The Las Vegas Raiders definitely had a ‘guy’ in the NFL Draft

Dave Ziegler knows his Las Vegas Raiders weren’t disruptive enough. The GM has spoken openly about the need to have a defense that consistently gets their hands on the ball – and more importantly – takes it away.

So the Silver & Black clearly had a ‘type’ in the 2023 NFL Draft and after the team concluded the annual event by making nine selections, six were defensemen – all likely to be disruptive in their own way. . But for one particular trio of defensive prospects, ball disruption as a trait is especially true.

Fourth-round pick Jakorian Bennett (cornerback, No. 104 overall), fifth-round pick Christopher Smith II (safety, No. 170) and sixth-round pick Amari Burney (linebacker, No. 203) each come to the Raiders after to have the type of production that Las Vegas so desperately craves.

“That was an area we wanted to improve as a team, just a disturbance of the ball,” Ziegler said in his post-draft press conference when asked how important it was to get prospects that had production – interceptions, forced fumbles, sacks, etc. It was not a statistical category in which we ranked very well last year. And so, Jakorian, I think in the last two years he’s had more plays on the ball, one of the best players in college football in terms of plays on the ball. And so guys who can make plays on football and disrupt football, or disrupt the pocket that can cause disruptive plays and things of that nature were definitely influential factors.

Maryland coaches and teammates celebrate as cornerback Jakorian Bennett (2) catches the game-winning interception in the 2022 Mayo Bowl last December.

Bob Donnan – USA TODAY Sports

In numbers :
Let’s take a look at the 2021-22 production by the top trio:

  • Jakorian Bennett (Md): 69 total tackles (4.5 for loss), five interceptions, 24 passes defended
  • Christopher Smith II (Georgia): 95 total tackles (six for loss), one sack, six interceptions, 10 passes defended, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery
  • Amari Burney (Florida): 123 total tackles (11 for loss), four sacks, two interceptions, seven passes defended, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery

The Raiders’ new trio have done well in their respective programs to be disruptive defenders. And Las Vegas needs all of that and probably more as they embark on a 2023 campaign that has also seen other AFC West teams draft well. What helps the Raiders and prospects is that the production came in high-quality conferences such as the Big Ten and the SEC. Each highlighted the game strip that Ziegler and his team found intriguing and worthy of the Silver & Black. And everyone is supposed to have opportunities and gain the ability to contribute.

Take Smith, for example. Ziegler noted coming out of the gate, the Georgia safety reminds him of a Raiders and New England Patriots veteran.

“Chris Smith, when I watched him, (he) reminded me a lot of Duron Harmon in his ability. Duron was obviously a great player for us last year, but Chris relies on his instincts and conscience to play the game. football,” Ziegler noted. “He’s a student of the game. fingers and do readings that allow him to be able to make plays on football.

“Also, a physical child, not the greatest in stature. When you look at Chris Smith and you just read the numbers… I don’t think he ran a super fast 40, he’s not a super big guy. But when you put on the tape, it’s a guy who impresses you.

Georgia safety Christopher Smith II dislodges the ball from Oregon receiver Chase Cota in September.

Dale Zanine – USA TODAY Sports

Likewise, Burney impressed the Raiders with his play movie and performance on a pro day in Florida. It was the production and athletic profile that intrigued Ziegler and Las Vegas to take the linebacker turned safe in the sixth round.

“One of the things we look at when we watch linebackers at the pro or college level is their ability to close space and area because that’s really what they’re being asked to do more than anything else is. to fall into the area and close the space. , and he could do it,” Ziegler said of Burney. “Also had some good games playing tight ends and things like that in the seam. So I think he’s a versatile guy who continues to grow. Impeccable features; was one of the most popular guys in that Florida program. We went there for Pro Day this year, me and Champ [Kelly] were there and were able to see it in person.

“He ran a 4.51. Some clocks they had it at 4.48/4.49 so it’s a kid who can run. Excited about the athleticism he brings and excited about the mentality he brings too.

Add this trio from Days 2 and 3 to the likes of rusher Tyree Wilson (Texas Tech, No. 7 overall), defensive tackles Byron Young (Alabama, No. 70) and Nesta Jade Silva (Arizona State, No. 231) and The intent to further disrupt the Raiders’ defense is clear.

Now comes the mountainous task of developing draft picks into gameday contributors.

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