Raiders

Mel Kiper NFL mock draft 2020: Raiders get C.J. Henderson, Tee Higgins

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Mel Kiper NFL mock draft 2020: Raiders get C.J. Henderson, Tee Higgins

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.

[RELATED: Raiders in perfect position to draft receiver they desire]

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.

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 OverTheCap.com 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.