Three safety prospects for the Las Vegas Raiders to consider on Day 3 of the NFL Draft
At first glance, Las Vegas appears to be set at safety.
Free safety Tre’Von Moehrig had an impressive rookie season, as the 2021 second-rounder out of TCU led the defense in snaps (1,152) while racking up 55 tackles – good for sixth on the team – 1 interception and 6 passes defended.
Meanwhile, strong safety Johnathan Abram, a 2019 first-rounder out of Mississippi State, finished second on the team with 116 tackles and had 1 INT and 4 PDs. His 954 snaps ranked third among Raider defenders.
But one of those players’ hold on a starting position is tenuous, at best.
Abram struggled yet again in pass coverage after allowing more than 79 percent of passes targeted his way to be completed. Quarterbacks had a 112 passer rating against Abram. He also gave up nearly 100 more yards in coverage and three more TDs than he did last season.
And any discussion about Abram must include his health issues. He missed all but one game as a rookie and missed three games in both 2020 and 2021.
From Raider Maven’s Darin Alexander Baydoun: “It might be fair to wonder at this point if Abram can be anything more than a one-dimensional player, and his future with the Raiders could depend on if he can improve at all in coverage.”
Translation: Expect Las Vegas to look for a safety in the upcoming draft.
Only Miami has fewer than Las Vegas’ five picks in the draft, as the Raiders don’t pick until the third round (No. 86 overall). After that, the team has one pick in the fourth round (No. 126), two in the fifth (Nos. 165 and 165) and one early pick in the seventh (No. 228).
In other words, the Raiders have to hit on all of its draft picks – especially with that third-round pick if it wants to find a starter.
Silver and Black Pride recently published a scouting report on Maryland safety Nick Cross, the No. 111 overall prospect in the latest Fanspeak-Jake Rigdon big board. Cross could be available in either the third or fourth rounds.
But safety isn’t necessarily the team’s biggest draft need – the Raiders may prioritize offensive tackle and cornerback with its first two picks. Plus, Cross is coming off an impressive Combine after the 6-foot, 212-pound junior ran a blazing fast 4.34-second 40 while pulling off a 37-inch vertical jump, so he might not be available when Las Vegas goes on the clock in Rounds 3 (or 4).
Instead, here are three Day 3 options at safety:
Fanspeak-Jake Rigdon ranking: 191 (fifth-round range)
As mentioned before, the problem with Belton is the position he played at Iowa, which is called the “Cash” position.
However, teams can breathe a little easier knowing how recent Cash players have performed in the NFL, Amani Hooker and Geno Stone. Hooker was a fourth-round pick by Tennessee in 2019 who developed into a full-time starter last season. He has 5 interceptions the past two seasons combined. Stone, meanwhile, saw his playing time increase last season for Baltimore as the 2020 seventh-rounder received 218 snaps on defense and 282 more on special teams. He also had an INT last season.
The 6-foot-1, 205-pound junior Belton had a breakout year last season as he picked up 46 tackles, 3 tackles for loss and 5 INTs, good for second in the Big-Ten. He was also named a first-team all-conference player.
Tony Pauline, draft analyst for Pro Football Network, says Belton is an underrated player. From Pauline: “Best in a zone system or as a traditional strong safety, Belton is a productive defender who should also do well on special teams.”
#Iowa safety Dane Belton
On the ball production in ‘21 (5 INTs/7 PBUs). Zone vision/instincts from the slot/star position. Traits to match/carry in NFL schemes. Top-down speed in Quarters. 4-core special teams ability. @NFLMatchup pic.twitter.com/ybW469QuSK
— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) March 18, 2022
Ranking: 222 (sixth- to seventh-round range)
If the name sounds familiar, it should: Lake is the son of long-time former Pittsburgh Steelers safety Carnell Lake, who was inducted into the UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame in 2000. The younger Lake comes with a ton of experience, although he’s battled injuries off and on. He finished his five-year career with 179 tackles, 4 TFLs, 6 INTs and 15 PDs.
The 6-foot-1, 201-pound senior ran a respectable-but-not-great 4.59-second 40 at the Combine.
Ninety-Nine Yards called Lake, “… an intelligent, athletic prospect.”
Former @UCLAFootball S Quentin Lake has some ridiculous hip flexibility and body control.
Working against WR Josh Johnson from Tulsa, Lake puts on a clinic on planting, rotating, and staying with the play to break up the pass. This is insanely difficult to do. @SapientFilm pic.twitter.com/OdyldoUgek
— John Vogel (@DraftVogel) January 31, 2022
Markquese Bell, Florida A&M
Ranking: 280 (seventh-round to priority free agent range)
At 6-foot-2, 212-pounds, Bell turned heads at the Combine after running a 4.41-second 40 while showing off a 36.5 vertical jump and a 123-inch broad jump.
Bell was a four-star recruit who received scholarship offers from schools like Clemson and Georgia before picking Maryland, but he was suspended for a violation of team rules before ever suiting up and landed at Coffeyville Community College, then at Florida A&M. There, Bell became an FCS All-American after picking up 95 tackles, 2 sacks and 1 INT his senior year. He finished his collegiate career with 156 tackles, 11.5 TFLs, 2 sacks, an eyebrow-raising 7 forced fumbles, 6 INTs and 10 PDs.
From The Athletic’s Dane Brugler (subscription required): “Bell needs to sharpen his discipline vs. the run and instincts vs. the pass, but he has the physical tools (physicality, length, speed) that will earn him extensive looks in an NFL camp.”
Bell is hoping to become the first player from Florida A&M to be drafted since 1998.
Every time I watch #FAMU Safety Markquese Bell play, I’m blown away with his instincts, range and closing burst. Phenomenal angle and attack on the ball on the first play on the deep post, and gets to mesh point in a hurry on second play.
Easily of my favorite 2022 prospects. pic.twitter.com/gkxheEQfkk
— Devin Jackson (@RealD_Jackson) January 6, 2022
Which safety will Las Vegas take – or will the team draft one at all? Find out in Fanspeak’s latest Raiders mock draft.
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