The Las Vegas Raiders own the seventh overall in the 2023 NFL Draft. There are many ways this can go, of course, but they do have a glaring need for their defensive secondary. Here we’ll look at the reasons why Christian Gonzalez would be a perfect fit for the Las Vegas Raiders in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Las Vegas focused on strengthening their offense in NFL free agency by acquiring QB Jimmy Garoppolo. Now, the Raiders should prioritize selecting a defender who can make an immediate impact, particularly one in the mold of Sauce Gardner. Keep in mind that the Raiders play in a highly competitive AFC West division. This is where having a top-notch defense, especially in the secondary, is crucial for success. Despite the Raiders’ struggles in this area, the team has a great opportunity to address their needs by selecting one of the many talented cornerbacks available in this year’s draft class. In particular, Christian Gonzalez of Oregon and Devon Witherspoon are both excellent options. That said, we recommend that the Raiders select Gonzalez with their No. 7 pick. He would be a perfect fit in Las Vegas.
Let’s look at the reasons why Christian Gonzalez would be perfect for the Raiders.
1. Outstanding athleticism and instincts
Christian Gonzalez is a cornerback with an impressive combination of length and athleticism. He possesses the ideal physical attributes to defend against opposing teams’ top wide receivers on the outside. As a cover corner, Gonzalez displays exceptional man-to-man coverage skills. These include quick footwork, fluid change of direction, and flexibility to shadow route combinations and maintain coverage downfield. Additionally, he exhibits remarkable speed and the ability to transition smoothly while keeping up with receivers. In press coverage, he uses his hands effectively to jam receivers at the line of scrimmage. He also stays patient with his footwork to maintain positioning throughout the stem.
Furthermore, Gonzalez demonstrates excellent instincts and awareness in zone coverage. He has a keen eye for reading the quarterback’s movements and identifying his targets within his zone. He is smooth and agile when dropping back into coverage and has the necessary quickness to break on passes thrown in his area. With his lengthy arms, Gonzalez is also able to win most contested situations and disrupt passes at the catch point.
With the 7th overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, the Las Vegas Raiders select…
Christian Gonzalez, CB, University of Oregon pic.twitter.com/rS6Fs5thjn
— JT (@CondorSZN) April 12, 2023
2. Great awareness and positioning
Gonzalez excels at positioning himself on vertical routes by swiftly turning his hips and matching the receiver’s speed. He’s difficult to surpass on these routes due to his positioning and playing speed. Additionally, his smooth transitions in and out of his breaks, combined with his playing speed, allow him to consistently make plays on passes.
Yes, Gonzalez didn’t often play in off-man coverage. Still, he appeared comfortable when he did. He used his athleticism to stay in step with receivers throughout their routes.
When playing in Cover 3, Gonzalez can smoothly pedal backward, stay light on his feet, and quickly gain depth. In Cover 2 as a cloud zone defender, Gonzalez can also position himself perfectly and understand when to hand off receivers to the deep half defenders. This can enable him to defend the underneath routes effectively.
3. Fit and finish in Las Vegas
The Raiders’ pass defense was ranked second-worst in the league by DVOA in the previous season. However, Christian Gonzalez’s outstanding coverage skills in 2022 provide an excellent starting point for a complete overhaul of the cornerback group. Recall that he was named a First Team All-Pac-12 corner. He also achieved an impressive 83.3 PFF grade and allowed opposing QBs only a 74.7 QB rating when targeted.
Gonzalez’s combine numbers align well with his on-field abilities. He is a very fluid, smooth runner, whether he’s covering a receiver in man or dropping into a zone. While the Raiders may use him more frequently in their Cover 3-heavy scheme, defensive coordinator Patrick Graham values versatility in his defensive backfield. Graham will undoubtedly leverage Gonzalez’s well-rounded skill set.
Although Gonzalez will need to continue honing his ball skills, as all four of his career interceptions came in his final college season. As such, he appears to be trending upward in that regard. Sure, there are concerns about his hand usage leading to penalties in the NFL. Still, he only accrued nine penalties in college, with only two occurring in 2022. We feel he would truly be a perfect fit for this Raiders defense.
In all, Gonzalez possesses archetypal physical characteristics like as height, length, and agility. He combines his superior talents with exceptional intuition and precise technique. He also has the ability to be a lockdown corner for the Raiders and to make the Pro Bowl early in his career.
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