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Road to the Draft: Christian Gonzalez fully embraces the big moments as a cornerback

In the minds of many draft analysts and scouts, Oregon's Christian Gonzalez is the highest-touted cornerback in the 2023 NFL Draft.

Despite being a First-Team All-Pac-12 selection, he still wouldn't go on record saying he's the best athlete in his own family. It's hard to claim that title having a dad that played semi-professional basketball, and two All-American sisters in track and field that've represented Colombia in international events.

"Melissa, the oldest one. She's got the crown," Gonzalez, who was also a track star in high school, said of who the best athlete in the family is. "She's an Olympian, so I'm going to give it to her."

The Oregon cornerback has a grand opportunity to add on to his family's résumé, hoping to be selected in the NFL Draft in April. Gonzalez became a standout cornerback in Eugene after spending two seasons in Colorado. After arriving to his new Pac-12 destination to follow his cornerbacks coach, he exploded with four interceptions, seven pass breakups and 50 tackles in his junior season.

Gonzalez's unique blend of size, speed and instincts make for an ideal prospect many teams will have their eye on at the Combine.

"It's all confidence. Playing this position, you're out there on an island by yourself and that's what I live for," Gonzalez told the media Thursday. "Big matchups. Any time I get to go up against a great receiver, week in, week out, that's my favorite thing to do."

"[A] lot of film study goes into that," he added. "Knowing what receiver I'm going against, how they want to attack me, knowing how they're going to attack me. I've got to switch it up. I've got a lot of tools in the toolbox. Just pulling them out and keeping the receiver on their toes."

Along with the guidance he's received at the University of Oregon, he's been able to pick the brain of Arizona Cardinals quarterback and Gonzalez's brother-in-law David Blough.

"Big resource as someone in my direct family that I can talk to that has been through the process of playing in college, being in the league," Gonzalez said of Blough. "It's somebody that I talked to growing up all the time. He was always around the house. I remember playing with him when I was like 10 years old, running around, throwing the ball. It's all come full circle."

Raiders General Manager Dave Ziegler said earlier this week he believes that cornerback is potentially the deepest position in the draft this season. It wouldn't be shocking if the Silver and Black were looking for help in the secondary with their seventh pick. If they did, Gonzalez could be step in and compete for a starting role as a rookie, much like Nate Hobbs and Tre’von Moehrig did in 2021.

"It's a new level," said Gonzalez. "It's the highest level. It's a new speed. It's everything. Even more film study. Whatever you did in college, you've got to update even more. It's the big man league now. I'm really excited to see how this thing goes."

Take a look back at current Raiders' appearances at past NFL Scouting Combines.

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