by Tom LaMarre
The Las Vegas Raiders made an early move on the third and final day of the NFL Draft on Saturday, sliding up in the fourth round so they could draft another player from, you guessed it, Clemson.
The Raiders obviously saw a player they wanted was still available and traded a fourth-round pick (No. 121) and fifth-round pick (No. 172) to the Detroit Lions for the 109th pick earlier in round four to make sure they got him.
Then the Silver and Black selected guard John Simpson of Clemson after choosing his teammate, linebacker Tanner Muse with their final pick the night before in round three. Last year, the Raiders picked defensive end Clelin Ferrell, cornerback Trayvon Mullen and wide receiver Hunter Renfro of the Tigers, and all played key roles as rookies.
The 6-4, 321-pound Simpson started 29 of Clemson’s 30 games in the last two seasons, and was selected first team All-Atlantic Coast Conference and was a consensus All-American as a senior.
Simpson ran 5.24 seconds in the 40-yard-dash at the NFL Combine, where he compiled an overall grade of 6.35, which supposedly equates to ability capable of making him a starter within his first two seasons as a pro.
“He will compete for a starting job fairly early in his career,” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper said. “He’s a very strong run blocker and can pull out of the line on sweeps. He’s was the best offensive lineman at Clemson and will help out on the interior of the Raiders’ line.”
The have been reports that the Raiders have been shopping starting guard Gabe Jackson in recent weeks, so Simpson could get a chance to start as a rookie.
Later in the round at No. 139, the Raiders picked cornerback Amik Robertson of Louisiana Tech, who they met with in the last few weeks.
The 5-9, 183-pound Robertson might be a bit short, but makes up for it by being very aggressive, a good pass defender and strong tackler. In his three-year college career, he amassed 184 tackles, four sacks, 14 pass interceptions including three that he returned for touchdowns, 34 pass breakups and two forced fumbles.
Robertson also returned an onside kick for a touchdown.
“A guy who has tremendous ball skills," Kiper said. “ … What he lacks in height he makes up in those great ball skills. What he lacks in size, he makes up for in physical ability and aggressiveness. And he’s a strong tackler.”
Added Daniel Jeremiah of The NFL Channel: “If there weren't some concerns medically with his hips, would've been long gone by now. I think you can make the case he's the best nickel cornerback in this entire draft. He have gone higher in the draft if not for a hip injury that kept him from working out at the NFL Combine.”
Robertson, who passed up his senior season to enter the draft, was named Defensive Most Valuable Player of the 2017 Frisco Bowl as a freshman and was a first team All-American selection by the Football Writers Association of America last season.
Most analysts believe that because of his lack of height, Robertson will wind up playing safety, because of his tackling ability, or nickel cornerback in the NFL, because of his coverage skills.
On day one of the draft, the Raiders selected wide receiver Henry Ruggs of Alabama with the 12th pick in the first round and followed seven spots later with cornerback Damon Arnette of Ohio State.
The following day, they chose versatile running back Lynn Bowden Jr. of Kentucky, wide receiver Bryan Edwards of South Carolina and Muse, all in the third round.
After their two early picks on day three, the Raiders were done, who no selections in the fifth, sixth and seventh rounds, so the next thing to watch for is which undrafted free agents they will sign.