Outside of perhaps Rashaan Melvin and Gareon Conley — who will square up on wide receivers on the boundaries — the Oakland Raiders cornerback gigs are up for grabs. Melvin and Conley should start at left and right corner, but who is the third? This is a critical component to any competent defense.
The nickel cornerback is a de facto starter. The NFL evolved into an Air Raid showcase that forces the hand of a defense to make a five defensive back set the base defense. It is no wonder the Raiders scoured the free agency market and draft. The team currently houses eight cornerbacks. Other than Melvin and Conley and a versatile safety who could claim the nickel corner role.
The duo with the leg-up based on prior experience in the No. 3 role is veterans Leon Hall and Shareece Wright. The former operated the spot for the New York Giants and most recently the San Francisco 49ers the past two years. Wright, meanwhile, shuttled between outside and nickel corner this past season with the Buffalo Bills. Hall is the older of the two at 33 and logged only 660 snaps the last two years. Wright is 31.
The other veteran with experience in the slot is Marcus Gilchrist, a safety. The 29-year-old has shifted to the backend but began his career as a corner with the Jets. He played the nickel spot with the Chargers for a few years. Wright ran the gamut (outside and nickel corner and safety) with the Texans this past year.
Jumping back to cornerbacks, Senquez Golson (24), Antonio Hamilton (25), Dexter McDonald (26), Nick Nelson (21 and a rookie), Daryl Worley (23) and Shaquille Richardson (26) represent the rest of the competition. Besides Golson and Nelson, that group seems built for outside corner.
Nelson, who is on the mend for a meniscus injury suffered during a private workout with the Lions before the draft, is an intriguing option. He noted he played rover at Wisconsin where he followed the opposition’s best receiver, be it on the boundary or inside. Still, he has zero career picks in college but deflected 41 passes (a career high 21 this past year).
With murky waters ahead at the position, any corner could potentially grab a starting spot. Even on the outside and it is imperative they are on point. Even at the infancy of the offseason, Oakland has shown no qualms of jettisoning players in favor of better ones.