2021 NFL Offseason: Las Vegas Raiders

Las Vegas Raiders (Last Year: 8-8)

2021 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
RB Kenyan Drake, WR John Brown, WR Willie Snead, C Nick Martin, DE Yannick Ngakoue, DE Solomon Thomas, DT Quinton Jefferson, LB Darron Lee, CB Casey Hayward, CB Rasul Douglas, S Karl Joseph.
Early Draft Picks:
OT Alex Leatherwood, S Trevon Moehrig, DE/OLB Malcolm Koonce, LB/S Divine Deablo, S Tyree Gillespie. Raiders Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
WR Nelson Agholor, WR Tyrell Williams, TE Jason Witten, OT Trent Brown, G Gabe Jackson, C Rodney Hudson, DE Arden Key, DE Takk McKinley, DT Maurice Hurst, OLB Vic Beasley, S Erik Harris, S Lamarcus Joyner, S Jeff Heath.

2021 Las Vegas Raiders Offense:
There are two reasons why the Raider offense has been better than the sum of its apparent parts during Jon Gruden’s tenure. One is offensive coordinator Greg Olson, who once was able to have Josh Freeman play in the Pro Bowl. The second reason was the offensive line. The Raiders’ blocking unit has been ranked among the best in recent years.

That will not be the case anymore. The Raiders lost three starters on the offensive line this offseason, as Trent Brown, Gabe Jackson and Rodney Hudson are all gone. Richie Incognito departed temporarily as well, but he was eventually re-signed. Still, this was very dubious decision-making by general manager Mike Mayock, who somehow failed to realize why his offense outperformed Derek Carr’s ability. Carr is a mediocre talent at best, yet was able to thrive in 2020 because he had all the pass protection he needed.

It’s safe to say that Carr will struggle in 2021, though the tackles may not be that bad. Kolton Miller is an average blind-score protector, and he’ll start across from rookie Alex Leatherwood. The Alabama product was considered a reach by some, though both WalterFootball.com mock drafts had Leatherwood slotted to the Raiders at No. 17. Charlie Campbell reported that the Jets planned on selecting Leatherwood if he fell to them later in the first round. Still, Leatherwood could struggle without any experience.

The interior of the offensive line is the huge question mark. Incognito will be back, but he barely played last year because of an ankle injury. Now 38, Incognito could easily decline. He’ll be joined by Denzelle Good at guard and either Nick Martin or Andre James at center. None of them seem like very good options.

While Carr’s blocking will be worse, he’ll at least have some dynamic weapons at his disposal. Darren Waller has quickly become one of the top tight ends in the NFL, and he’ll be even better with more experience. Last year’s first-round pick, Henry Ruggs, struggled as a rookie, but figures to improve. Nelson Agholor is gone, but the Raiders signed John Brown as a potential upgrade.

Of course, there’s also Josh Jacobs as a rushing threat. Jacobs is a very skilled back, but he’ll also be hurt by the worse offensive line. Making matters worse for Jacobs, he’ll lose some targets out of the backfield to the newly acquired Kenyan Drake, who disappointed last year in Arizona.

2021 Las Vegas Raiders Defense:
The Alex Leatherwood selection was not the first pick of Mike Mayock’s to be widely questioned by the national media. Just last year, the Raiders spent one of their first-round picks on Damon Arnette. Seen as a second-round prospect, Arnette predictably struggled during his rookie campaign. He was atrocious, but has the potential to improve in his second season. He’ll need to because fellow young cornerback Trayvon Mullen also disappointed. To potentially remedy this situation, the Raiders signed Casey Hayward away from the Chargers. Hayward has been a stellar cornerback throughout his career, but is coming off a down year. Hayward will turn 32 soon, so this is a trend that could continue.

The Raiders had some shoddy play at safety last year as well. Another first-round bust, Johnathan Abram, has done nothing positive in his young NFL career. This prompted the Raiders to use their second-round pick this April on TCU’s Trevon Moehrig, who has great instincts. Moehrig was seen by some as a potential first-rounder, so Las Vegas obtained a possible steal in the second frame.

Another one of Mayock’s picks that was widely criticized was the fourth-overall choice he used on Clelin Ferrell. The Clemson product endured a lackluster rookie campaign, but performed better last year. He and Maxx Crosby were going to form a solid duo, but Mayock made sure to really strengthen the area by signing Yannick Ngakoue away from the Ravens. The Raiders nearly traded away the Arnette selection for Ngakoue, so getting him for just a big contract was a stellar move.

Mayock also signed Quinton Jefferson to bolster the defensive line. Jefferson had a strong 2019 campaign, but took a step backward last year. With the Raiders inexplicably cutting Maurice Hurst, they don’t have much at defensive tackle outside of Jefferson and mediocre run-stuffer Johnathan Hankins.

The Raiders’ lackluster defensive line provided little protection for a linebacking corps that struggled last year. Mayock spent plenty of money aiding the area by signing Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski, but neither met expectations. They’ll improve if the interior defensive line gets better this season, but Raider fans shouldn’t hold their breath.

2021 Las Vegas Raiders Schedule and Intangibles:
Sebastian Janikowski is long gone, and the Raiders certainly missed him ahead of 2020. Daniel Carlson was awful in 2019 – he was 19-of-26 – but he improved last year, hitting 33-of-35 attempts. He was 4-of-4 from beyond 50.

A.J. Cole was 26th in net punting in 2019, but he improved that mark to 18th last year.

Oakland had mediocre special teams last year. The team didn’t score on special teams, but didn’t surrender a touchdown either.

The Raiders already had a difficult schedule because they reside in the AFC West. Fortunately for them, they caught a break by being matched up with the NFC East and the Bears as their five non-conference foes.

2021 Las Vegas Raiders Rookies:
Go here for the Raiders Rookie Forecast, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie will become a solid starter.

2021 Las Vegas Raiders Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2021 Las Vegas Raiders Analysis: It was amazing that the Raiders were in playoff contention until the very end last year despite how terrible their defense was. That won’t be the case this year. The defense is still going to be atrocious, but their offense won’t be able to carry the team anymore because of all the negative changes to the offensive line. The poor blocking will cause Derek Carr and Josh Jacobs to struggle, which result in a last-place finish in one of the toughest divisions in the NFL.

Projection: 5-12 (4th in AFC West)

2020 Projection: 8-8. 2020 Actual Result: 8-8.
2019 Projection: 3-13. 2019 Actual Result: 7-9.
2018 Projection: 10-6. 2018 Actual Result: 4-12.
2017 Projection: 12-4. 2017 Actual Result: 6-10.
2016 Projection: 9-7. 2016 Actual Result: 12-4.

NFL Draft Team Grade: C+ Grade

Goals Entering the 2021 NFL Draft: The Raiders inexplicably dismantled their offensive line this offseason. They have so many holes on the blocking unit they need to fill, which is a huge problem because the defense has so many holes as well.

2021 NFL Draft Accomplishments: All the talking heads criticized the Raiders’ pick of Alex Leatherwood, but I thought it was a solid selection. I once had Leatherwood as high as No. 8 overall to the Bengals in one of my mock draft updates, and I had been mocking Leatherwood in the teens or early 20s the entire time. Charlie Campbell also reported that one team in the early 20s was set to select Leatherwood if he had fallen to them. Leatherwood figures to be a nice replacement for the departed Trent Brown.

Trevon Moehrig was the Raiders’ best pick. They stole him in the second round, and he should be a huge upgrade over Johnathan Abram. However, that’s where the positives end. The Raiders made some sketchy selections in the middle rounds, taking late-round prospects in the third frame. Malcolm Koonce didn’t even fill a need as an edge rusher, while Divine Deablo is a linebacker-safety hybrid who doesn’t have a natural position.

The Raiders had a mixed bag as far as their overall results were concerned. They started the draft strong, but faded as the weekend progressed. I also don’t think they did enough to fill all of their new holes on the offensive line, so the scoring unit will struggle next year, though not as much as the defense will.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

17. Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama – B+ Grade
This is such a perfect fit. Alex Leatherwood is the sort of tough offensive lineman Jon Gruden loves. The Raiders were desperate for an offensive lineman after losing not one, not two, but three blockers in free agency. It makes sense for Leatherwood to be the fourth offensive lineman off the board, so I like this pick for the Raiders.

43. Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU – A+ Grade
Everyone whined about the Raiders apparently reaching for Alex Leatherwood on Thursday even though it was really fine value. I imagine that this selection will be viewed more favorably because Trevon Moehrig was frequently mocked in the first round as the only safety in the opening frame. Moehrig is a safe prospect who figures to fill a huge need in the Raiders’ dreadful secondary.

79. Malcolm Koonce, DE/OLB, Buffalo – F Grade
I defended the Alex Leatherwood pick, but I can’t do the same thing for this one. I’ve had Malcolm Koonce slated late on Day 3. He seems like a nice situational pass rusher who will be exposed in run support if he has to play on those downs. He doesn’t even fill a need, so I don’t see why he’s a third-round pick.

80. Divine Deablo, LB/S, Virginia Tech – D Grade
I’m not a big fan of this pick either, but it’s better than the other one. Divine Deablo is a talented player, but he’s a linebacker-safety hybrid, so it’s unclear where he’ll fit in the Raiders’ defense. Linebacker is a huge need, so why not select someone like Jabril Cox?

143. Tyree Gillespie, S, Missouri – D Grade
I don’t understand why the Raiders traded up for Tyree Gillespie. He could potentially fill a need, but he’s someone I consistently mocked in the final rounds of my mock draft. I don’t think anyone was dying to take Gillespie, so there was no need to give up resources for him.

167. Nate Hobbs, CB, Illinois – C Grade
It’s surprising that the Raiders waited this long to find a cornerback. This pick is also surprising because I never had Nate Hobbs in my mock drafts, however. Hobbs has high potential, so I don’t hate this pick. He’s extremely athletic, so perhaps the Raiders can mold him into a good player.

230. Jimmy Morissey, C, Pittsburgh – A Grade
I thought Jimmy Morissey would be chosen much earlier than this, as I had him pegged in the fourth- or fifth-round range. The Raiders did well to grab a great value, and Morissey could even fill an immediate need at center, created by the departure of Rodney Hudson.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

Season Summary:
The Raiders have made great strides offensively under Jon Gruden and his coaching staff, but their defense has continued to be atrocious. It cost them a playoff spot late in the year, so it must be repaired this offseason.

Offseason Moves:
  • Raiders sign CB Casey Hayward
  • Raiders sign CB Rasul Douglas
  • Raiders sign S Karl Joseph
  • Raiders sign WR Willie Snead
  • Raiders sign C Nick Martin
  • Raiders sign RB Kenyan Drake
  • Seahawks acquire G Gabe Jackson from Raiders
  • Raiders sign DT Quinton Jefferson
  • Cardinals acquire C Rodney Hudson from Raiders
  • Raiders sign WR John Brown
  • Raiders sign DE Yannick Ngakoue
  • Patriots acquire OT Trent Brown from Raiders

    Team Needs:
    1. Defensive Tackle: The Raiders need a stud presence in the interior of their defensive line to improve their leaky stop unit. Signed Quinton Jefferson

    2. Two Linebackers: Continuing with the theme of the middle of the Raiders’ defense, the Cory Littleton acquisition was a complete failure, while Nicholas Morrow is an impending free agent. Another linebacker will be needed, even if Morrow re-signs. Re-signed Nicholas Morrow

    3. Safety: And finally, safety must be upgraded to fix the middle of the defense. Johnathan Abram has been one of the worst safeties in the NFL, while Erik Harris is an impending free agent. Signed Karl Joseph

    4. Right Tackle: A new right tackle is needed in the wake of the Trent Brown trade.

    5. Cornerback: The front office has spent numerous, high-end resources on the secondary recently, yet nothing has come of it. Cornerback is a huge need. In fact, two corners might be needed. Signed Casey Hayward and Rasul Douglas

    6. Two Guards: The Raiders cut Gabe Jackson, so they’ll need to replace him. They’ll also need to replace Richie Incognito. Re-signed Richie Incognito

    7. Center: It’s unclear why the Raiders cut Rodney Hudson, but they’ll need to replace him. Signed Nick Martin

    8. Edge Rushing Depth: Clelin Ferrell improved in his second year, but the Raiders still need another pass-rushing presence on the edge. Signed Yannick Ngakoue

    9. Interior Offensive Line Depth: Richie Incognito barely played last year, so the Raiders better make sure they have a good Plan B this time.

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2021 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Yannick Ngakoue, DE/OLB, Ravens. Age: 26.
      Signed with Raiders

      Yannick Ngakoue is an electric pass rusher with enormous upside. He’s only 26, so there’s still room for growth with him.

    2. Casey Hayward, CB, Chargers. Age: 31.
      Signed with Raiders

      Casey Hayward has been a shutdown cornerback throughout his career, but is coming off his worst year as a pro. He turns 32 in September, but should have some strong seasons remaining.

    3. John Brown, WR, Bills. Age: 31.
      Signed with Raiders (1 year)

      John Brown is a talented receiver, but was released in order to save the Bills nearly $8 million in cap space and allow Gabriel Davis to get more snaps. Brown’s only issue, beyond his age – 31 in April – is his durability. He missed seven games in 2020.

    4. Kenyan Drake, RB, Cardinals. Age: 27.
      Signed with Raiders (2 years, $11 million)

      Expectations were high for Kenyan Drake entering 2020, but he was a disappointment. He rushed for 955 yards and 10 touchdowns, but wasn’t involved much in the passing game and averaged for a meek 4.0 YPC.

    5. Quinton Jefferson, DT, Bills. Age: 28.
      Signed with Raiders

      Quinton Jefferson was one of the biggest surprises for the Seahawks in 2019. He emerged as a potent force in the interior of the trenches, stuffing the run well and generating some pressure on opposing quarterbacks. He was a disappointment in Buffalo, however, resulting in his release. It’s possible that he got fat and happy from his $6.5 million guarantee. He could rebound in 2021.

    6. Rasul Douglas, CB, Panthers. Age: 26.
      Signed with Raiders

      Rasul Douglas was one of many players this year to play better after departing from the Eagles. He was Carolina’s best corner when Donte Jackson was sidelined.

    7. Solomon Thomas, DE, 49ers. Age: 26.
      Signed with Raiders (1 year)

      Solomon Thomas is a bust as a former No. 3 overall pick, but he’s still a solid run defender. If he were a third- or fourth-round pick, his career would be seen as a success.

    8. Nick Martin, C, Texans. Age: 28.
      Signed with Raiders

      Nick Martin has been a mediocre starting center at best for the Texans over the past four years. Houston would’ve kept him if he weren’t overpaid.

    9. Karl Joseph, S, Browns. Age: 27.
      Signed with Raiders

      Time is running out for Karl Joseph to prove his worth as a first-round pick. He’s played well at times in his career, but wasn’t very good in 2020, thanks to injuries.

    10. Willie Snead, WR, Ravens. Age: 28. — Signed with Raiders
    11. Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CB, Falcons. Age: 31. — Signed with Raiders
    12. DeVante Bausby, CB, Broncos. Age: 28. — Signed with Raiders

    Las Vegas Raiders Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Nicholas Morrow, LB, Raiders. Age: 26.
      Re-signed with Raiders

      Nicholas Morrow played well for the Raiders last year while in coverage. He missed one too many tackles, but he’s only 26, so he’ll continue to improve.

    2. Richie Incognito, G, Raiders. Age: 38.
      Re-signed with Raiders

      Richie Incognito missed all but two games with an ankle injury. There’s no telling if he’s 100 percent, or how he’ll play at 38, but Incognito was recently a Pro Bowl-caliber lineman in 2019.

    3. Nelson Agholor, WR, Raiders. Age: 28.
      Signed with Patriots (2 years, $26 million)

      Nelson Agholor was a huge bust with Philadelphia. However, he was one of many Eagles who played better once getting away from Doug Pederson. He still had some drop issues, but he made many more big plays with the Raiders.

    4. Maurice Hurst, DT, Raiders. Age: 26.
      Signed with 49ers

      It’s unclear why the Raiders cut a talented player like Maurice Hurst. He’s a solid rotational player with upside.

    5. Erik Harris, S, Raiders. Age: 31.
      Signed with Falcons

      Erik Harris isn’t a great player by any means, but he’s a very versatile defensive back who can play in the slot if needed.

    6. Takk McKinley, DE, Raiders. Age: 25.
      Signed with Browns (1 year, $4 million)

      Takk McKinley still has some major potential as a former first-round pick, but he’s been a bust thus far.

    7. Johnathan Hankins, DT, Raiders. Age: 29.
      Re-signed with Raiders (1 year)

      Johnathan Hankins is a monstrous run stuffer, but offers nothing as a pass rusher.

    8. Tyrell Williams, WR, Raiders. Age: 30. — Signed with Lions
    9. Lamarcus Joyner, CB/S, Raiders. Age: 30. — Signed with Jets
    10. Denzelle Good, OT, Raiders. Age: 30. — Re-signed with Raiders (2 years)
    11. Nevin Lawson, CB, Raiders. Age: 30. — Re-signed with Raiders (1 year)
    12. Arden Key, DE, Raiders. Age: 25. — Signed with 49ers
    13. Jason Witten, TE, Raiders. Age: 39.
    14. Vic Beasley, DE/OLB, Raiders. Age: 29.
    15. Devontae Booker, RB, Raiders. Age: 26. — Signed with Giants (2 years)
    16. Raekwon McMillan, LB, Raiders. Age: 25. — Signed with Patriots (1 year)
    17. Sam Young, OT, Raiders. Age: 34. — Re-signed with Raiders
    18. Daryl Worley, CB, Raiders. Age: 26. — Signed with Cardinals
    19. Zay Jones, WR, Raiders. Age: 26. — Re-signed with Raiders
    20. Theo Riddick, RB, Raiders. Age: 30. — Re-signed with Raiders
    21. Nathan Peterman, QB, Raiders. Age: 27.
    22. Kyle Wilber, LB, Raiders. Age: 32.
    23. Derek Carrier, TE, Raiders. Age: 31. — Re-signed with Raiders

    NFL Free Agent Tracker:
    QB | RB | FB | WR | TE | OT | G | C | DE | DT | OLB | ILB | CB | S | K/P | FA Grades | FA Rumors

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