The Las Vegas Raiders’ Cornerback Situation After The 2024 Draft

Going into the 2024 NFL Draft, cornerback was one of the more glaring needs for the Raiders’ defense. Adding Jack Jones late in 2023 gave the Silver and Back a much-needed starter. He’s done great in the short period he’s been on the team and still has more potential to grow according to Head Coach Antonio Pierce. Raiders training camp will determine who out-competes who for the starting job across from Jones and at the Nickelback position. The addition of three rookie defensive backs through the draft and four more undrafted rookies sets the stage for quite the competition in the secondary during camp this offseason.

Raiders’ Cornerbacks After 2024 Draft

Cornerbacks Coming Back From 2023

Dec 25, 2023; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Las Vegas Raiders cornerback Jack Jones (18) interacts with then crowd during the second half against the Kansas City Chiefs at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The starting Cornerbacks by the end of the season were Jack Jones and Amik Robertson with Nate Hobbs inside at the Nickel. This trio was responsible for giving Patrick Mahomes the single worst Pro Football Focus Grade of his career. Jones, of course, caught his second pick-six in two games, Nate Hobbs had his best game of the season, and Mahomes technically never looked worse in his career. A lot of credit has to be given to the Raiders’ defensive line for the secondary’s success, however, it’s refreshing to see the Raiders play so well as a unit. The secondary did its job and then some by not letting Mahomes do what he does best.

Looking at the 2024 season the Raiders’ defense is looking to pick up right after they left off, which was uncharacteristically great. Minus Amik Robertson, who left for the Detroit Lions this offseason, the Raiders’ cornerbacks are mostly the same as last year with the addition of some promising rookies. Nate Hobbs will most likely line up across from Jack Jones this season. Veteran of Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham’s system Brandon Facyson is still on the roster. He’s eager to come back from injury and make an impact. Facyson is a proven vet who could help on the field and in the locker room with the young guys. Not to mention Jakorian Bennet is coming into his third year and looking to prove that he can be a starter in the NFL. He’s shown promise but hasn’t shown that he could consistently start or play a majority of snaps on defense at a high level

Raider fans have trouble not getting their hopes up, and the way the defensive unit finished last season doesn’t help. It gives legitimate reason to think that this cornerback group that mostly stayed the same can improve for the 2024 season.

Getting to Know the Rookies

Mar 1, 2024; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Mississippi State defensive back Decamerion Richardson (DB33) works out during the 2024 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Just like the right guard and tackle positions, defensive back is one of the bigger needs for the Raiders this offseason. The team tried to fill these needs in the 2024 NFL Draft by grabbing two offensive linemen and three defensive backs. The Raiders selected two cornerbacks and one safety from rounds four through seven. 

Decamerion Richardson was the first defensive back drafted by the Raiders in the fourth round. The prototypical Raiders skill position player, Richardson has all the physical tools to be a great cornerback at the professional level. He has great size, length, and speed (ran a 4.34), but lacks the proven ability to consistently disrupt the passing game without relying on his speed or athleticism to make up for fundamental holes. However, with the right coaching and leadership from this Raiders team Richardson has a chance to compete for snaps covering opposing teams’ wideouts in the absence of Amik Robertson.

Next, was safety Trey Taylor in the seventh round. The Jim Thorpe Award winner isn’t the most talented safety coming out of college, but possesses all of the physical traits and more importantly the intangibles to do well on the Raiders. Coming out of the draft his leadership ability and not just his physical impact were noted by analysts. Team leaders Antonio Pierce, Maxx Crosby, and Davante Adams among others are attempting a culture shift that the Raiders desperately need. The culture they are fostering in the locker room is perfect for a player like Trey Taylor who could develop into a consistent contributor to the Raiders defense given the right opportunity.

Lastly, the Raiders selected MJ Devonshire. Devonshire is another addition to the roster like Taylor who embodies the Raider way. The two-time second team all ACC selection lacks size, but makes up for it with a six-foot-six wingspan and natural skill at the cornerback position, paired with great athleticism. His college system and footwork show his potential to take quickly to NFL-level play. Devonshire could prove that his height and weight are just a number with his natural ability to play cornerback. 

The Raiders also signed Cornerbacks Demarcus ‘Woo’ Governor, Ja’Quan Sheppard, and Rayshad Williams. The best signing of this bunch seems to be Ja’Quan Sheppard. If you’re looking at the above-average contract and the signing bonus Sheppard got as an Undrafted Free Agent, it speaks to his potential to make the roster and be a contributor on defense in 2024. 

The Rookie With the Best Chance of Making An Immediate Impact

Pittsburgh Panthers M.J. Devonshire pumps up the crowd during the second half against the Cincinnati Bearcats at Acrisure Stadium in Pittsburgh, PA on September 9, 2023

The rookie defensive back with the most potential to immediately make an impact is MJ Devonshire. Grabbing him in the seventh round was considered a slide in the draft for the University of Pittsburgh cornerback probably due to his apparent lack of size. The reason Devonshire has a leg up on Decamerion Richardson is where on the field they will likely play at cornerback. Richardson is likely going to play outside and will have to compete with Jakorian Bennett, Brandon Facyson, and Nate Hobbs for that position.

Devonshire’s skillset coming out of college centered around pressing at the line of scrimmage and using his great footwork. Being able to play in the nickel and dimeback position is what gives him a leg up on other rookies. Devonshire has great physicality and a natural ability to find the ball in coverage, which shows potential for replacing Nate Hobbs in the nickel position this year. Hobbs and Bennett are looking to be that partner Jack Jones needs across from him to create more of a dynamic duo, so Devonshire could use that opportunity to take their role at nickel or at least get snaps at dimeback.

Overall, the Raiders secondary is on the right track and has momentum from last year to build off of. However, this group of defensive backs is still unproven. The culture shift taking place at the facility and the core of hungry players accompanied by an intriguing group of rookies show that the Raiders are taking all the necessary steps to ensure their defense remains in the top ten in the NFL

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