Raiders Players Who Will Be Most Impacted by 2021 NFL Draft Picks

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IApril 19, 2021

Raiders Players Who Will Be Most Impacted by 2021 NFL Draft Picks

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    Isaac Brekken/Associated Press

    The Las Vegas Raiders have shuffled their offensive line, added numerous playmakers and bolstered their pass rush this offseason. But will it be enough for them to make the playoffs for the first time since the 2016 season after coming close the past two years?

    Even if it's not, the Raiders still have opportunities to improve their roster before the start of the 2021 season. Several of those will come during the 2021 NFL draft, which is set to take place April 29-May 1.

    Las Vegas owns eight draft picks (all of which come during the first six rounds), and it will first be on the clock with the No. 17 overall selection. There are several areas on the Raiders' roster that they still need to improve, and they'll likely do that by bringing in some top draft prospects.

    With the influx of this year's rookie class, some players currently on Las Vegas' roster are likely going to be affected. Here's a look at several who could end up being heavily impacted by the team's draft decisions.

OT Brandon Parker

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    Jeff Bottari/Associated Press

    The Raiders have traded three offensive linemen this offseason: center Rodney Hudson (to the Arizona Cardinals), guard Gabe Jackson (to the Seattle Seahawks) and tackle Trent Brown (to the New England Patriots). So Las Vegas is going to look quite different up front in 2021.

    Those deals are also the reason why Parker would likely be the team's starting right tackle if the season started today. The 25-year-old was drafted by the Raiders in the third round in 2018, and he's played 37 games and made 19 starts in three seasons. In 2020, he played in 11 games and made four starts.

    However, Parker had a Pro Football Focus grade of 48.9 last season, so it may not be great for Las Vegas' offense if he ends up having to start more in 2021. And there's a decent chance that he won't have to.

    Several mock drafts have the Raiders taking a tackle with their first-round draft pick. ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. is projecting them to take USC's Alijah Vera-Tucker, while Adam Hill of the Las Vegas Review-Journal believes they'll take Oklahoma State's Teven Jenkins.

    Even if Las Vegas waits until the second or third round to draft a tackle, it could still push Parker out of a starting spot and into a reserve role for 2021.

DE Clelin Ferrell

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    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    Although the Raiders used the No. 4 overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft to acquire Ferrell, that doesn't necessarily mean the 23-year-old has to be used in a starting role moving forward. Especially considering he's gotten off to a slow start in his NFL career, recording only 6.5 sacks in 26 games over his first two seasons.

    Las Vegas has already improved its pass rush this offseason by signing defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, but it could still look to add another top prospect to help make it better in 2021. The Raiders ranked 29th in the NFL with 21 sacks last season, so it wouldn't hurt for them to add some depth.

    If Ferrell takes a big step forward this season, perhaps he solidifies his starting role and becomes the pass-rusher the Raiders hoped they were getting two years ago. If he doesn't, perhaps a rookie will force his way into the rotation and take playing time away from Ferrell, which could then help Las Vegas' defensive front put more pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

    So depending on when the Raiders take a defensive end during the draft, Ferrell's role could be greatly impacted. And if he starts to play less, there will be fewer opportunities for him to develop and try to live up to expectations as a former top-five draft pick.

S Jeff Heath

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    Isaac Brekken/Associated Press

    Heath played in 13 games in 2020, his first season with the Raiders, and proved that he was a valuable addition to their secondary. He also made five starts, although that was more out of necessity than him being a starting-caliber player. Las Vegas' defense would likely be better if Heath moved back to a reserve role in 2021.

    But right now, Heath would probably be the Raiders' starting free safety, with Johnathan Abram at strong safety and recent free-agent acquisition Karl Joseph being in a reserve role. That's why it wouldn't be surprising to see Las Vegas take a free safety on either the first or second day of the draft, one who could compete with Heath for a starting job.

    Perhaps the Raiders could even use their first-round pick on a safety. ESPN's Todd McShay is projecting them to take TCU's Trevon Moehrig, who McShay said is "the class' top safety." Moehrig would greatly improve a Las Vegas secondary that needs to play better next season.

    However, even if the Raiders wait until the second or third round, they could still potentially find a starting safety, or at least one who can split time with Heath to start. And that would likely be a wise decision for the team in the long run.