The Las Vegas Raiders addressed both sides of the ball with their three first-round picks last year. ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. expects them to do the same next month.
Kiper released his Mock Draft 3.0 on Tuesday, projecting all 32 first-round selections without factoring in trades. The ESPN analyst addressed two of the Raiders' biggest positions of need, predicting coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock would draft a cornerback and a wide receiver, respectively, with the No. 12 and No. 19 overall picks.
The Raiders drafted a cornerback first in Kiper's mock, selecting Florida's C.J. Henderson with the No. 12 overall selection. That's right around the range where the draft's most talented receivers are projected to be picked, but Kiper is high on Henderson.
"[Since] Las Vegas has two first-round picks and this class of receivers is much deeper at the top than the cornerback group," Kiper wrote, "let's give Jon Gruden and Co. a potential No. 1 corner in Henderson here. He had an up-and-down 2019 season, but he cemented his standing as the second-ranked cornerback in this class at the combine, where he ran a 4.39 40. The Raiders get to grab a receiver at No. 19."
NBC Sports Bay Area's Josh Schrock and Dalton Johnson projected the Raiders would select Alabama wide receiver Jerry Jeudy in their latest mock draft, factoring the Raiders free-agency additions on defense at myriad positions. Las Vegas still needs help in the secondary, though, and Henderson would provide a strong option to pair with Trayvon Mullen moving forward.
Receiver arguably is a more pressing need than cornerback, so Kiper projected that the Raiders won't wait to add an offensive weapon. He predicted that Las Vegas would draft Clemson wide receiver Tee Higgins.
"They can't go into the season with Tyrell Williams, Hunter Renfrow and Nelson Agholor as Derek Carr's top wideouts," Kiper wrote. "So how about (Hunter) Renfrow's college teammate, Higgins, a 6-foot-3 pass-catcher with elite ball skills. Higgins isn't a speedster -- he didn't work out at the combine, but he ran a 4.54 40 at his pro day -- but he could be an instant red zone threat for Carr."
The Raiders love Clemson's culture, so it's easy to envision them going that route again if they wait to draft a wide receiver. Higgins isn't as dynamic as the consensus top three receivers in CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs, but he likely also won't be on the board when the Raiders select next at No. 80 overall.
Schrock and Johnson had the Raiders selecting South Carolina defensive lineman Javon Kinlaw, who would add some much-needed pass-rushing ability to an improving defensive front. Alabama safety Xavier McKinney (No. 20 overall) and Clemson cornerback A.J. Terrell (No. 22 overall) were the two defensive backs the pair mocked following Kinlaw's selection, so the Raiders conceivably would still have options in the secondary if they drafted a wide receiver with their first of two first-round picks.
The Raiders once again have the ability to bring in offensive and defensive talent in the first round this year. We don't yet know which side of the ball they'll address first, but the flexibility can't hurt in their inaugural season in Sin City.