Underrated Prospects Raiders Must Prioritize in 2021 NFL Draft

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IApril 5, 2021

Underrated Prospects Raiders Must Prioritize in 2021 NFL Draft

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    Brian Blanco/Associated Press

    Three seasons into Jon Gruden's return as the head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders, the team has yet to make the playoffs. In fact, they have only reached the postseason once over the past 18 seasons. But there have been encouraging signs that the franchise could be moving in the right direction.

    The Raiders have gone 7-9 and 8-8 the past two seasons, narrowly missing out on playoff berths each year. They've continued to accumulate young talent, though, and they'll have the opportunity to add more to their roster during the 2021 NFL draft, which is set to take place April 29-May 1.

    Las Vegas owns eight picks in the draft, including the No. 17 overall selection. And while that first pick is an important one, the Raiders will need to make the right decisions throughout the three-day event in order to help fill some of the holes on their roster.

    Here's a look at some underrated prospects who Las Vegas should consider taking during the second and third days of the upcoming draft.

Richie Grant, S, UCF

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    Rusty Costanza/Associated Press

    At some point in the draft, the Raiders are likely going to take a safety, potentially one who can slide into a starting spot alongside Johnathan Abram in the near future. And if they don't take one in the first round, then Richie Grant is a player they should consider taking on the second day.

    Grant was a three-year starter at safety at UCF, so he has a ton of college experience. And he finished his career with the Knights in a big way, as he had 72 tackles, six pass deflections and three interceptions in eight games during the 2020 season.

    Because Grant played so well over a long period of time for UCF, it may not take him long to transition to the NFL level, which is why it could be smart for the Raiders to draft him in the second round. Las Vegas could address another major need in the first round, while the top projected safeties come off the board, then add a starting-caliber player in Grant later.

    Although Grant doesn't have above-average speed, he's proved that he can play strong coverage against various types of receivers. He'd be a strong addition to a Raiders secondary that could still use a solid player or two to take it to another level.

Aaron Banks, OG, Notre Dame

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    Robert Franklin/Associated Press

    The Raiders need to address their offensive line during the draft after trading away center Rodney Hudson, tackle Trent Brown and guard Gabe Jackson earlier in the offseason. So it's quite possible they'll be drafting several players to help improve that unit for the 2021 season and beyond.

    One player who should be on Las Vegas' radar during the middle rounds is Aaron Banks, who spent four years at Notre Dame and started every game the past two seasons. He's 6'5" and 330 pounds, and he has the potential to be a sleeper selection on either the second or third day of the draft.

    "Mass of humanity who's able to cast his frame upon opponents and win with pure size at times. ... His core and base are rock-steady, as he's rarely jostled by contact," NFL.com's Lance Zierlein wrote in a scouting report of Banks.

    While Richie Incognito is likely to be the Raiders' starting left guard in 2021, he'll also be 38 when the season arrives and is probably getting close to the end of his career. So while Banks could potentially fill in at other spots on the offensive line, he'd also be a good player to have to eventually take over for Incognito.

Milton Williams, DL, Louisiana Tech

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    Las Vegas needed to upgrade its defensive front this offseason, and it's already done that via free agency, mostly thanks to the signing of edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue. But the Raiders could still benefit from having more depth on the defensive line, and Milton Williams is a probable late-round pick who would give them that.

    Williams had an impressive 2020 season, but he may not have generated as much draft hype as some other top defensive linemen in the class while playing for Louisiana Tech in Conference USA. Still, the 6'3", 284-pounder had 44 tackles (including 10 for a loss) and 4.5 sacks in 10 games, leading to him declaring for the draft following his redshirt junior campaign.

    Although Williams may not be the biggest defensive lineman in the class, that may not be an issue to NFL teams because of his impressive skill set.

    "He uses his hands really well, which makes his size less of a problem to me," an AFC area scout told Zierlein.

    While the Raiders have more pressing needs to address early in the draft, Williams could be a solid late-draft addition, providing them with another player to include in the mix on their defensive line.