Henderson, Nev--The NFL Draft has grown into nearly a national holiday as the eyes of the nation look expectantly to the future with dreams of Super Bowls delivered from their new starts.
In the spirit of that anticipation, we at Sports Illustrated’s Raider Maven offer the Silver and Black our first four-round 2021 NFL Mock Draft. Scouting reports are courtesy of our fantastic colleagues at the NFL Draft Bible.
RD 1, No. 17, Las Vegas Raiders: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
Parsons was an immediate impact player as a true freshman and emerged as the Nittany Lions team leader. The Pennsylvania native shows a great change of direction, fluid agility, and flies to fill the gap while swarming to the football. He likes to play chess with opposing quarterbacks by giving them different looks and lots of pre-snap gyrations. Parsons possesses excellent speed and quickness when dropping back in coverage. Parsons is a generational type of talent that could arguably play any position, but forecasts as a true MIKE linebacker with his comfort level breaking down the huddle, making the calls on the field, and leading his men into battle. It’s hard to fathom that Penn State, which used to be known as “Linebacker U,” has failed to produce a linebacker chosen in the first round since 2000 (LaVar Arrington), but Parsons appears destined to end the drought. There’s not much this kid can’t do.
RD 2, No. 48, Las Vegas Raiders Alijah Vera-Tucker, G, USC
A part of what is quietly a fantastic interior offensive line group for the 2021 draft, “AVT” presents an all-around physical profile that could provide him a role as a starter early in his career. He’s a well-proportioned interior player who hits all the necessary size thresholds wanted from the position. Vera-Tucker is a smooth operator for a man his size, profiling perfectly to a zone blocking scheme that values the ability to move the line of scrimmage laterally. AVT is such a smooth athlete that he even operated at left tackle in 2020 for the Trojans and played very well. Well enough that some teams may toy with the idea of keeping him outside. He is able to attack shoulders well, establishing leverage early in reps. Originally recruited as an offensive tackle, his background in pass sets can be seen, remaining balanced and patient. Despite the natural gifts, Vera-Tucker leaves you wanting more. He’s not aggressive enough, appearing a little passive working past first contact and to the second level. It’s all there for Vera-Tucker to become a starting caliber player relatively early in his career. If he is able to develop a mean streak, his combination of size and athleticism should be valued somewhere on Day 2 of the 2021 draft.
RD 3, No. 79, Las Vegas Raiders Richie Grant, Jr., FS, UCF
A ball-hawk playmaker with the propensity to create turnovers, Grant possesses a well-proportioned body and is a very smart player who studies the responsibilities of every position on defense. He has excellent read-and-react instincts, along with great change of direction and adjustments in zone coverage. Grant does a nice job of baiting the quarterback, which resulted in 10 interceptions and 17 pass breakups during his UCF career. He swarms to the ball and also plays on special teams/returns kicks. Grant is not the most physically imposing run defender, lacking the lower-body mass and power profile to impact the running game to the degree that he affects the pass. Overall, Grant has the skill set to be viewed as a potential starter at the next level due to his closing speed, ball skills and consistency in coverage. In a lot of ways, his game mirrors Jessie Bates coming out of Wake Forest. Grant may never be the flashiest player on the back end, but his ability to impact the pass in an ever evolving passing league speaks volumes to his game overall.
RD 3, No. 80, Las Vegas Raiders: Dillon Radunz, T, North Dakota State
Possesses tremendous athleticism, experience as a three-year starter and is a highly intelligent player. Radunz demonstrates a high motor, does a nice job on chip blocks and getting down the line while seeking to destroy at the second level. Despite playing in only one game during the 2020 season, Radunz demonstrates an advanced technique for the position, highlighted by his dominant performance at the 2021 Reese’s Senior Bowl. He does need to learn how to do a better job finishing his blocks on a more consistent basis and polish up some missteps in pass protection. He will also be fighting the small-school label even while coming from the cream of the crop on the FCS level. Radunz has plenty of room to bulk up an additional 10-15 pounds, which could be beneficial for him to get stronger for the next level.
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