We learned a lot about the Raiders after their first season in Las Vegas: they have the talent to beat any team in the NFL, Derek Carr is playing the best football of his career, Darren Waller is a bonafide star, and the team is trending upward as a whole, but above all else, it became obvious what the team needs to address in the upcoming draft.
Defense. Defense. And more defense.
The Raiders' defensive struggles were prevalent all season long, ultimately leading to the firing of former defensive coordinator Paul Guenther. Recently hired defensive coordinator Gus Bradley is inheriting a cast of young players with great potential, but draft analysts, such as well-respected NFL Network guru Daniel Jeremiah, believe General Manager Mike Mayock needs to give Bradley more to work with.
In Jeremiah’s first mock draft of 2021, he lists the potential picks of every team in the first round, featuring a few surprises. Many of the biggest names in the 2021 NFL Draft will be off the board by the time the Raiders on the clock at No. 17, but he thinks Mayock and Head Coach Jon Gruden could snag a dynamic playmaker for the middle of the defense.
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah out of Notre Dame is widely regarded as a top-three linebacker in the upcoming draft, and there's a good chance he winds up in the Silver and Black. According to Jeremiah, "He can cover in the slot if needed and he's an excellent blitzer. The Raiders need to address the pass rush, too, and that could be an option here with this pick."
Last year, Mayock and Gruden revamped the linebacking corps with the additions of Nick Kwiatkoski and Cory Littleton and paired them with Nicholas Morrow (who continues to be slept on by the way). With a nearly nonexistent offseason, the unit struggled at times, but by the end of the year, the group appeared to be forming some synergy. However, the addition of Owusu-Koramoah could round out the linebacking squad.
Owusu-Koramoah played two seasons as a Golden Domer (junior and senior) and racked up 142 tackles, 24.5 tackles for loss, seven sacks, one interception, five forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries, and one touchdown. At 6'2" and 216 pounds, the 21-year-old has a lean physique that translates to blazing sideline-to-sideline speed. His ability to cover, rush off the edge and overall versatility will make him a highly coveted pick, and the Raiders could be the beneficiaries.
Forecasting who the Raiders select with the No. 17 overall pick is anyone's guess, but Daniel Jeremiah is one of the most respected draft analysts in the business. A lot could change between now and the draft, but stay tuned to raiders.com for more updates regarding free agency and the 2021 NFL Draft.
View the best celebration photos of the Raiders from the 2020 season.