Editor’s note: Scott Bair will provide daily content previewing the NFL draft, including position breakdowns, news stories, mock drafts and more. Here, he analyzes draft prospects among safeties, and whether the Raiders should select one.
The Raiders lost Charles Woodson to retirement. Outside the future Hall-of-Fame defensive back, the Raiders didn’t have much else at safety.
Enter Pro Bowler Reggie Nelson, a relatively late arrival just a few weeks back. He and Nate Allen are the only established safeties on the roster.
An unheralded group including Brynden Trawick, some first-year players and, well, that’s about it. Even if TJ Carrie moves to safety permanently – an option following a successful introduction last year – or Keith McGill reverts to a spot he has played before, the Raiders need help here.
They need numbers at the least, though quality seems to be a requirement at this stage. The Raiders used free agency to fill several needs, but safety help is as close to a mandatory draft need as any position group.
Who’s here: Nate Allen, Reggie Nelson, Brynden Trawick, Tevin McDonald, Jimmy Hall, Chris Hackett
Draft needs: Nelson should start at free safety. Allen seems a shoe-in partner in crime at this stage, hoping for a chance to make up for a 2015 season lost to injury.
That’s especially true at strong safety, though safeties must be versatile in this scheme. They could use an intimidator to set the tone in the secondary, especially with Nelson around to play deep.
They need someone to step in and contribute as a reserve or injury protection at the least. That means a proper fit in the first three rounds should be a high priority for the Silver and Black.
Good fits: It’s hard to identify a safety worthy of the No. 14 selection. Florida State’s Jalen Ramsey could be a cornerback or a safety, though he’s certainly a Top 5 pick.
There are options in the second round. Most believe West Virginia’s Karl Joseph is the next top safety. He would’ve been a first-round talent if injury hadn’t struck. He suffered a knee injury in practice, which adds some questions to his possible selection. He’s a physical player with strong work ethic and character.
Florida’s Keanu Neal is another option in the second round, one who loves big hits and playing aggressive football in the box. He also has experience as a deep safety. He needs to develop further, but could thrive working under Raiders secondary coaches.
Southern Utah’s Miles Killebrew could be a steal in the third or fourth round. Analysts say he’s a rare combination of heavy hitter and sound tackler, requirements when making stops in the second level. He could be a hybrid player up front, which the Raiders would use. Linebacker Su’a Cravens could also fill should a hybrid role.
Duke’s Jeremy Cash is another name to watch. He’s a cage rattler who could make an impact in certain packages and platoon with Allen at times.
The Raiders have some options in the draft, but a relatively early pick could help strengthen an area with no injury protection at this stage.