The Raiders entered this offseason hoping to secure the services of a shutdown cornerback. They haven’t done that yet, though it wasn’t for lack of effort.
They backed up the Brinks truck for Byron Jones and offered Chris Jones Jr. a decent sum. They poked around on a Darius Slay trade. They didn’t get any of those guys.
They agreed on terms with Eli Apple as an alternate plan, but even that deal fell apart. They signed Damarious Randall, but the initial expectation is that he’ll play free safety.
So Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock enter the 2020 NFL Draft looking to satisfy a pressing need that exists despite their affinity for 2019 fourth-rounder Isaiah Johnson.
They have two first-round picks -- Nos. 12 and 19 -- to acquire a cornerback they can plug in and play outside opposite Trayvon Mullen. There’s a belief among NFL draft experts that there aren’t many instant impact cornerbacks available, so it may take a high pick to get one.
Ohio State’s Jeff Okudah falls decisively into that category, but there’s no way in holy heck he lasts until the Raiders pick. The Raiders could possibly trade up to get him -- our Josh Schrock thinks the Raiders should do that -- but it would take significant capital to get high enough and might not be worth the expense.
So let’s eliminate Okudah as an option and focus on players the Raiders could realistically get where they’re currently slotted:
No. 12 overall
CJ Henderson, Florida (6-feet, 204 pounds): The former Gator probably is the only cornerback considered worthy of the No. 12 pick, provided Okudah is off the board as expected. Henderson certainly is a step above every other draft prospect, with the size, length and athleticism to be a respected NFL cornerback.
He challenges routes and is a competitive sort, which the Raiders would like. He has experience playing both man and zone but is a top tier press-man prospect, and that fits what the Raiders are looking for. The rare knocks, per draft analysts, are that he’s not a great run defender, not a sure tackler and he doesn’t have elite ball skills, but his work ethic suggests he could develop in those areas.
No. 19 overall
Trevon Diggs, Alabama (6-foot-1, 205 pounds): The former member of the Crimson Tide secondary has elite size, length and strength for the position. Stefon Diggs’ younger brother has competitive drive to spare and has experience in a press-man scheme. He got better with technique and discipline but still has room to grow. He already has excellent ball skills, analysts say, with an ability to jump routes and defend passes.
Jaylon Johnson, Utah (6 feet, 193 pounds): The former Ute is built for press coverage, which may be enticing for the Raiders. He has the size and length to play tough at the line of scrimmage and delay timing of receiver routes. He also can play off, armed with the anticipation and ball skills to break up passes. He’s also a good communicator and has good leaping ability on deep balls. There’s development left to be made, analysts say, especially when the ball’s on its away, and that he can struggle against precise, elite route runners. He’s still projected as a quality NFL starter, which the Raiders definitely need. The Raiders might still be able to snag him and trade down in the first round, getting a good corner and an extra selection or two.
A.J. Terrell, Clemson (6-foot-1, 195 pounds): The Raiders already have one starting cornerback from Clemson. Why not two? Mullen showed proficiency running the Raiders scheme, so there’s reason to believe Terrell could do the same. He struggled mightily in the national title game versus LSU, but there’s plenty of good tape out there. He’s another press-man cornerback who can close in open space and make plays on the ball. He’s good working deep, but overall there’s improvement to be made in several areas and he might not qualify as the plug and play right away cornerback the Raiders need.
Others worth consideration: Kristian Fulton, LSU, Jeff Gladney, TCU