The truth of the matter is that every single position on defense is a need for the Oakland Raiders. From starters to crucial depth, new defensive coordinator Paul Guenther’s cupboard is alarmingly bare. Therefore, in that sense, any prime defensive prospect would be a welcome addition for the Silver & Black.
The Raiders are going to be in excellent position to seize a premier defender at either the 9th or 10th overall pick in the draft’s opening round. However, what if Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick and/or Florida State’s Derwin James is there for the taking? As Pro Football Focus’ (PFF) Austin Gayle astutely points out, the Raiders spent significant draft coin at the safety position already. First came Karl Joseph in the first round of the 2016 draft, then Obi Melifonwu (second) and to a lesser extent, Shalom Luani (seventh) in 2017.
However, it is going to be hard to ignore Fitzpatrick and James, even if they are “redundant”. Yes, it is a surplus. Another safety with a high-round pick is not good optics. Nevertheless, Oakland would be wise to exercise some Darwin when it comes to Derwin and Minkah, i.e. Survival of the fittest. Optics or not, these two cats can play ball. Adding either to the secondary immediately creates feverish competition on the backend of the Raiders defense and, more importantly, much-needed depth.
Now, I am not advocating the Raiders nab another safety, I am simply saying it does have its merits and makes sense. Moreover, I do prescribe to the McKenzie Method of sacks and picks with early round selections. (That, of course being general manager Reggie McKenzie).
Some key points:
- A quick perusal at the safety rankings have Fitzpatrick No. 1, James No. 2 and vice versa.
- The Seminoles’ safety topped PFFs grades at the position sporting a 92.0.
- The Roll Tide’s safetyman earned PFFs sixth-highest grade (85.2) at cornerback.
- Both are tremendous size/speed prospects: James at 6-foot-3, 211 pounds and Fitzpatrick at 6-1, 203.
- James can be an in-the-box enforcer and tight end cover man at strong or a deep rover at free safety.
- Fitzpatrick can do all that with the added ability to drop into the slot and cover those shifty receivers.
- Both are moveable pieces adept at combating a specific piece of an offense.
You had better believe the Raiders personnel department has acquired all it needs to know about Fitzpatrick from new defensive backs boss Derrick Ansley, who served in the same capacity at Alabama. Fitzpatrick is adept at slot, deep/box safety and even outside coverage as a true all-around defensive back.
James, on the other hand, gives teams the ability to deploy him as a pure edge rusher. This is a very rare trait amongst the draftable safeties. He has the knack and tackling ability to be a consistent pain for quarterbacks. In addition, can you imagine James in Guenther’s creative blitz schemes? On the other hand, James rushing alongside or behind Khalil Mack?