Raiders Draft Grade: Defense, Defense And More Defense Adds Up To Bounce-Back Day For Las Vegas
Trevon Moehrig, Raiders
Dec 5, 2020; Fort Worth, Texas, USA; TCU Horned Frogs safety Trevon Moehrig (7) intercepts a pass against Oklahoma State Cowboys tight end Jelani Woods (89) while defended by safety Ar’Darius Washington (24) in the fourth quarter at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

“Let’s face it; we need defense.”

While the words came out of Las Vegas Raiders general manager Mike Mayock’s mouth after Day 2 of the 2021 NFL Draft, I’m sure he’s hoping that the few hours he spent prior to his end-of-day press conference were about to change that reality. With three picks in Rounds 2 and 3, the Raiders ended up with three defensive players for new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley to play with — a haul that offered some relief after a frustrating Day 1.

Trevon Moehrig, Raiders
Nov 2, 2019; Stillwater, OK, USA; TCU Horned Frogs safety Trevon Moehrig (7) turns to run after an interception during the fourth quarter of the game against the Oklahoma State Cowboys at Boone Pickens Stadium. Oklahoma State defeated TCU 34-27. Mandatory Credit: Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

Round 2, Pick No. 43: Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU

No. 23 on my big board heading into the draft; I’m sure many people assumed Moehrig would be headed elsewhere when the Raiders drafted Alex Leatherwood in Round 1. And perhaps it was because of some potential medical concerns, but whatever the reason was, Moehrig dropped and dropped and dropped until the Raiders came up to get him.

The Raiders sent their second and fourth-round picks to San Francisco in exchange for pick No. 43 and a 7th rounder, all to go and grab their new starting free safety. The irony, which most folks pointed out on social media, was that a Moehrig/Leatherwood combo was a fairly common prediction — just in the reverse order of reality.

Malcolm Koonce, Raiders
Buffalo Bulls defensive end Malcolm Koonce (50) in action against the Northern Illinois Huskies during the first half of an NCAA football game on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, in DeKalb, Ill. (AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski)

Round 3, Pick No. 79: Malcolm Koonce, DE, Buffalo

Although this one came a tad further down the board, the Raiders have had some success drafting pass rushers from Buffalo. Mayock and NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah compared Koonce to new Raider pass-rusher Yannick Ngakoue with the way he’s able to bend around the corner and get after the pass-rusher. For a team like the Raiders, there is no such thing as too many darts thrown at pass-rusher, and so this was a pick well spent.

Divine Deablo, Raiders
Nov 2, 2019; South Bend, IN, USA; Virginia Tech Hokies safety Divine Deablo (17) celebrates after an interception in the fourth quarter against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Round 3, Pick No. 80: Divine Deablo, LB/S, Virginia Tech

This pick reminds me a lot of the Tanner Muse selection from a year ago — an athletic freak (at 6’3″ and 226 pounds, Deablo ran a 4.42) who doesn’t have an obvious position at the next level. My guess is that Mayock and Head Coach Jon Gruden are hoping that one of those two guys can figure out how to cover tight ends in a league that continues to blur the lines between linebackers and safeties.

Overall Grade: A

Moehrig alone pulls this grade up, as the Raiders end up with the guy most people had as the top free safety in the class. He wasn’t mine, but in the second round and with such a glaring hole, I wasn’t going to be picky. Credit to Mayock for going up to get their guy and filling out the starting depth chart in the process. The next two picks get positive grades for one simple reason: they play defense. The Raider defense needs an infusion of depth and talent on that side of the ball, and if Mayock and his team did their job, then that was accomplished on Friday night.