Las Vegas Raiders: Way-too-early 2021 NFL mock draft

Jon Gruden, Las Vegas Raiders (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Jon Gruden, Las Vegas Raiders (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /
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Las Vegas Raiders
Las Vegas Raiders (Photo by Bobby Ellis/Getty Images) /

After on in the desert, the Las Vegas Raiders look to the 2021 NFL Draft as an opportunity to rebuild in this way too early mock draft.

The newly established Las Vegas Raiders are in many ways a team in transition, going far beyond the move from Oakland to Vegas. Jon Gruden is entering season three of his ten-year, $100 million contract, while Mike Mayock is heading into his second full season as general manager. Along with six-year starter and three-time Pro Bowl quarterback, Derek Carr, the Raiders should look set for the next decade.

After a 4-12 season in Gruden’s return to Oakland, the 2019 Raiders were coming off a three-game win streak and held a 6-4 record last November. The rebuild looked as though it was coming along quicker than expected and the Raiders were fighting to end their tenure in Oakland as a playoff team. That false hope ended as quickly as it came the following week in what started a four-game losing streak and a 7-9 final record.

A disappointing end to the season led to questions surrounding Derek Carr’s future with the Las Vegas Raiders. The Raiders entered the 2020 NFL Draft with two first-round picks including the 12th overall selection.

It was within reason Gruden and Mayock would look to move up in the first round to find a replacement at quarterback to begin their rebuild in a new city. The Raiders instead opted to draft speedster, Henry Ruggs III out of Alabama at 12 and surprised experts selecting Ohio State cornerback Damon Arnette at 19th overall.

While the Raiders signed veterans Cory Littleton, Nick Kwiatkoski, Jason Witten, Carl Nassib, Nelson Agholor, and Marcus Mariota, the 2020 offseason has been significantly more quiet compared to the chaos of the Khalil Mack trade in 2018 or the Antonio Brown drama last summer.

While their offseason moves won’t close the gap between the AFC West and Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, Mayock and Gruden see their additions as players that can continue to improve upon 2019’s 7-9 record.

The Raiders’ improved record wasn’t the only significant part of the past season. After a 2018 season where the Raiders allowed a league-worst in points allowed and ranked near the bottom in yards allowed, the Raiders closed the gap in 2019 while still ranking near the bottom of the league. Offensively, the Raiders saw steady increases in passing and rushing yards per game and slowly improved their points scored, moving from 28th to 24th in the league.

Getting the ball in the end zone continues to be a struggle for Gruden’s offense. Despite ranking 11th in yards per game, the Raiders only averaged 19.6 points per game and ranked 24th in the league in scoring. Derek Carr has posted career highs in completion percentage and passing yards while minimizing turnovers but has seen a drastic drop in scoring coming off his three straight Pro Bowl years from 2015-2017.

While there should be cautious optimism for the Las Vegas Raiders in 2020, Gruden and particularly Derek Carr will be under immense pressure in their first season in Allegiant Stadium. Their performance this fall will shape the strategy entering the 2021 NFL Draft and the long-term future of the franchise.

Note: This mock draft was completed using The Draft Network’s Mock Draft Machine.