Raiders

Raiders rookie Trayvon Mullen will learn from NFL debut vs. Broncos

Raiders rookie Trayvon Mullen will learn from NFL debut vs. Broncos

ALAMEDA -- Trayvon Mullen has a ton of talent. You don't get selected in the second round of the NFL draft if you can't ball. 

Still, cornerback is one of the positions where there tends to be a learning curve from college -- where quarterbacks rarely test top corners -- to the NFL where those same corners are targeted from the moment they step on the field.

Mullen, who did not allow a touchdown during his collegiate career at Clemson, got a taste of that life Monday when he made his NFL debut during the Raiders' 24-16 win over the Denver Broncos. After Oakland's top cornerback Gareon Conley was carted off the field with a possible neck injury, Mullen was thrust into action, charged with helping the Silver and Black preserve their lead. 

As expected, the Broncos and veteran quarterback Joe Flacco went right at Mullen, who was shadowing Emmanuel Sanders. The young corner was targeted four times, surrendering three catches and a touchdown to the savvy veteran. 

There was nothing for Mullen to hang his head about, though. He was half a step away from picking off a Flacco pass and taking it the other way for a touchdown, and had good coverage on the touchdown catch.

It wasn't a sparkling NFL debut for the talented corner, but Mullen knows he can build off his first real outing.

"For me, it was just, I went out there, played with confidence like always, took a couple shots and some plays I could have took back and did different, but for me, it's a learning experience," Mullen told NBC Sports Bay Area on Wednesday. "I know the type of player I am, how good I am. For me, it's just playing with technique, being physical and playing fast and I'll be alright."

Cornerbacks are expected to play every snap, so Mullen had seen the field sparingly until Conley went out. There were no nerves, though.

"When he went out, I was ready," Mullen said. "I was like, 'I'm up.' Have to always be prepared. Like I said, I lean on my technique and my confidence and my play-making ability, so I was ready."

[RELATED: Doss wants to show he belongs with Raiders after wild week]

Conley returned to practice Wednesday and is expected to play Sunday when the Kansas City Chiefs visit the Coliseum, but Mullen will be ready for when his number is called again.

He watched the film of his debut and knows he belongs on the field. The Broncos picked their spots against the rookie and had some success.

The next team won't be as fortunate.

NFL Draft 2020: Raiders could find late-round steal in Harrison Hand

NFL Draft 2020: Raiders could find late-round steal in Harrison Hand

Wide receiver and linebacker are the Raiders' two biggest needs as they enter the offseason.

But the Silver and Black need upgrades across the entire defense. All eleven positions will be evaluated and improved if possible. That improvement won't just be for the starting unit, but for the depth as well.

While the linebackers are the most glaring issue, the secondary also needs to be fixed. Trayvon Mullen showed lock-down potential during his rookie season, and the Raiders will be excited to get Johnathan Abram on the field in 2020.

The Raiders first can address their leaky defense in free agency, before turning their attention to the 2020 NFL Draft. There they will find a talented crop of corners from LSU's Kristian Fulton to Alabama's Trevon Diggs.

I don't expect the Raiders to use a first-round draft pick on a cornerback, but even if they do, they'll still need to improve their depth at the position and Harrison Hand could be a great fit.

Hand started his career at Baylor before transferring to Temple. Hand, 5-foot-11, 197, is projected to be a Day 3 pick. He won't be ready to jump in right away, but he's a physical corner, who has worked hard to become a better tackler. He's long, rangy and has solid ball skills.

He believes he has the tools to be a star at the next level.

"I'm a lockdown corner," Hand told NBC Sports Bay Area on Radio Row during the week of Super Bowl LIV. "I've got speed in coverage. Not a lot of corners tend to want to come up and tackle and be in the box -- be that aggressive -- but that's a part of my game that I like to make an impact."

With Gareon Conley traded to the Houston Texans and Daryl Worley hitting free agency, the Raiders need to find a long-term solution to the corner opposite of Mullen. 

Some believe Hand would be a better safety than corner at the next level, but the Temple product wants to mold his game after another corner who many counted out in the draft -- Richard Sherman. 

"His knowledge," Hand said of what part of his game he wants to model after Sherman. "He's a film junky. He knows the game like the back of his hand because of all the film he watches."

[RELATED: Ruggs, Claypool, Jefferson should have Raiders' attention after combine]

The Raiders only have one Day 3 pick right now, but Hand might be someone for them to look at if he's still on the board. He's not afraid to be physical and has the potential to be a solid corner in the NFL if the right team gets ahold of him.

Henry Ruggs, Chase Claypool among combine stars Raiders should target

Henry Ruggs, Chase Claypool among combine stars Raiders should target

We know two things for certain about the 2020 NFL Draft: The wide receiver class is deep and stocked with talent, and the Raiders need a lot of help at wideout.

With five picks in the first 92, it should be a match made in heaven.

General manager Mike Mayock and head coach Jon Gruden have spent all week at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, and Thursday they got an up-close look at the best the class has to offer. 

While the class is insanely loaded, six receivers dazzled Thursday during drills and testing, no doubt shooting up the Raiders' draft board.

Chase Claypool, Notre Dame

Teams asked Claypool to work out at tight end during the combine, not knowing if he had the athleticism to play wideout at the NFL level.

At 6-foot-4, 238 pounds, the Notre Dame product was a touchdown machine in college. Any doubts about his athleticism and fit should have been put to bed Thursday with his testing.

Running a 4.43 at 6-foot-4 is some alien-type stuff.

In fact, only one other receiver in history has run a sub 4.45 40 at 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds or more.

Calvin Johnson.

In the age of positionless football, just put Claypool on the field and let him go to work.

Henry Ruggs, Alabama

Much like Lamb, Ruggs only solidified his position as one of the top-three wideouts in this loaded class.

Have you ever seen a cheetah run on two legs? Here you go.

An effortless 4.27.

In a freaky class, Ruggs is at the top of the class.

Denzel Mims, Baylor

You want to talk stock up? Look no further than Denzel Mims.

The 6-foot-3, 207-pound receiver had the best three-cone time of the night at 6.66, he broad jumped 10' 11'', had a 38.5-inch vertical and ran a 4.38 40-yard dash.

Freaky.

He also looked fluid in pass-catching drills, showing he's not just a workout warrior.

Mims dominated the Senior Bowl and continued his rise in Indianapolis.

CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma

This is going to be short. I've long believed Lamb is the best receiver in the class and the Raiders should jump at the opportunity to draft him if he's available at No. 12.

He did nothing Thursday to dispel that belief. He just spent it showcasing why he'll be highly coveted in the draft.

Another look?

Your WR1.

[RELATED: Hurts' talent entices, but should Raiders take chance on QB?]

Justin Jefferson, LSU

Despite Jefferson lighting the world of college football on fire this past season, Jefferson entered the combine with some questions about his speed and overall athleticism. Those now are gone.

And since catching the football is the name of the game, he put on a show in The Gauntlet.

Jefferson might have had the best overall combine performance. Don't be surprised if the Raiders snatch him up at No. 19.