Which Alabama or Georgia player will the Las Vegas Raiders take in the first round of the 2022 NFL draft?
Mike Mayock took over as the general manager of the Las Vegas Raiders about a week before Clemson beat Alabama in the national championship game, 44-16. LSU won it all the next season, then it was Alabama’s turn after that.
Mayock and the Raiders have drafted 10 players from those three schools, including five from Clemson and three from Alabama.
So it’s reasonable to expect the Raiders to take at least one player from either Alabama or Georgia in the 2022 draft.
However, the team may be hesitant to pull the trigger on another Alabama player after the shaky performance of its first-round rookie, offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood, who has a Pro Football Focus grade of 43.2. The year before, Las Vegas drafted former Alabama receiver Henry Ruggs III, who is facing prison time on felony DUI charges.
Will any of that deter Mayock and the Raiders from going after another Alabama player?
Not if receiver Jameson Williams falls to them.
Alabama and Georgia have combined to have five players ranked in the latest Fanspeak-Jake Rigdon big board. Alabama OT Evan Neal (No. 3) is the highest ranked, followed by Williams (No. 9) and LB Nakobe Dean (No. 14), edge Travon Walker (No. 17) and DL Jordan Davis (No. 25) of Georgia.
Of that total, Williams is the highest-rated player who fills the greatest need.
The team is unlikely to draft an Alabama OT in consecutive seasons, unless it moves either Leatherwood or Neal to guard. It’s even more unlikely for Neal to be taken outside the top-10. The Raiders will likely pick in the late-teens (Tankathon currently has Las Vegas picking 18th).
Dean would be an interesting pick, as K.J. Wright will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. But the Raiders haven’t taken a true inside linebacker since 2010, when Rolando McClain – from Alabama – was the No. 8 overall pick. (The team took outside linebacker/edge Khalil Mack with the No. 5 pick in the 2014 draft). Likewise, Walker would also be an interesting pick, but the Raiders are already set at pass rusher and, although Walker is viewed as a hybrid defender who can play inside at tackle, he’s a bit undersized to play that position full-time. Georgia’s Davis, though, would be an immediate upgrade over DL Johnathan Hankins and Quinton Jefferson – both of whom, along with Solomon Thomas, will be UFAs at the end of the season – but it’s hard to imagine Davis going that high in the first, especially if he’s considered more of a two-down player.
That’s why the Williams pick makes so much sense.
Fansided’s Brad Weiss recently mocked Williams to the Raiders. From Weiss: “Next season, the Raiders need that wide receiver who is going to take the top off the defense, and Williams has that kind of big-play ability. Having him on a roster with Hunter Renfrow and Bryan Edwards would give the Raiders three young and talented wideouts to build the position group around.”
The 6-foot-2, 198-pound Williams barely played his first two years at Ohio State, combining for 15 receptions for 266 yards and 3 touchdowns. This year, he caught 75 passes for 1,507 yards and 15 TDs after transferring to Alabama.
Most 20+ yard catches among SEC WRs this season