As of Thursday, the Las Vegas Raiders will add five rookies from the 2022 NFL draft to the roster, though that could change if general manager Dave Ziegler decides to acquire more picks or trade a selection or two to move up. In a predraft press conference, he opened the door for all options.
While Raiders fans may have to wait until the third round to welcome the Silver and Black’s first selection, they should pay close attention to how the picks unfold in the first two rounds.
We could see second-round talent slip, which may influence Ziegler to make a move. Even if he doesn’t trade up, third- and fourth-round picks often make the final roster in September. The Raiders can still add a couple of prospects capable of winning starting jobs or joining rotations at weaker positions.
Before we go through the Raiders’ mock draft, let’s take a look at their picks with a refresher of the team’s roster needs.
2022 Las Vegas Raiders draft picks
Las Vegas Raiders draft needs
Las Vegas Raiders mock draft: Bolstering the offensive line and filling in gaps on defense
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Barring a move up into the first two rounds, the Raiders won’t have a lot of shots to land pro-ready starters at the end of Day 2 and on Day 3. However, with former fourth- and fifth-rounders such as edge-rusher Maxx Crosby, wide receiver Hunter Renfrow and cornerback Nate Hobbs all in prominent roles, we cannot overlook the middle-to-late-rounders.
As noted in the draft needs above, Ziegler has to plug some holes in the trenches and on all three levels of the defense to fill out the roster before training camp.
Though the Raiders will go with their board and pick the best prospects available while on the clock, you’ll notice the players in the final mock align with the team’s needs but not necessarily in the order of importance.
Related: 3 reasons why Las Vegas Raiders shouldn’t trade Darren Waller
Round 3, 86th overall pick: Phidarian Mathis, defensive tackle, Alabama
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With their first pick in the draft, the Raiders take a player who can possibly start Week 1 on the defensive line.
In his first few years at Alabama, Phidarian Mathis earned playing time on early downs as a run-stopper. Between 2019 and 2020, he recorded 58 tackles, 5.5 for loss. Last year, he had a pass-rushing breakthrough, logging nine sacks to go along with 12 tackles for loss.
Under Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban, Mathis lined up in various positions across the front in a multiple scheme, which makes him a good fit for defensive coordinator Patrick Graham, who has a tendency to mix up his defensive fronts to show his opponent different wrinkles.
Mathis can play anywhere between the guards. If he continues to grow in a pass-rushing role, the 6’4″, 310-pounder could play 60 percent of the defensive snaps right out of college.
Last year, Ziegler served as the New England Patriots’ de facto general manager, and the team selected Christian Barmore out of Alabama in the second round. He showed flashes while on the field for 55 percent of the defensive snaps, recording 46 tackles, three for loss, 18 quarterback pressures and 1.5 sacks. Ziegler could have his eye on another defensive tackle out of Tuscaloosa.
Related: 2022 NFL mock draft
Round 4, 126th overall pick: Joshua Ezeudu, guard, North Carolina
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Joshua Ezeudu took most of his snaps at left guard on the collegiate level, but don’t assume he’s a potential replacement for John Simpson, who started in all 17 games for the Raiders at the same position last season. The latter played both guard positions at Clemson.
Ezeudu has some experience at both tackle spots, though he’s a 6’4″, 308-pounder who doesn’t have the quickness or hand technique to match up with edge-rushers on the perimeter. The coaching staff must work on his hand usage and teach him how to use his leverage to establish a firm base. Ezeudu didn’t play football until high school, so he has plenty of room for technical growth.
With that said, Ezeudu has the agility to pull out and seal off blocks on the opposite side of the line. More times than not, the three-year starter recognizes and picks up blitzers and twists aimed to confuse interior defenders.
In 2019 and 2020, Ezeudu served as a primary starter for an offense that ranked 38th and 11th among FBS schools in rushing yards, respectively. He has the aggressive demeanor to make an impact on the Raiders’ ground attack.
Related: Top 2022 NFL Draft prospects
Round 5, 164th overall pick: Logan Bruss, offensive tackle, Wisconsin
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Logan Bruss isn’t a green high-upside prospect like Ezeudu. He has a lower ceiling, but the Wisconsin product has a better chance to earn a starting position for the 2022 season.
Bruss has extensive experience at right tackle, though the Raiders can try him out at guard if they have concerns about his athleticism or lack thereof. The Wisconsin product beats defenders with his strength and massive 10¾” hands, which he uses to strike and redirect opponents in the trenches.
As a four-year starter with all his experience on the right side of the offensive line, Bruss can fill either one of the questionable spots on the Raiders’ five-man front. He’s the ideal prospect to target as Alex Leatherwood attempts to carve out a role at one of the same positions.
This isn’t an exciting pick, though it gives the coaching staff a pro-ready player in case Leatherwood struggles in the summer, and Ezeudu needs more time to develop his skill set.
Round 6, 165th overall pick: Zyon McCollum, cornerback, Sam Houston State
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In the latter rounds of the draft, teams aim for prospects with the most upside. Zyon McCollum has great potential because of his exceptional relative athletic score (RAS) of 10, per Kent Lee Platte of Math Bomb, which is the best score of any cornerback over the past 35 years.
McCollum can make plays on all three levels of the defense. He’s physical enough to supplement the run with the size (6’2″, 199 lbs) to match up against tight ends as well as big slot receivers and the FCS standout tracks the ball well, logging 54 pass breakups and 13 interceptions through five campaigns.
Of course, as McCollum makes the leap from Sam Houston State to the pro level, he’s unlikely to post gaudy numbers that match his collegiate production. However, the athletic ball-hawking cornerback has sky-high potential that will give him a chance to earn a decent role in the NFL.
The Raiders need a defensive back who can force turnovers. McCollum fits the bill, but he’s also a well-rounded defender.
Round 7, 228th overall pick: Tariq Carpenter, linebacker/safety, Georgia Tech
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Similar to second-year pro Divine Deablo, whom the Raiders selected in the third round of last year’s draft, Tariq Carpenter fits into the hybrid linebacker-safety mold.
Deablo came out of Virginia Tech at 6’3″, 226 pounds. Carpenter has a 6’3″, 230-pound frame, and he’s a downhill hitter who tackles with good technique. The Georgia Tech product has the speed and athleticism to make a ton of plays at or behind the line of scrimmage.
As a box safety, Carpenter recorded 223 tackles, 6.5 for loss, 22 pass breakups and four interceptions in a full-time starting position through four terms. He’ll boost the run defense but also has the awareness to play in space and disrupt short-to-intermediate passing attacks.
As a seventh-round pick, Carpenter will probably have to earn a spot on special teams first, which should come naturally with his skill set, but if the Raiders need help at weak-side linebacker or strong safety, he can fill in with the capability to expand his role.
Let us know what you think about our final Las Vegas Raiders mock draft in the comments section below.
Maurice Moton covers the Raiders for Sportsnaut. You can follow him on Twitter at @MoeMoton.