exceptional ball skills and lack of production in run support. While he might not be a Day 1 starter, Pride does have the skills and potential to be a starter in Year 2 or Year 3.