Raiders: Cornerback has quickly become the team’s biggest need

Raiders (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
Raiders (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images) /

The Las Vegas Raiders have a major weakness at the cornerback position following the fallout of the Eli Apple dilemma. And as such, there is now no greater need on the roster.

The Las Vegas Raiders were already extremely thin at the cornerback position going into yesterday. And the team actually managed to get thinner by the day’s end once it was reported that Eli Apple‘s contract had fallen through.

Apple was the lone addition the Raiders made at cornerback this offseason, but not for a lack of trying. The team was set on making Byron Jones the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL before he signed on with the Miami Dolphins instead.

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Now, they’re left with a hollow depth chart at a crucial position.

2019 second-round pick Trayvon Mullen is expected to be one of the starters on the outside while Lamarcus Joyner will likely man the nickel role. But even though those spots are “filled,” that doesn’t mean the Raiders are necessarily set there.

Mullen experienced his fair share of ups and downs as a rookie and despite starting 10 games, his Pro Football Focus grade of 64.4 indicates that he’s not quite ready to be a full-time starter just yet.

Meanwhile, Joyner fared even worse scoring a horrendous 46.6 PFF grade as his first season in silver and black didn’t exactly go to plan. Despite this, the Raiders seem intent on keeping the hybrid defensive back at slot corner.

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Behind them are a mixture of unproven young players and veteran depth pieces. Keisean Nixon struggled mightily in his limited defensive role, Nevin Lawson didn’t fare much better, and Nick Nelson and Isaiah Johnson played a combined seven games in 2019.

The Raiders have high hopes for Johnson, but the 2019 fourth-rounder played just 14 defensive snaps in his rookie season. He isn’t exactly game-ready yet.

In laymen’s terms, the Raiders desperately need help at cornerback. That help could come in the late stages of free agency as the team has a little over $10 million in cap space to play with now.

Perhaps they could look to bring back veteran Daryl Worley or sign a player like the recently-released Dre Kirkpatrick. Both have experience playing in defensive coordinator Paul Guenther’s system and neither is expected to cost very much.

But of course, the primary rebuild will take place in the 2020 NFL Draft.

The Raiders hold two selections in the first round (12 and 19) and three picks in the third round. That should give them plenty of draft capital to make the necessary upgrades.

It’s very likely we see the team use one of their two first-rounders on a cornerback with the latter of their two picks being the most likely. Florida’s C.J. Henderson would be their top target in that range, but there’s no guarantee he lasts that long.

If not, players like Alabama’s Trevon Diggs, LSU’s Kristian Fulton, or Clemson’s A.J. Terrell could be targets at No. 19, unless the Raiders opt to trade down.

Either way, the Raiders certainly have their work cut out for them at cornerback. It was already one of their most pressing needs before the Apple situation unfolded.

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Now, there’s no disputing it. Cornerback is the Raiders’ biggest need.