How’s this for irony: The reason the defensive-starved Las Vegas Raiders likely won’t have a shot at selecting one of the top three pass rushers in the 2023 NFL draft is because of a play made by three offensive players who might not be on the team next season.
When right tackle Jermaine Eluemunor and tight end Foster Moreau sealed off the right side of the line to spring running back Josh Jacobs for an 86-yard, walkoff touchdown run in overtime against Seattle, it likely meant the team won’t have a top-5 – or maybe even a top-10 – draft pick.
With 33 carries for 229 yards and 2 touchdowns, Jacobs now leads the NFL in rushing yards with 1,159 yards. Jacobs, Eluemunor and Moreau will all be unrestricted free agents at the end of the season.
The win puts Las Vegas somewhere at or near the No. 10 overall selection – and that could be a problem if the Raiders want to improve its leaky defense. Las Vegas is giving up close to 371 yards per game on defense, near the bottom of the league.
Need an impact pass rusher to pair with Maxx Crosby? Edge rushers Will Anderson of Alabama and Myles Murphy of Clemson and Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter are all expected to be drafted within the first eight picks.
How about a new right tackle to replace Eluemunor? Like the top defensive players, tackles Paris Johnson of Ohio State and Peter Skoronski of Northwestern also could be gone by the time the Raiders are on the clock.
Hoping to replace three-time Pro Bowler Derek Carr? Now in his ninth season and coming off a career-year in which he made his first playoff appearance, Carr signed a three-year, $121.5 million extension in the offseason but is seemingly always on the trade block.
However, the top three QBs should be gone relatively quickly, and shelling out major draft capital to take a QB – when the team already has a Pro Bowl signal caller on its roster – seems highly unlikely.
That leaves cornerback as the position most likely to be upgraded in Round 1.
Las Vegas has given up 2,783 yards passing this season, seventh-most in the league, and the team’s 4 interceptions are tied for the third-fewest. Plus, Anthony Averett and Rock Ya-Sin will be UFAs at the end of the season.
Returning are Nate Hobbs, a 2021 fifth-rounder out of Illinois who hasn’t played since breaking a bone in his hand in the Week 5 loss to Kansas City, and Amik Robertson, a 5-foot-8, 187-pound fourth-round pick in 2020 out of Louisiana Tech who is best-suited at nickelback. Former 2020 undrafted free agent Tyler Hall of Wyoming has barely seen the field.
As of now, those are Las Vegas’ three main CBs heading into the 2023 season.
So while the team might miss out on one of the top pass rushers, tackles or QBs, the Raiders likely won’t strike out at cornerback. Penn State’s Joey Porter Jr. (No. 10), South Carolina’s Cam Smith (No. 15), Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez (No. 16) and polarizing Georgia redshirt sophomore Kelee Ringo (No. 19) could all be available when Las Vegas picks in the first round.
One interesting note about the Raiders’ history of drafting cornerbacks in the first round: Of the past five CBs selected in the first round by Las Vegas (Nnamdi Asomugha in 2003, Fabian Washington in 2005, D.J. Hayden in 2013, Gareon Conley in 2017 and Damon Arnette in 2020), only one of them went on to have a successful career, while the other four would be considered busts and/or had disappointing careers.
1. Houston Texans: QB Bryce Young, Alabama
We’ll never know how good Carr’s older brother, David, would have been had the No. 1 overall pick in the 2002 draft out of Fresno State ever played on a good offensive line in Houston. Will we be saying the same thing about Young in 10 years from now? Drafting a small QB who’s not particularly mobile and playing him on that line seems like a recipe for disaster. Keep in mind, there were concerns about former Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa’s size and ability to stay healthy before the 2020 draft – and Young is likely going to measure smaller than Tagovailoa, whose own injuries have made national headlines.
(TRADE) 2. Seattle Seahawks: QB C.J. Stroud, Ohio State
Who’s willing to give up a second and a fourth-round pick? If Chicago winds up with the No. 2 pick and is followed by Detroit and Seattle, then the team can still wind up with one of the top defensive players by trading the pick to one of those two QB-needy teams. Detroit or Seattle would likely have to give up its second-round pick. So who’s willing to throw in another pick? The Seahawks, with two picks in the first and second rounds, have more draft ammo to make the deal.
3. Detroit Lions: QB Will Levis, Kentucky
You keep hearing how Levis’ numbers are down this season, but they’re actually close to or on-pace with last year’s totals, when he had more talent surrounding him on offense. Regardless of Levis’ perceived flaws, there’s a big gap between him and the fourth-best QB, so the senior will likely go much higher than his draft rankings suggest.
4. Chicago Bears: Edge Will Anderson, Alabama
The Bears no longer have a game-changer along the defensive line, so either Anderson or Georgia’s Jalen Carter would be a major upgrade.
5. Pittsburgh Steelers: OT Paris Johnson, Ohio State
Yes, Johnson finally gave up a pressure and a sack last weekend against Michigan, the first collegiate sack he’s ever given up, but Johnson is nonetheless one of the safer picks in this draft. The team also might have considered Penn State’s Olumuyiwa Fashanu with this pick, but the redshirt sophomore announced Monday that he’s returning to school.
Fashanu is only 19-years-old (turns 20 in 2 weeks) and has only 9 starts in CFB. If he didn’t feel ready, he’s making the right choice.
$$$ is the driving force for a lot of people, but not everyone. So many different factors w/ these underclassmen decisions. https://t.co/e0hQye7dTl
— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) November 28, 2022
6. Carolina Panthers: DL Jalen Carter, Georgia
Carolina needs a QB just as badly as Seattle and Detroit does, so this team may try to move up to No. 3 – and has two picks in the second round to make that move happen. Otherwise, give the new coach – whoever that might be – another DT to pair with Derrick Brown.
7. Philadelphia Eagles: RB Bijan Robinson, Texas
Arguably the best prospect, the safest pick and the early front-runner for Offensive Rookie of the Year, Robinson would replace UFA Miles Sanders and give Philadelphia the most dynamic running game – along with the best OL – in the league. Yikes.
8. Arizona Cardinals: Edge Myles Murphy, Clemson
J.J. Watt has to retire at some point, right?
9. Green Bay Packers: OT Peter Skoronski, Northwestern
It seems like Green Bay is always dealing with injuries along its offensive line. Skoronski gives the team the flexibility it craves along the line in that he can play tackle or guard.
10: Las Vegas Raiders: CB Joey Porter Jr., Penn State
With the top pass rushers and OTs gone, Las Vegas turns its attention to another area of need: cornerback.
11. Houston Texans: WR Quentin Johnston, TCU
The Fashanu news means one of the top tackles likely isn’t going to fall to Houston with the Texans’ second first-round pick, so expect the team to address the position later in the draft or in free agency.
12. Jacksonville Jaguars: WR Jordan Addison, USC
The team traded for former Atlanta Falcons receiver Calvin Ridley last November, only to see him suspended indefinitely on gambling allegations. Meanwhile, offseason free agent signing Christian Kirk is 15th in the league in receiving yards (725) and 17th in receptions (56). Adding another receiving threat like Addison should only help open things up for Kirk, regardless of when (and if) Ridley returns. However, Addison isn’t a perfect fit – like Kirk, he’s better suited for slot receiver – but taking the next-best tackle to replace UFA Jawaan Taylor would be a big reach.
13. Detroit Lions: CB Cam Smith, South Carolina
The Lion’s need at cornerback hasn’t changed. The team is allowing 284 yards passing while recording 7 INTs in the four wins. In the seven losses, Detroit is giving up an average of 264 yards passing while collecting only 4 INTs. South Carolina’s Smith has 6 INTs for his career, while Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez – also a possibility here – has his first 4 INTs of his career this season.
14. Indianapolis Colts: TE Michael Mayer, Notre Dame
The Draft Wire has Indianapolis reaching for Washington QB Michael Penix (No. 50), while The Colts Wire has them taking Florida QB Anthony Richardson (No. 28). Bottom line? The Colts desperately need a new signal-caller, but GM Chris Ballard doesn’t have a history of reaching for players. Case in point: Indianapolis has drafted 53 players since Ballard took over. Of that total, 47 are still on an NFL roster, an incredible rate that’s only achieved by not taking big gambles. Mayer is about as safe of a pick as you can get – but he also has Pro Bowl potential. You know the saying about TEs being a QB’s best friend; if the Colts can’t (or don’t) snag a QB in Round 1, then at least they can pick up a security blanket for the new one.
15. Atlanta Falcons: OT Broderick Jones, Georgia
Outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter and right tackle Kaleb McGary will be UFAs at the end of the season. LSU’s B.J. Ojulari (No. 17) is a better fit for Atlanta’s 3-4 defense than Texas Tech’s Tyree Wilson (No. 13), as Wilson may be limited to a defensive end in an even front. However, this draft is trending toward being loaded with pass rushers, while the same can’t be said of the offensive tackles. Hence, the reason why the lower-rated Jones (No. 23) is the pick here.
16. Seattle Seahawks: DL Bryan Bresee, Clemson
Defensive line could be a sneaky need for the Seahawks. Poona Ford, who plays defensive end in Seattle’s odd-front, will be an UFA at the end of the season. He led all Seattle defensive linemen in snaps last season and is leading them again this season while racking up a career-high 3 sacks.
17. Los Angeles Chargers: S Brian Branch, Alabama
Free safety Nasir Adderley will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season – a Branch/Derwin James safety pairing would be the playmaking duo the team hoped it was getting with Adderley.
18. New England Patriots: Edge Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech
It’s hard to believe Wilson falls much further than this, but, as mentioned above, he’s better-suited for an even-front versus the 3-4 that New England runs – you’d have to hope his pass-rushing acumen isn’t wasted as an edge in an odd-front. But trust Bill Belichick to find a way to effectively utilize the 6-foot-6, 270-pound senior with 35 5/8-inch arms. Wilson has 27.5 TFLs and 14 sacks the past two seasons.
i dont need to see anymore of tyree wilson pic.twitter.com/67OUajizvn
— charles (parody) mcdonald (@FourVerts) November 25, 2022
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: CB Christian Gonzalez, Oregon
Need meets Best Player Available.
20. Washington Commanders: TE Darnell Washington, Georgia
Back to the TE being a QB’s best friend … that perfectly describes Washington, an incredible athlete for his 6-foot-8, 270-pound frame, and his blocking prowess alone makes him a valuable asset. The Commanders and the Colts are in similar positions (and, ironically, both started Carson Wentz): Both teams have enough pieces in place to legitimately feel like they can be contenders with a quality QB. (Expect both teams to go hard after Baltimore QB Lamar Jackson if he doesn’t re-sign with the Ravens.) But taking a QB here is the ultimate “boom or bust” move, as it could decide careers for both franchises – for better or worse. The smart move is to pass on a QB here. After all, Taylor Heinicke has the Commanders in position to make the playoffs – an almost laughable thought to start the season.
21. Baltimore Ravens: QB Anthony Richardson, Florida
Your move, Lamar Jackson.
22. New York Jets: LB Trenton Simpson, Clemson
The Jets look like they’re headed toward Indianapolis and Washington territory: One good QB away … However, New York could be in real trouble, as both Mike White and Joe Flacco will be UFAs at the end of the season. Therefore, the team needs to re-sign one of them or hope Zach Wilson, the No. 2 pick in the 2021 draft, figures things out. For now, the team takes a BPA approach with Simpson, as the Jets could lose two of three starting linebackers to free agency.
23. Cincinnati Bengals: Edge Zach Harrison, Ohio State
Defensive end Sam Hubbard is signed through 2025, but Trey Hendrickson becomes an UFA after next season. That would give Harrison plenty of time to warm up to the NFL game, as he’s finally stringing together the type of performances that analysts expected out of the 6-foot-7, 275-pound senior. All 6.5 TFLs and 3 sacks have come in Harrison’s last six games.
24. New York Giants: CB Kelee Ringo, Georgia
This pick would likely come down to Ringo (No. 18) or Tennessee receiver Jalin Hyatt (No. 30). The Giants could also let Saquon Barkley go in free agency and replace him with Alabama RB Jahmyr Gibbs (No. 24). If that’s the case, then the pick would go to Ringo – you can find good receivers and RBs on Day 2 and beyond.
25. Denver Broncos: OT Dawand Jones, Ohio State
Denver absolutely, positively has to nail this pick due to the disaster this season has become. Still just 21 years old, the 6-foot-8, 360-pound redshirt junior Jones is the definition of the phrase “building block.”
26. Tennessee Titans: TE Tucker Kraft, South Dakota State
Dare you to name the starting tight end in Tennessee. Bonus points for anyone who knows who the backup is. For what it’s worth, both Austin Hooper and Geoff Swaim will be UFAs at the end of the season.
27. Dallas Cowboys: WR Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee
Letting Amari Cooper go for next to nothing proved to be a mistake. Besides, the team’s last first-round receiver out of Tennessee (Alvin Harper) did pretty well next to an 88.
28. Buffalo Bills: RB Jahmyr Gibbs, Alabama
Adding Gibbs, who allegedly reached almost 23 mph in his 72-yard TD run against Arkansas, to an already dynamic offense just seems unfair to the rest of the league.
Jahmyr Gibbs vs. Arkansas:
🐘 20 touches
🐘 226 total yards
🐘 2 rushing TDs
🐘 22.8 mph max speed pic.twitter.com/2d1Jg2XcUQ
— Pro Football Network (@PFN365) October 3, 2022
29. Minnesota Vikings: Emmanuel Forbes, Mississippi State
Both starting CBs will be UFAs at the end of the season, so the team goes with the ball-hawking Forbes (No. 43) over the higher-ranked Cam Phillips II of Utah (No. 40), who’s seen as more of a slot cornerback, or Jaylon Jones of Texas A&M (No. 34), who has missed time this season with injuries and has otherwise had a fairly pedestrian season.
30. Kansas City Chiefs: WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State
If JSN can stay healthy – a big if at this point – then this could turn into the steal of the draft.
31. Philadelphia Eagles: LB Drew Sanders, Arkansas
LBs Kyzir White and T.J. Edwards become UFAs at the end of the season. Expect Nakobe Dean, the team’s 2022 third-round pick out of Georgia, to fill Edwards’ spot. Sanders would step in for White and is a superior athlete who is also capable of rushing the passer.
Los Angeles Rams, second round: OT Darnell Wright, Tennessee
New Orleans Saints, second round: QB Michael Penix Jr., Washington
Cleveland Browns, second round: OT Jaelyn Duncan, Maryland
Miami Dolphins, second round: S J.L. Skinner, Boise State
* Draft order courtesy of Tankathon.
** Miami lost its first-round pick due to tampering charges.
Jake Rigdon (@jrigdon73) covers the NFL draft for Fanspeak.com. He also covers the NFL draft from a Dallas Cowboys perspective in this subReddit. And his big board is updated at least once per week during the season and leading up to the draft.