Raiders should think defense with first-round pick

The Las Vegas Raiders have the No. 7 overall pick in the NFL Draft, which starts Thursday. How they address their needs remains to be seen.

LAS VEGAS — With the seventh pick in the NFL Draft, the Las Vegas Raiders choose…

The mystery remains, who general manager Dave Ziegler and coach Josh McDaniels will settle in on.

With 12 total picks across seven rounds in three days, there are several needs the Raiders have to address.

Should they bolster the offensive line? Absolutely.

Does a quarterback for the future make sense, now? It can, if the right name is available.

When should they address their needs at tight end? That depends on what they address early in the draft.

Where is the priority on defense? Where isn’t it?

We know there is a win-now mentality, one that’s been in place since the coaching overhaul last year, and subsequent acquisitions of Davante Adams and Chandler Jones.

Longtime starting quarterback Derek Carr is gone, and Jimmy Garoppolo is in for now. Brian Hoyer and Chase Garbers are also in the QB room, which isn’t all that exciting with star power. Considering the division this team plays in, there’s no guarantee some of the quarterback prospects being thrown around would make an immediate impact. After all, it’s no secret McDaniels’ system is no easy chore to learn, and with most of the offensive skill position players in their sophomore year under him, the Raiders are probably better suited with Garappolo, who knows the system from his time with the Patriots

The area that needs to be addressed – even if someone like quarterback CJ Stroud is available when the Raiders are on the clock – is the defense. Be it an edge rusher to play opposite Maxx Crosby while learning from Jones, or a defensive back to bolster a secondary that could use an immediate playmaker, the Raiders are better suited calling one of the following names if available for the No. 7 pick.

  • Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech this is a longshot, as he isn’t expected to be around past No. 5. But let’s be real, Jones is 33 years old and didn’t have the season McDaniels and Ziegler expected him to have. He also suffered a significant injury, and depth would be a benefit opposite Crosby. If Wilson is available, someone should immediately show him houses near the facility in Henderson, as this high-level, explosive pass rusher is capable of changing a game.
  • Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois it’s not unlikely arguably the best overall defensive athlete is available at No. 7. With Witherspoon, the Raiders would get an aggressive, physical defensive back who would blanket the opposite corner of fellow Illinois alum Nate Hobbs. Fact is, with 12 picks, it would behoove the Raiders to look at maybe a couple of corners, as Hobbs thrives more on the interior of their defense, and could relocate permanently at nickelback. Witherspoon would start and impact the D immediately.
  • Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State His length and physicality make him enticing, as his athleticism would be an upgrade to Las Vegas’ secondary. The average NFL cornerback has a wingspan of roughly 75 inches. Porter, to go along with his 10-inch hands, has a nearly 81-inch wingspan. Considering the quarterback he’d be facing – Pat Mahomes, Justin Herbert and Russell Wilson – it’s not ludicrous to think he could lead all rookie corners in interceptions this season.
  • Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon The most likely candidate who will be around at No. 7 is this former first-team all-Pac-12 pick. Gonzalez led Oregon with four interceptions and seven pass breakups while registering 50 tackles and blocking a kick over 12 starts. He, too, offers size and length to a secondary, and someone who can thrive in man coverage thanks to his outstanding footwork. Gonzalez grades out as one of the sturdiest and quickest DBs in the class, and practicing against the likes of Adams would undoubtedly prepare him for facing the AFC West gauntlet.
  • Jordan Battle, S, Alabama Sticking with the defensive backfield, but switching to safety, why not zero in on someone largely regarded as the best “pure” safety of the 2023 class? Battle could resolve issues in the box safety spot, as his dense and athletic frame allows him to defend shifty receivers or physical tight ends. His instinct in pass coverage is elite – as it must be to start for Alabama – while his football IQ would be handy in run coverage.