Xavier McKinney

NFL mock draft 2020: Raiders grab elite receiver, address secondary

NFL mock draft 2020: Raiders grab elite receiver, address secondary

The Raiders have glaring needs out wide and in the secondary.

Their passing offense struggled after Antonio Brown ejected himself to the moon, and they need to find a cornerback to pair opposite Trayvon Mullen. A long-term answer at safety and a franchise defensive tackle also could be in the cards as the Raiders prepare for the 2020 NFL Draft. With two picks in the first round -- Nos. 12 and 19 -- general manager Mike Mayock and coach Jon Gruden have a golden opportunity to stack more talent on top of the loaded 2019 draft class.

The prevailing logic has the Raiders using one of their top picks on an elite wide receiver and the other on a plug-and-play corner. NBC Sports Bay Area's Dalton Johnson and Josh Schrock have the Raiders selecting Alabama wide receiver Jerry Jeudy at No. 12 and Alabama safety Xavier McKinney at No. 19.

[RELATED: Six WRs for Raiders to target later in NFL draft]

With the draft quickly approaching, let's see what some of the top draft experts expect the Silver and Black to do.

Todd McShay, ESPN: WR CeeDee Lamb (No. 12), S Antoine Winfield (No. 19)
Lamb: "The Raiders were pretty active on the defensive side of the ball in free agency, so we're looking at offense here. Lamb is incredible after the catch and could be Vegas' No. 1 receiver. Tyrell Williams isn't the answer, and with both Lamb and Alabama burner Henry Ruggs III still on the board, the Raiders have to get quarterback Derek Carr a weapon."
Winfield: "Earlier in Round 1, we slotted Vegas with a top-tier wide receiver to help the offensive passing game. Now, we're diving in on a defensive passing game that is in need of a punch. Corner is definitely a bigger issue than safety, but Winfield has tremendous versatility. He is undersized, but he is a hard-hitting tackler with ball skills. Coach Jon Gruden would love bringing in this kid."

Mel Kiper, ESPN: CB CJ Henderson (No. 12), WR Tee Higgins (No. 19)
Henderson: "After the Raiders signed both Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkowski in free agency, you can scratch off-ball linebacker from their list of needs. That still leaves wide receiver and cornerback, though. And since Las Vegas has two first-round picks and this class of receivers is much deeper at the top than the cornerback group, let's give Jon Gruden & 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. Could Vegas be an option if one of the other quarterbacks -- Justin Herbert or Jordan Love -- make it here?"
Higgins: "If the Raiders take a cornerback at No. 12, they have to address receiver here. They can't go into the season with Tyrell Williams, Hunter Renfrow and Nelson Agholor as Derek Carr's top wideouts. So how about 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."

Daniel Jeremiah, NFL.com: WR Jerry Jeudy (No. 12), CB A.J. Terrell (No. 19)
Jeudy: "This decision would likely come down to Jeudy versus Javon Kinlaw. I would applaud either choice."
Terrell: "Terrell would reunite with his college teammate, Trayvon Mullen, to give the Raiders two tall, long and rangy CBs to build their secondary around."

Dan Kader, SB Nation: WR Henry Ruggs III (No. 12), CB CJ Henderson (No. 19)
Ruggs: "With two first-round picks and three third-round picks, the Raiders could get creative. But in a draft featuring three elite wide receiver prospects, they could hold on to their picks and risk it. I continue to go back and forth on the order the top three receivers will come off the board."
Henderson: "The Raiders should be happy to walk away from the first day of the draft with new starters at wide receiver and cornerback. That’s what they get out of this mock draft. Henderson is a player with top-15 talent who could slide due to all the offensive tackles and wide receivers getting picked."

Matt Miller, Bleacher Report: WR Henry Ruggs III (No. 12), S Xavier McKinney (No. 19)
Ruggs: "Ruggs gets classified as a speed receiver -- and he is with that 4.27 40-yard-dash time -- but he’s also a polished route-runner and an all-around threat. Get him the football, and beautiful things happen. And maybe you’re surprised he’s the first receiver off the board, but you shouldn’t be. NFL teams covet speed over polish."
McKinney: "With the 12th selection, the Raiders went to Alabama for a game-changing wide receiver. At No. 19 overall, general manager Mike Mayock will dip back into Nick Saban’s program to add a utility-knife defender with coverage skills who might be the answer to the tight ends in the AFC West."

Tyler Roman, NBC Sports Washington: WR Jerry Jeudy (No 12.), QB Jordan Love (No. 19)
Jeudy: "Jeudy’s route running ability is some of the best you will ever see from a college player. His separation skills are unreal and he can get open against any type of coverage. He’s a very smart player who knows how to set up his man and find the open areas in zone coverage."
Love: "Jon Gruden’s favorite QB is always his next one so I think he pulls the trigger on Derek Carr’s successor here at 19. Love had a tremendous sophomore year with 30 touchdowns and just six interceptions but fell off last year with a nation-leading 17 picks. A lot of that is contributed to a loss of playmakers and a new coaching staff though. Love has spectacular arm talent that will dazzle in the NFL with the right tutelage and players around him."

NFL Draft 2020: Raiders should select one of these five defensive backs

NFL Draft 2020: Raiders should select one of these five defensive backs

The Raiders took great strides to improve a leaky defense in free agency.

After years of toiling in linebacker hell, the Silver and Black signed two, three-down linebackers in Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski. They bulked up their defensive line by adding Maliek Collins and edge rusher Carl Nassib.

The secondary, however, remains an issue. Trayvon Mullen showed shutdown corner potential during his rookie season. The Raiders hope Johnathan Abram is a presence at safety. Lamarcus Joyner is locked in at slot corner. The Raiders wanted to bring in Eli Apple to compete for the second corner position, but the contract wasn't finalized. Jeff Heath and Erik Harris likely will compete for the second starting safety spot.

But the Raiders must continue to upgrade their secondary. They have two first-round draft picks -- No. 12 and No. 19 -- and likely will use one on either a corner or safety while the other is allocated to a wide receiver.

Ohio State's Jeff Okudah is the best cornerback in the class. He's a plug-and-play corner who would look great in silver and black. But he'll be long gone by the time the Raiders go on the clock. There still are a number of defensive backs for the Raiders to select to take their defense to the next level.

Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama

This is who Dalton Johnson and I have the Raiders selecting at No. 19 in our latest mock draft. McKinney is a versatile playmaker who would pair well with Abram in the backend.

The Alabama safety is a sure tackler with instinctive zone coverage skills and great disruptive ability at the point of the catch. While he's not considered a lockdown defender in man coverage, he does have the ability to be a pest.

He's a high-IQ player who projects as a three-down, plug-and-play defender at the NFL level. His versatility allows him to thrive as a deep safety in the deep third of the field in the nickel and as a blitzer who can key in on the run as well.

McKinney's skills make him the optimal defensive weapon to stop modern offenses.

C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida

The Raiders need a cornerback, that much is clear.

After Okudah, Henderson is the best cornerback in the class. He's got great man coverage skills and his long, wiry frame coupled with his eye discipline makes him a solid cover corner, but he has a tendency to have mental lapses, particularly when defending the run game.

He could be a good option at No. 19, but his deficiencies in the run game could hurt him.

Henderson is an elite athlete and can thrive as a press-man corner. His issues with tackling and lack of ball production have some analysts questioning him, but you'd rather have a guy who can stick with top receivers -- as Mullen can on the other side -- and miss a few tackles, than have a guy who is average in coverage but better at tackling. Wouldn't you?

Here's Henderson shadowing and sticking in the pocket of LSU's Ja'Marr Chase, the Biletnikoff Award winner.

Kristian Fulton, LSU

The next tier of cornerbacks stars with Fulton.

The LSU star went up against the best of the best in college football and thrived. When facing Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs and Tee Higgins, Fulton gave up just three catches for 39 yards and zero touchdowns on 11 targets.

Henderson might be seen as the next best cornerback after Okudah, but I love Fulton's game. The 6-foot, 200-pound cornerback has exceptional man coverage skills. He has great feet, fluid hips, exceptional awareness and physicality to eventually become a No. 1 corner in the NFL.

The thing that makes Fulton so special is his ability to handle big physical receivers as well as the faster, twitchier pass-catchers. He forced an incompletion on 37.5 percent of man coverage snaps during the last two seasons and was rated the most valuable defensive back in college football since 2018 by Pro Football Focus.

He has a lot of room for growth, but Fulton has all the potential to be a star.

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A.J. Terrell, CB, Clemson

An all-Clemson cornerback party in Las Vegas might be tough for general manager Mike Mayock to turn down.

Mullen's defensive backfield mate showed tremendous growth during his time in Death Valley. The 6-foot-1 corner is a terrific athlete with quick feet, fluid hips and a great ability to find consistent success in press coverage. Terrell had terrific success at baiting quarterbacks into throws in college, so he'll need to be a tad more cautious in the NFL. He's long, wiry and great at playing through the hands of the receivers.

The last time we saw Terrell he was getting abused by Chase in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game. Chase will be a top-five pick next year, so there's no reason for that to ding Terrell.

He'll need to work on his tackling and get a little stronger, but Terrell has all the tools and could pair nicely with Mullen.

[RELATED: Raiders go offense/defense in latest mock draft]

Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU

One of the rising stars of the cornerback class, Gladney is a tough, physical cornerback who thrives in man coverage.

He doesn't get bullied by bigger wide receivers and is a willing tackler in the run game. Gladney's a tad short at 5-foot-10 and some change, but he makes up for it with his competitive tenacity and physicality.

His fast feet, smooth hips and route-mirroring ability make him an attractive option late in the first round.

Jimmie Ward warns 49ers against replacing him with top draft prospects

Jimmie Ward warns 49ers against replacing him with top draft prospects

Jimmie Ward would prefer to remain with the 49ers, assuming they offer him the kind of contract he is looking for in free agency. But if that isn't in the cards, the free safety has thoughts on how San Francisco should go about replacing him.

There have been a number of safeties -- both free agents and draft prospects -- whose names have been associated with the 49ers. Ward has heard the rumors, but he doesn't view them as realistic, and recently took to Instagram to explain why.

"[Anthony] Harris is going to be more expensive than me in free agency FYI," Ward began. Considering Spotrac projects the Vikings' free agent to command an average annual salary of $13.8 million on his next contract, it's difficult to argue with that first point.

Next, Ward moved his attention to the draft prospects.

"If you draft a safety in the first round, the two names y'all keep throwing up every other day ... just know you can't use them how our DC used me this past season. ... Best bet is to draft a coverage safety in the later rounds to get a steal."

The two safety prospects being connected to San Francisco's first-round draft pick (No. 31 overall) are Alabama's Xavier McKinney and LSU's Grant Delpit. Both prospects are larger than Ward, which could be a benefit when playing closer to the line of scrimmage. 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh frequently used Ward as a single-high safety this past season, however, in which range and coverage skills are paramount for the last line of defense.

Clearly, Ward doesn't think McKinney and Delpit are capable of providing that skill set.

[RELATED: If Ward leaves, 49ers have safety options in 2020 draft]

Finally, Ward closed with an endorsement of his understudy.

"Stick with [Tarvarius Moore] at safety if they don't sign me back!"

Moore transitioned back to his natural position of free safety last season after being tried at cornerback as a rookie and showed some promise, even intercepting a pass in the Super Bowl. Selected with the No. 95 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Moore has two more seasons remaining on his rookie contract at a very affordable price. In theory, San Francisco could elevate Moore to the starting job and save money at that position that the team could use elsewhere, such as in contract extensions for standouts George Kittle and DeForest Buckner.

You don't often see a pending free agent give his incumbent team advice on how to replace him. Given Ward's reputation in the 49ers' locker room, though, it's no surprise that he would advocate for a teammate.