Raiders should target WRs, MLBs and CBs at the combine

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Just how much was that tipped Derek Carr 2-point conversion pass in the season finale at Denver worth to the Las Vegas Raiders when it comes to the 2020 NFL draft?

In short, four picks. As in, a Carr completion to Hunter Renfrow not only would have given the Raiders a last-second, 17-16 win over the Broncos and a stand-alone second-place finish in the AFC West with an 8-8 record, it would have knocked their first draft pick back to No. 16, per ESPN Stats & Information research.

Instead, Shelby Harris knocked the pass down and moved the Raiders, who finished 7-9, to No. 12 overall. That goes with the No. 19 selection they own from the Chicago Bears from the Khalil Mack trade. They are armed with those two first-round picks to go with three third-rounders, giving them five selections in the first 91 picks and eight picks total as they enter the NFL combine.

And sure, coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock had a stellar 2019 rookie class, the most immediately impactful class in franchise history, but the Raiders are still building as they prepare for their move from Oakland to Las Vegas.

They still have glaring needs at several positions, namely receiver, middle linebacker and cornerback.

"At the combine, you can see a guy move," Mayock told Raiders.com recently. "You can time a guy. You can interview him. But they don't put pads on."

A look, then, at what and whom the Raiders might be targeting in Indianapolis next week as potential early draft picks ...


The Raiders were still reeling late in the season from the Antonio Brown fiasco, what with the lack of a true No. 1 wideout. Sure, tight end Darren Waller -- with his team-leading 90 catches for 1,145 yards -- was a revelation, but he is, again, a tight end.

And yes, Renfrow became a security blanket of sorts for Carr late in the season, with touchdowns in each of the last two games, but the diminutive rookie did his best work in the slot. And Tyrell Williams, signed to be the No. 2 wideout behind Brown, started hot with a TD in each of his first five games, but plantar fasciitis slowed his roll ... significantly.

Many observers see this draft class as the deepest at receiver in many years. Good for the Raiders, then.

Because even while Mayock has told reporters this offseason he is wary of using a high pick on a receiver, might Gruden overrule him if Oklahoma's CeeDee Lamb or Alabama's Jerry Jeudy is still available at No. 12?

Then again, the Raiders are more than comfortable with Clemson players (see Renfrow, DE Clelin Ferrell and CB Trayvon Mullen) that they could potentially wait until No. 19 to get Tee Higgins or maybe Alabama's Henry Ruggs III, who is expected to be the fastest guy at the combine, if not the entire draft. All four receivers will be at the combine, so Gruden and Mayock will get their fill.

Middle linebacker

The Raiders swear they didn't know that Vontaze Burfict was on a Dean Wormer-like double secret probation when they signed him. Yet, given his history, all it took was one head-to-head hit on Indianapolis Colts tight end Jack Doyle in Week 4 for Burfict to be slapped with a season-long suspension.

Burfict, voted a team captain, had been on his best behavior as the defensive quarterback and signal-caller, so the Raiders awarded the green dot helmet to Tahir Whitehead before Will Compton, signed off the street Oct. 30, assumed the role. Yeah, the Raiders need a middle linebacker for their 4-3 base defense who not only can be an enforcer across the middle but also, you know, cover tight ends and running backs.

Clemson's Isaiah Simmons seems the natural fit, given his Death Valley pedigree, even if he plays more on the outside. The best player available usually trumps all else when it comes to draft boards, but Simmons probably will be long gone by the time the Raiders pick. Two more pure inside linebackers to watch, then, are Oklahoma's Kenneth Murray, whom ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. selected for Las Vegas at No. 19 in his mock draft, and LSU's Patrick Queen, who announced his presence in the national title game against Clemson with authority in the form of eight tackles, including 2.5 for loss and half a sack.

Yeah, again, the Raiders need a thumper who can cover. Then again, who doesn’t?


The Raiders liked second-round pick Mullen so much they traded away a former first-rounder in Gareon Conley on Oct. 21. And while Daryl Worley is more of a jack-of-all-trades in the secondary, he is still unsigned and there is a significant drop-off across from Mullen as the roster currently stands.

So while receiver and middle linebacker seem to be bigger needs, don't be surprised if Gruden and Mayock become enamored with a shutdown cornerback. Just keep in mind that the Raiders do not have a second-round pick.

Scouting Ohio State's Jeff Okudah would be nothing more than due diligence for Las Vegas, as he could be a top-five pick, and it's hard to see the Raiders trading up for a cornerback -- at least, hard to see such a move before the combine. So that leaves us with the likes of Florida's CJ Henderson, who did not have an interception last season but had a combined six picks in the two before it, as a Day 1 possibility. Keep an eye on Clemson's A.J. Terrell as a potential Day 2 selection, though. Hey, the Raiders like Clemson players, and Terrell has already teamed with Mullen.