The Las Vegas Raiders‘ defense finished 2022 with the 28th-ranked defense in the league and hasn’t had a defense above 20th since before 2014. In that same time period, they have had the 30th or worse defense three different times.
I’d say it’s time for a change on that side of the ball. We thought it could be this season with the addition of Chandler Jones, but obviously, we were way wrong, as were we about the season as a whole.
The pass rush can get better, especially considering Maxx Crosby was almost at a defensive player of the year level. But the secondary and the pass defense as a whole needs serious work.
That’s what the draft is for. This offseason they have a high enough pick to do virtually whatever they want in terms of the best players in the draft. They could go with a quarterback, which they also need, an interior defender, offensive lineman, or secondary.
If they want to fix the secondary, and work on fixing the defense overall, there is one guy that can help that, and he would be a great pair with Nate Hobbs.
Devon Witherspoon could be a guy that will be elite in this league at the cornerback position.
Witherspoon is the best cornerback in the draft by Pro Football Focus standards and the second-best secondary in the draft behind only Brian Branch from Alabama.
The Illinois corner is the 12th-ranked prospect by PFF and should be available when the Raiders pick. It could feel like a reach at seven, but, then again, you won’t find a better cornerback in the draft, in my opinion.
PFF believes he had one of the best college seasons from a cornerback they have ever scouted, which isn’t the end-all-be-all, but it’s pretty impressive. They scouted some great guys like Sauce Gardner, so that is high praise.
Per PFF, Witherspoon allowed just 22 catches on 63 targets and gave up just 206 yards on those receptions. Witherspoon finished with three interceptions and 14 pass breakups in 2022, and that’s coming against some big competition in the Big 10.
The junior cornerback didn’t allow a touchdown and forced quarterbacks to have a 25-passer rating when targeting him. Those are elite numbers, at any level.
This guy loves to be physical and can run with the best of them. His speed of the receiver’s release, matched with his ability to change direction is elite. He will be a good player in the league.
Now, it’s just about who will take him. If the Raiders do, he will only get better playing next to a guy like Hobbs.
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