The 2021 NFL Draft starts on Thursday, April 29. As a lead-up to the draft, we’ll be giving a team-by-team breakdown for positional needs. For each team, we’ll give an overview of the current depth chart and how big of a need each position in the upcoming draft. You can find the rest of the team needs (as they’re updated) and the rest of our draft content in the 2021 NFL Draft hub.
LAS VEGAS RAIDERS 2021 DRAFT PICKS OVERVIEW
Round 1 (17)
Round 2 (48)
Round 3 (79)
Round 3 (80)
Round 4 (121)
Round 5 (162)
Round 5 (167)
Round 6 (200)
Las Vegas Raiders Offense
By Rich Hribar
The Raiders still have Derek Carr locked up through the 2022 season. Carr is coming off arguably his best season as a passer. His 7.94 yards per pass attempt were a career-high as his 5.2% touchdown rate was his highest rate in a season since 2015. Carr’s depth of target (8.5 yards) significantly spiked from his 6.9 aDOT in 2019 and 7.1-yard mark in 2018.
Behind Carr, Marcus Mariota, Nathan Peterman, and Kyle Sloter are all unrestricted free agents after the season. The Raiders could potentially add a late-round flyer, but are long shots to aggressively pursue the quarterback position.
Alex Ingold (FB)
The Raiders went out this offseason and added Kenyan Drake to complement 2019 first-round draft pick Josh Jacobs.
Jacobs has turned in 1,316 and 1,303 yards over his first two NFL seasons with seven and 12 touchdowns. Jacobs improved on his receiving game usage (33-238) but was still largely a one-note producer, which is why the Raiders claim they aggressively pursued Drake in free agency compared to the running back market.
In the 15 games that Jacobs played a year ago, other Raider running backs averaged 9.1 touches per game (6.6 rushes and 2.5 receptions).
A career committee back with stints of being bell-cow prior to last season, Drake set career-highs a year ago with 955 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on 264 touches, but his 4.1 yards per touch were a career-low while his receiving role evaporated down to 1.7 receptions per game.
The 27-year-old back addition is rumored to be thought of as a “joker” and receiving complement to Jacobs, but Drake has left a lot of meat on the bone as a receiver over the course of his career.
Drake averaged 0.89 yards per route run with Arizona in 2019, which ranked 35th at running back per Pro Football Focus. He then came back last season and dropped down to 0.55 yards per route, which ranked 54th out of 58 backs that qualified and was below that of both Devontae Booker (who he replacing) and Jalen Richard, as well as Jacobs himself. Drake has a season in 2018 in which he ranked 13th in yards per route run among backs (1.42), but also was 51-of-55 qualifiers in the same area in 2017 (0.91).
With both Jacobs and Drake locked up for at least two more seasons to pair with true receiving backs in Richard and Theo Riddick, the Raiders do not need to add to this backfield.
In 2020, Raiders wide receivers averaged just 14.9 targets per game, which ranked 31st in the league, ahead of only the Ravens. With marginal opportunity, Las Vegas wideouts combined for 9.7 receptions (31st), but were 23rd in yardage per game (146.9 yards) because they were efficient targeting their wideouts at 9.9 yards per target, which was second in the league.
A large part of that efficiency stemmed from Nelson Agholor, who led the wide receivers with 82 targets, 896 yards, and eight touchdowns. Agholor left the Raiders via free agency this offseason, leaving the Raiders needing their pair of second-year wideouts in Henry Ruggs and Bryan Edwards to take a step forward in Year 2.
The first wideout taken in last year’s draft despite a questionable production profile, the Raiders appeared lost on their ability to incorporate Ruggs into the offense as he secured just 26-of-43 targets for 452 yards and two touchdowns. As a rookie, Ruggs was fifth on the team in targets and third among wideouts.
Edwards was selected in the third round (81st overall), but missed four games due to injury and only played 24% of the offensive snaps, catching 11-of-15 targets for 193 yards and a touchdown.
The Raiders also added veteran John Brown to replace Agholor and aid these sophomore wideouts along. Brown posted 3.7 catches and 50.9 yards per game in 2020. He will turn 31 years old this April and has played a full 16 games in just one of his seven seasons to date, but has still shown upside to more than adequately fill the role that Agholor left behind and had success in a year ago when he can be on the field.
The Raiders also added veteran Willie Snead to join their gaggle of slot depth to go alongside Hunter Renfrow, Trey Quinn, and Zay Jones.
Among this group of wideouts, however, only Ruggs, Edwards, and Renfrow are signed beyond 2021. The Raiders are not expected to target wide receiver as early as last season, but there are still long-term question marks as to what they truly have at the position to keep the door open for a day three addition.
While the Raiders may not have a feature wide receiver, they do still have a feature pass catcher in tight end Darren Waller. After his massive breakout in 2019 (90-1,145-3), Waller doubled down in 2020 and improved across the board, catching 107-of-145 targets for 1,196 yards and nine touchdowns. He closed the season on an impressive five-game tear (43-654-4).
Waller has finished third and first in team target share in each of the past two seasons and second both seasons in yards per team pass attempt. For as much flack as the Raiders catch in management, signing Waller to his four-year extension last offseason before waiting (and prior to the George Kittle and Travis Kelce extensions) was a solid play by their front office.
As for the depth behind Waller, 2019 fourth-round pick Foster Moreau still has two more seasons remaining on his rookie contract. Derrek Carrier is only signed through 2021 while the team has exclusive rights on Nick Bowers after this season. The Raiders do not need to pursue a tight end outside of a day three depth addition if they choose to go after the position.
LT: Kolton Miller/Jaryd Jones-Smith
LG: Richie Incognito/John Simpson
C: Nick Martin*/Andre James/Erik Magnuson
RG: Denzelle Good/Lester Cotton
RT: Brandon Parker/Kamaal Seymour
The Raiders were solid in pass protection as a group in 2020, ranking 10th in ESPN’s Pass Block Win Rate (60%), but were significantly worse in Run Block Win Rate at 69%, which ranked 27th in the league.
Pro Football Focus had them collectively worse in the pass blocking department, ranking 17th in cumulative pass blocking grade, but equally as bad in run blocking, grading out 26th in the league.
The Raiders only got 282 snaps from right tackle Trent Brown and just 74 snaps from left guard Richie Incognito in 2020 that played a role in those metrics. This offseason, the Raiders traded Brown to the Patriots, to go along with trading veteran center Rodney Hudson to the Cardinals, who led their offensive line with 1,082 snaps played a year ago. They then let veteran right guard Gabe Jackson leave via free agency, putting the team out three starting offensive linemen from a year ago.
Replacing Hudson, the team signed Nick Martin to a one-year contract and extended Andre James on a two-year/$8.65M deal despite playing no offensive snaps in 2020.
Also on the interior, they will be getting Incognito back into the lineup. Incognito will turn 38 years old in July and is only signed only for this upcoming season. Right tackle Brandon Parker is also under contract solely for 2021 and has yet to play a full season over his three seasons in the league.
Denzelle Good is signed through 2022 and can play either right guard or right tackle in a pinch, but also was the 89th-graded guard per Pro Football Focus in 2020. 2020 fourth-rounder John Simpson did start two games as a rookie and is locked up through 2023 on his rookie deal. The Raiders have immediate talent and depth concerns across every offensive line position outside of left tackle, where Kolton Miller is locked up through 2025 (although no dead cap hits beyond this season) and has improved every season he has been in the league.
Las Vegas Raiders Defense
By Dan Pizzuta
Interior Defensive Line
Since coming into the league as a fifth-round pick in the 2018 draft, Maurice Hurst has been one of the league’s better interior pass rushers. He was 13th in pressure rate among defensive tackles in 2020, according to Sports Info Solutions. But due to some injuries, Hurst only played 25.4% of the defensive snaps last season. Jonathan Hankins was the main defensive tackle with 61% of the defensive snaps played.
Hankins didn’t add much pass rush upside, but for that, the Raiders signed Quinton Jefferson, who has been in the top-10 of ESPN’s Pass Rush Win Rate among defensive tackles in each of the past two seasons. Jefferson didn’t break through the rotation in Buffalo last season, but should have a chance for more playing time.
Las Vegas also added former third overall pick Solomon Thomas, who suffered a torn ACL in Week 2 of 2020. When healthy, Thomas could serve as more functional depth rather than the star he was expected to be in San Francisco.
The Raiders were surprisingly adequate in creating pressure last season. They ranked 12th in pressure rate, per SIS, and 16th in ESPN’s Pass Rush Win Rate. Still, there wasn’t much of a difference-maker, so they went out and signed Yannick Ngakoue in free agency. Ngakoue hasn’t been the dominant pass rusher some of his sack totals would suggest (he was 32nd in pressure rate last season), but he does bring a threatening presence on the outside.
Maxx Crosby, a 2019 fourth-round pick, has been a pleasant surprise and has significantly outplayed the fourth overall pick from that draft, Clelin Ferrell. Crosby was 34th in pressure rate among edge rushers last season. Ferrell did have some improvement in Year 2, ranked 42nd in pressure rate.
The big free agency investment at linebacker last offseason did not return positive results in 2020. Cory Littleton struggled early in the season and missed three midseason games on the COVID/Reserve list. He still played 77.8% of the defensive snaps. Littleton does have a history of being a top coverage linebacker, so the hope is a more normal offseason and better health will lead to a return to form.
Nick Kwiatkowski was closer to expectations but was also out-snapped by Nick Morrow, 66.4% to 59.8%. The Raiders played nickel on 69% of their snaps, which was the sixth-highest rate in the league. They also spent 23% of their snaps in base, which ranked 16th.
In Year 2, Trayvon Mullen had a bit of a jump in play from 86th in adjusted yards allowed per coverage snap during his rookie season to 53rd in 2020. The hope will be that 2020 first-round pick Damon Arnette will have a similar, or better, jump. Arnette ranked 135th among 148 qualified cornerbacks in adjusted yards allowed per coverage snap, though a ton of highly drafted rookie corners struggled in 2020.
Arnette played just 31.5% of the defensive snaps. The main outside corner opposite Mullen was Nevin Lawson, who ranked 88th in AYA/CS. There should also be hope in development from 2020 fourth-round pick Amik Robertson, who only found his way into eight games and 3.2% of the defensive snaps. 2019 fourth-round pick Isaiah Johnson struggled in limited time, ranked 130th in AYA/CS.
Few players have been more disappointing relative to draft position than Jonathan Abram. The 2019 first-round pick saw his rookie season cut short and did not fare well during his 13 games played in 2020. No safety had more missed tackles than Abram in 2020, according to SIS.
Jeff Heath was a pleasant surprise in the first year of his two-year deal in 2020 when he was on the field for 38% of the defensive snaps. He could see more playing time in 2021.
Karl Joseph was a first-round pick of the Raiders in 2016 but had an inconsistent and injury-plagued stint in his first go-around. After spending 2020 with the Cleveland Browns, Joseph just signed to return to the Raiders.
There are more positions of need, but improvement is definitely needed on the back end. Las Vegas ranked 29th in DVOA against deep passes last season, per Football Outsiders.