During the 2019 season, one of the Raiders’ biggest struggles was defensive consistency. One game, the team would appear to have much figured out, just to appear lost and bewildered the next.
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Fortunately, there are many available solutions to these struggles, with many of them stemming from the NFL Draft. The Raiders did deal with injuries and a suspension throughout the year, keeping the starting lineup uncertain and questionable from week to week. One of the ways to combat this is to establish more depth on the team. Having fairly known players even from backup positions can establish a level of certainty and comfort amongst fans and the team. While many may not focus on prospects eyeing later picks in the draft, an impressive combine can bring notability to formerly unknown players.
The Raiders must have an eye for defensive players in the upcoming draft, and there are
certainly more than a few that could make waves. Louisiana State University safety Grant Delpit entered the 2018 season as one of the highest regarded defensive backs in football. He did have parts of his game to work on, such as simplifying the angles he took to ball carriers. But, Delpit disappointed in 2019 and a drop in draft projections followed.
With the projection falling, room to surprise has emerged. It can be assumed Delpit still has his athletic ability, despite struggling in 2019, meaning the athletic tests of the combine could boost Delpit into a more desirable position.
On the opposite end, Missouri linebacker Nick Bolton enters the combine coming off an elite
season. Bolton interrupted 27 percent of passes targeted in his direction under 20 yards. Pass coverage from linebackers have been a massive struggle and Bolton could fill that void. Not only could Bolton thrive in the Raiders’ nickel scheme, he also can shut down the run. Bolton missed less than 10 percent of his tackles during the season while still making 130 total tackles. With Bolton, athleticism is prevalent and a sizeable jump after the Combine can be expected.
Louisiana Tech cornerback Amik Robertson should rise during the combine simply due to his choice of school. LTU is by no means a powerhouse football school, but Robertson is a powerhouse cornerback. Robertson led college football with 17 passes broken up in addition to five interceptions. Robertson allowed less than 48 percent of passes in his direction to be completed, and only allowed two touchdowns on the year. The biggest step for Robertson will not come in the combine, but in the preseason.
The wide receiver talent in the Conference USA by no means rivals the talent in the NFL. Robertson will shine at the Combine but could be tested later on. The phrase “two-man draft” is frustrating, as there are countless players that will be available to draft and significantly contribute. If the second showing of the Gruden/Mayock draft class is anything like the first one, the team is in for an incredibly pleasant surprise.