Will the Las Vegas Raiders bypass wide receiver in the first two rounds of the NFL draft?

NFL Draft News

Ohio State receiver Chris Olave’s name comes up a lot when talking about the Las Vegas Raiders’ first-round pick in the upcoming draft.

So does his Buckeyes teammate, Garrett Wilson. Alabama’s Jameson Williams is another name that’s commonly mocked to the Raiders.

It’s easy to see why so many draft analysts have Las Vegas taking a receiver after the tragic incident involving 2020 first-rounder Henry Ruggs III. But receiver isn’t necessarily the top need for Las Vegas (unless, of course, the team trades quarterback Derek Carr, then all bets are off).

Instead, a glimpse at their pending free agents might offer better insight as to which player the team might take on Day 1. That includes:

  • DLs Johnathan Hankins and Quinton Jefferson (starters), Solomon Thomas (backup)
  • LB K.J. Wright
  • CB Casey Hayward
  • WR Jay Jones (starter), DeSean Jackson (backup)
  • G Richie Incognito
  • OT Brandon Parker

Those potential needs, should any of those players sign elsewhere, line up in Las Vegas’ favor, because only two of those positions – cornerback and offensive tackle – are “premium” positions.

“Premium” positions are the hardest to fill and are among the most coveted, meaning, those are the positions where teams will over-draft. They include quarterback, tackle, pass rusher and cornerback. You can add receiver to that list, even though you can typically find good ones on days 2 and 3 of the draft.

Depending on how free agency goes, the Raiders might need a new CB and OT in addition to receiver.

As for the other positions that could see free agent losses? It’s much easier to find capable linebackers, defensive tackles and guards (among other positions) late in the draft.

Another reason why the Raiders might bypass the receiver position in the first round: New England’s draft history. After new Las Vegas coach Josh McDaniels re-joined New England in 2011, the Patriots selected only one wide receiver in the first round, N’Keal Harry, who’s had a disappointing career since being selected with the No. 32 overall pick in 2019.

Instead, the Raiders might address the offensive tackle and cornerback positions before they consider drafting a receiver simply because it’s more difficult to find a rookie starter at those positions.

Here’s how the first three rounds could play out for Las Vegas:

Round 1: OT Trevor Penning, Northern Iowa

This was a tough choice, because Florida State edge Jermaine Johnson was still available, along with the top two LBs in Utah’s Devin Lloyd and Georgia’s Nakobe Dean. Olave was also available.

But there’s a fairly sizeable dropoff in the player rankings after Penning, as Ohio State’s Nicholas Petit-Frere is the next-best tackle at No. 39 overall in the latest Fanspeak-Jake Rigdon big board.

The 6-foot-6, 330-pound Penning is ranked No. 23.

Pro Football Focus ranks Penning as the fourth-best tackle in this draft, adding that he “moves people with ease.”

From PFF: “Penning is yet another uber-physical run-blocker at the position.”

Penning would bookend with Miller to give Las Vegas two of the top, young OT duos in the league.

Round 2: CB Coby Bryant, Cincinnati

There were still several good receivers on the board, including Cincinnati’s Alec Pierce (No. 64) and Kentucky’s Wan’Dale Robinson (No. 66). Georgia CB Derion Kendrick was still available, too.

Instead, Bryant gets the nod mainly based off his extensive experience. The 6-foot-1, 198-pound senior has started a whopping 50 games while playing in 63.

Bryant also won the Paycom Jim Thorpe Award, given each year to the top defensive back in the nation. He finished the season with 42 tackles, 3 INTs, 11 passes defended (team-high) and forced three fumbles.

The current starter, Casey Hayward, will be an UFA and will turn 33 before the end of next season. Bryant would presumably fill Hayward’s role on the outside.

Round 3: WR Justyn Ross, Clemson   

While it’s true that you can find a good rookie receiver in the fourth-round and beyond, expecting any WR taken on Day 3 to log heavy minutes – if not start – is a tall task. Remember, Bryan Edwards only received 259 snaps on offense as a 2020 third-round rookie out of South Carolina.

So if Las Vegas is going to draft a WR to replace Ruggs, then it likely has to make that move by the third round.

The only issue with Ross is his health, as he missed all of 2020 after receiving surgery for a congenital fusion in his spine. At the time, it wasn’t known if Ross would play again.

Although the 6-foot-4, 205-pound senior came back this past season, he produced just average- to below-average statistics. He finished with 46 receptions for 514 yards and 3 TDs, giving him a three-year total of 158-2,379-20. To be fair, Ross suffered a small fracture in his foot earlier this past season but played through it until re-aggravating the injury. He had surgery to correct the problem.

It’s unknown if Ross (No. 90) will be ready and fully healthy by the time training camp starts.


Will Las Vegas address the DL and secondary? Click here to find out!

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