The Las Vegas Raiders have a handful of adjustments that need to be made in order to reach the playoffs in 2021. With the Reese’s Senior Bowl set to kickoff, coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock will get their first glance at the several prospects who are set to participate in the event.
The Raiders finished the season with the 10th ranked offense and the 30th ranked defense. With most of the pieces on offensive already set in place, the Las Vegas defense needs an abundance of work. With that said, the draft process starts at the Senior Bowl, and the Raiders’ staff will undergo a healthy dose of evaluations to flip the script for the upcoming 2021 season.
Most recently, the Raiders signed Gus Bradley as their new defensive coordinator. With a history of running a Cover 3 defensive scheme, Bradley’s defense may require an overhaul of changes to fit his play-calling.
Defensively, their most pressing need is adding to their lacking pass rush and to their safety department. On offense, the Raiders need a compliment running back to Josh Jacobs, an offensive tackle who could replace Trent Brown or become their future swing tackle and a wide receiver as the future of Nelson Agholor remains an unknown question.
Here are three offense and defensive players who fit the Raiders draft needs at the Reese’s Senior Bowl:
RB Michael Carter, North Carolina
North Carolina running back Michael Carter was a consistent contributing force as a part of the Tar Heels ground game. Handling a steady dose of carries during his true freshman season, Carter broke out in 2019. Building upon his junior campaign, Carter’s 2020 season saw over 1,200 rushing yards, 267 receiving yards, and 11 touchdowns. His combination of vision, burst and pass-catching ability point towards Carter being a high-end RB2 in an NFL backfield. Carter should be a close follow for talent evaluators at the Senior Bowl as they gather a further evaluation on him as a run-blocker and get a closer look at his build among other participants.
WR Frank Darby, ASU
Arizona State’s Frank Darby was the understudy to N’Keal Harry and Brandon Aiyuk — both of which went in the first round in the last two draft classes. 2020 was supposed to be Aiyuk’s season to shine. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the PAC-12 season was cut in half, and ASU also experienced two game cancellations, so the evaluation of Darby as the No. 1 option in the Sun Devils’ offense was a difficult one to gage. Darby possesses good body control with good hands and adequate quickness while playing through his defender at the catch point. He tallied over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns collectively during his sophomore and junior seasons. Typically, wide receivers who win with physicality have a quality track record at improving their draft stock at the Senior Bowl and Darby should be no different at this year’s event.
OL Alex Leatherwood, Alabama
Alabama’s Alex Leatherwood returned to school for another season in 2020 after his draft stock as a junior had him as a possible second round selection. Over the course of his college career, Leatherwood saw time at guard and tackle. After back-to-back seasons in which he played left tackle almost exclusively, Leatherwood looks to be a potential starter at one of the two tackle positions in the NFL. His efforts are best against the run, while he does struggle at times in pass protection due to his stiff lower half. Ideally, Leatherwood isn’t an immediate starter, but with Trent Brown’s future in jeopardy, he may be an option for the Raiders to look at along with bringing in an additional veteran for competition at the position.
S Richie Grant, UCF
UCF safety Richie Grant can be used in an abundance of ways as his versatility is worth noting. Grant saw time as UCF’s single-high safety, box safety, contributing in run support and at slot cornerback. He’s more of a free safety than anything, but his skill set offers a multitude of ways in which he can be used. His ball skills are some of the best among the safety group in the 2021 draft class, and his 12 interceptions over his last three seasons speak volume toward his recognition with the ball in the air. His ball-hawking skills are very intriguing, which should make him a popular commodity throughout the week at the Senior Bowl.
S Hamsah Nasirildeen, FSU
Florida State safety Hamsah Nasirildeen has gifted athletic traits with a blend of size and physicality. As someone who is multidimensional, Nasirildeen can match up one-on-one against big body pass catchers. Nasirildeen suffered a torn ACL in 2019 and followed him into his 2020 season. As a result, it forced him to miss all but two games during his senior campaign. With just minimal time on the field in 2020, the Senior Bowl is a good opportunity for Nasirildeen to showcase his ability in matching up against tight ends — one of his best traits.
DT Marvin Wilson, FSU
Leading up to the 2020 college football season, FSU defensive tackle Marvin Wilson was regarded as a potential late first round pick. As the season played out, Wilson didn’t quite ascend as most draft experts expected him to, after recording five sacks in 2019. Wilson’s calling card is his adequate hand usage and quickness from the interior alignment. Wilson no longer feels like a day one starter, but his development in the NFL may one day reach his initial expectations. The Senior Bowl provides Wilson an opportunity to show scouts and coaches that his top-heavy frame doesn’t hold him back in more areas than one.