We can place blame on just about everybody for not getting it done with the Oakland Raiders in 2017. That being said, most would argue that the worst part about the team was the secondary. The Raiders’ defensive backfield was undisciplined, loved to give up the big play and had no idea how to intercept a football until in was November.
Fixing the secondary will be a key part of incoming defensive coordinator Paul Guenther’s job. While some of the older pieces will have to go, Guenther does inherit a handful of intriguing young players in the back-end of his defense.
Do keep in mind that the Raiders used three of their four best picks in the last two drafts on defensive backs. Oakland took safety Karl Joseph in the first round out of West Virginia in 2016. Last year saw the Raiders double-down in the defensive backfield by drafting cornerback Gareon Conley out of Ohio State in the first round and safety Obi Melifonwu out of UConn in the second round.
Obviously, both were ravaged by injury in their rookie seasons. While Conley, Joseph and Melifonwu could all pop in Guenther’s defense, let’s just say that the Raiders want to go defensive back early one more time in the draft. Here are five defensive backs the Silver and Black should consider taking in the first three rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft.
Injuries robbed him of what should have been a great final year with the Louisville Cardinals in the ACC. However, his health will be what probably knocks Louisville cornerback Jaire Alexander back to the third or fourth round of the upcoming draft.
While he only appeared in six games as a junior in 2017 for the Cardinals, Alexander leaves school a year early with 29 career games under his belt. He had 77 total tackles (58 solo, 19 assists), 15 pass breakups, seven interceptions, two tackles for a loss of yardage, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
At 5-foot-11, 192 pounds, Alexander could play both inside and out in Guenther’s defense. He has the speed and the hands to make plays in the Oakland secondary. Really the biggest knock against the guy has to be health. Oakland doesn’t want to draft yet another defensive back that is too beat up to play much in his rookie season.
That being said, you cannot overlook the productivity Alexander had as a sophomore at Louisville in 2016. He had 39 tackles (31 solo, eight assists), nine pass breakups and five interceptions. If Alexander can back to what he was physically as a sophomore, the Raiders could find a solid defensive back that would go in rounds two through four.