The Raiders’ season is over after going 10-7 and losing a close game to the Cincinnati Bengals in the Wild Card round. The Raiders have also fired general Mike Mayock and are now looking for both a new head coach and general manager. As the Raiders’ offseason begins to take shape, let’s take an early look at who Las Vegas could be targeting in the 2022 NFL Draft this April.
To be clear, this is a “what I would do” mock draft and it is based on my draft philosophy and not what I believe the next Raiders general manager or another general manager would do.
Round 1, Pick 22: Sam Howell, Quarterback, North Carolina
This pick may seem controversial as QB Derek Carr played relatively well this season. However, as has been the case for most of his career, he was not able to overcome the weaknesses of the Raiders’ roster and elevate the team to the upper echelon of the NFL. In this mock draft, both Pitt QB Kenny Pickett (by Denver) and Ole Miss QB Matt Corral (by Philadelphia) were drafted already, so the pick is Howell, who has as much upside as anyone in this class.
“He’s an unbelievable young guy and he’s tough as nails,” Howell’s college coach Mack Brown said about the junior after Howell made the decision to play in the team’s bowl game despite a hurt shoulder.
It would benefit Howell to sit and develop for a year, coming from an extremely simple offense at North Carolina, and Carr would be a great mentor as he finishes out his contract in Las Vegas. Howell’s weaknesses (pocket presence, processing) are some of Carr’s strengths. And Howell’s strengths (above-average arm, mobility, and aggressiveness) are areas where Carr doesn’t necessarily excel. In 2023, with strong weapons, and a potentially improved offensive line, Howell could thrive as the Raiders quarterback of the future.
Round 2, Pick 53: Drake Jackson, EDGE, USC
The Raiders have one of the league’s best edge duos in Maxx Crosby and Yannick Ngaukoue, but Crosby is primarily responsible for their success. Nguakoue’s 10 sacks this season are actually rather deceptive, as he was only an average pass-rusher and one of the worst run-defenders in the league.
The Raiders did get to see a flash from rookie DE Malcolm Koonce this season as a pass-rusher, but it seems unlikely the team will bring back Ngakoue after his contract expires in 2023. Jackson is a borderline first-round talent who profiles similarly to what Ngakoue has been at his best throughout his career. Between Jackson and Crosby, the Raiders could have a truly elite long-term pass-rushing duo.
Round 3, Pick 86: Brandon Smith, Linebacker, Penn State
Likely the most impactful player in this draft class for the Raiders in 2022, Smith is a special athlete at 6-foot-3, 241 pounds who reportedly ran a 4.38 out of high school. He has some issues in run defense, but if he improves in the offseason, Smith could have a big role in the linebacking unit with the likes of Denzel Perryman, Divine Deablo, and Cory Littleton among others. If not, his special pass-coverage ability will allow him to play in sub-packages as a rookie. Long-term, Smith and Divine Deablo could make for one of the most intriguing athletic linebacker duos in the league.
Round 4, Pick 122: Jake Ferguson, Tight End, Wisconsin
Foster Moreau will be a free agent in 2023 and Darren Waller’s injury issues reared their ugly head in 2021. Ferguson could be a good insurance policy if and when Las Vegas needs a replacement at the position since Moreau didn’t inspire much confidence with his expanded opportunities in 2021. The redshirt senior has been a consistent option in the Badgers passing game the past few seasons and profiles as a traditional Y-tight end. Though he’s not as dynamic of a receiver as someone like Waller, Ferguson could join WR Hunter Renfrow as a reliable safety blanket for Sam Howell in the future.
Round 5, Pick 162: Cam Taylor-Britt, Cornerback, Nebraska
A strong athlete for a fifth-round pick, Taylor-Britt is a long, press-man corner out of Nebraska. His raw athleticism and aggressiveness make him an intriguing long-term prospect. With some development, he could eventually be a good starter for the Raiders, and he likely represents an upgrade over the likes of Brandon Facyson as a rookie. Worst case scenario, he brings value as a good return man.
Round 5, Pick 163: Zamir White, Halfback, Georgia
White projects very similarly to Josh Jacobs as a solid, between the tackles SEC running back who doesn’t bring much value in the passing game. If Las Vegas decides they don’t want to pay Jacobs in 2023, White provides a lot of value as he can slot in as the starter almost immediately.
Round 7, Pick 223: Cordell Volson, Tackle, North Dakota State
The Raiders’ issues on the offensive line have been well documented and they should attempt to address them through free agency this spring. Even if they do, they can’t pass up on the value Volson brings this late in the draft. Almost a mirror image of Kolton Miller as a long, athletic offensive tackle, Volson brought value in both the pass and run game for the Bison this season. If the Raiders don’t throw money at the position in free agency, Volson would still provide an upgrade over RT Brandon Parker.
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