Predicting Raiders' Breakout Players at 2022 OTAs, Minicamp
The Las Vegas Raiders are working hard to build off a playoff season in 2021. They hired Josh McDaniels as their new head coach, made a blockbuster trade for star receiver Davante Adams and signed potent pass-rusher Chandler Jones.
While much will be expected from the Raiders' new additions in 2022, they're not the only reason Las Vegas could be better. Returning players could improve enough this year to strengthen the team's existing depth.
Jobs won't be won or lost during organized team activities (OTAs) or minicamp. In the coming weeks, though, the Raiders should get a good idea of which existing players could break out in 2022.
Below, we'll examine three who have the skills and the opportunities needed to kick off their breakout campaigns this offseason.
CB Trayvon Mullen
Opportunity and health are the keys for cornerback Trayvon Mullen. The 2019 second-round pick started 26 games in his first two seasons but missed the majority of 2021 with foot and toe injuries. In all, he missed 12 games last season.
The 24-year-old's play has also been a bit up-and-down over the years. In 2020, he allowed an opposing passer rating of 93.1 in coverage. In both 2019 and 2021, though, his opposing passer rating fell below 85.0.
If Mullen is back to 100 percent, he will compete for a starting job. The Raiders did add Rock Ya-Sin and Anthony Averett to the cornerback room, but they also lost a key piece in underrated starter Casey Hayward.
Expect Mullen to benefit greatly from the coaching of McDaniels, who is an offensive coach but spent years under defensive guru Bill Belichick, and new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham.
The veteran coach leans on a physical system that suits the 6'2", 200-pounder well, and we should see a jump from him this season.
Mullen will begin making noise during OTAs and minicamp.
S Tre'von Moehrig
Safety Tre'von Moehrig is another defender who will benefit from Graham's addition. The 2020 second-round pick out of TCU was a reliable starter as a rookie, but he has plenty of room for growth.
The 22-year-old started all 17 games last season and logged 55 tackles. However, he also notched just a single interception and allowed an opposing passer rating of 92.5 in coverage. Graham is an eager teacher and should quickly help him develop into a more complete safety.
"What we try to do with our lesson plans is teach the guys conceptual football, teach them situational football, all the stuff [head coach] Josh [McDaniels] talked about—us being a smart, tough football team—just making sure we're getting that stuff down. And then from there it grows," Graham said, per Rachel Gossen of Raiders Wire.
Like McDaniels, Graham spent several years under Belichick and in a New England Patriots system that prioritized versatility at the safety spot. Expect Moehrig to add substantially to his tool box in the coming weeks and to begin showing just how special he can be.
He comes into the season as a starter, but he may leave it as a Pro Bowler.
OL Alex Leatherwood
The Raiders have another former Belichick protege in offensive line coach Carmen Bricillo, who held the same position in New England last season and was co-offensive line coach in 2020.
The Patriots have regularly found consistency along the offensive line despite regularly replacing players from year to year. Ideally, the Raiders will finally find some consistency in front of Derek Carr with Bricillo in the fold.
Perhaps no player will benefit more from his presence than 2021 first-round pick Alex Leatherwood. The former Alabama offensive tackle struggled mightily as a rookie, being moved to guard and then struggling at his new position.
The 23-year-old was responsible for 14 penalties and eight sacks allowed in 2021, according to Pro Football Focus.
Coaching can do a lot for a young lineman, though, and the Alabama product has the physical tools to succeed at the pro level. He'll compete for a starting job alongside Pahram, tackle Brandon Parker and guard Jermaine Eluemunor in training camp.
Expect Leatherwood to show he's ready for the battle and possibly ready to settle in as a reliable starter during OTAs and minicamp.
*Advanced statistics from Pro Football Reference unless otherwise noted.