The Las Vegas Raiders have earned high marks for their offseason work, but the 2022 NFL Draft provides the team with another opportunity to upgrade a roster that is brimming with championship-caliber talent. Despite lacking a pick in the first two rounds, Head Coach Josh McDaniels and General Manager Dave Ziegler should be able to find a prospect with the potential to develop into a solid contributor this season.
While it is hard for a young player to crack the lineup with a number of all-star players positioned in key roles, the strength of the draft class matches the Raiders' biggest needs. The 2022 class is loaded with defensive linemen (defensive tackles and edge defenders), linebackers, safeties, offensive tackles and wide receivers in the Day 2 range (second and third rounds). And the depth of the class should enable the Raiders to find a starting-caliber player when they are on the clock at pick No. 86.
Here are five prospects who could be available when the Raiders select on Day 2:
Phidarian Mathis, DT, Alabama: As a big-bodied, two-gap defender with heavy hands and a non-stop motor, Mathis is a rare find as an A-plus run stopper with competent pass rush skills. The Alabama standout has the potential to develop into an unstoppable force at the point of attack if he refines his technique while playing in a scheme that accentuates his talents as a pocket pusher.
Chad Muma, LB, Wyoming: It is hard to find off-the-ball linebackers with exceptional instincts, awareness and diagnostic skills. Muma displays outstanding athleticism, versatility and playmaking skills against the run or pass while roaming from sideline to sideline. With the Wyoming standout flashing outstanding hands and ball skills in coverage while also flashing dynamic pass rush skills on blitzes, he should be a Day 1 starter and potential all-star as a pro.
Rasheed Walker, OT, Penn State: As a development prospect with the size, length and athleticism to develop into a key contributor, Walker is an intriguing project to invest in. He possesses the tools that scouts covet while also bringing enough game experience (32 career starts) to make a seamless transition to the NFL. Although he will need to clean up some bad habits before he can crack a starting lineup, the Penn State product is a worthwhile gamble as a late Day 2 selection.
Jalen Pitre, S, Baylor: As one of the best nickel defenders in the draft, Pitre has the potential to make immediate contributions to the defense in a critical role in the secondary. Despite his slender frame, the Baylor standout is an ideal "big" nickel corner with the instincts, awareness and versatility to get the job done at a high level. Pitre's combination of ball skills, blitzing ability and overall toughness makes him a perfect fit for a defense that covets Swiss Army knives in the back end.
Marcus Jones, CB/Returner, Houston: There is not a better combination player in the draft than the Houston standout. Jones is an A-plus return specialist who also displays outstanding skills as a slot defender. The ultra-explosive athlete flashes exceptional instincts and awareness with the ball in his hands on punt returns while also showing enough speed and burst to take it to the house from anywhere on the field (nine career punt return scores). As a defender, Jones also displays big-play ability as an instinctive zone defender with great eyes and hands. He clues the quarterback like a detective and rarely misses a chance to capitalize on an error from a passer.