Raiders Draft Position Evaluation: Linebacker

The Las Vegas Raiders had positive contributors at linebacker in 2020 but could look for a player who generates more turnovers
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We’ve gone over the last couple of days the players that the Las Vegas Raiders could pick to fix their defensive line and pass rush, but that’s far from their only need defensively.

The Raiders defense had the third-fewest takeaways this season with 15, comprised of 10 interceptions and five forced fumbles.

It shows the lack of playmakers who are capable of causing game-changing turnovers.

The Raiders linebackers didn’t offset that turnover problem, although two of their three main starters played well enough to look like they could be part of the solution in Vegas.

Those starters would be Nick Kwiatkoski and Nicholas Morrow.

Brought in as a free agent from the Chicago Bears last year, Kwiatkoski played well in a reserve role before finally getting a starting opportunity with the Raiders.

Kwiatkoski didn’t disappoint, finishing as the 20th best linebacker in the NFL as rated by Pro Football Focus (PFF). He did particularly well in pass coverage, rated as the eighth-best linebacker in that category by PFF.

Not too far behind him was Morrow, who in his first year as a starter also had the best season of his career. He ranked just slightly behind Kwiatkoski as the 26th best linebacker this season by PFF and also rated highly in pass coverage.

Morrow also had three sacks, the most among Raiders linebackers.

The problem came with the play of Cory Littleton, arguably the Raiders most notable free-agent addition last offseason.

Coming over from the Los Angeles Rams after being ranked as the seventh-best linebacker in the league in 2019, Littleton’s play in 2020 went in the complete opposite direction.

He fell all the way down to 67th this year and had zero sacks and interceptions after having 7.5 and five over the last two seasons.

Littleton's poor play leaves the Raiders without the natural playmaker they thought they got when they signed him.

Looking at the prospects available in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Raiders likely won’t be in a position to draft the top defensive prospect, Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons.

However, there are still multiple highly-rated backers the Raiders could look at, like Nick Bolton of Missouri and Dylan Moses of Alabama. 

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