COMMENTARY | It was rather difficult to watch the Oakland Raiders' secondary attempt to play defense in 2012.
Long gone were the days of Willie Brown, Jack Tatum, Skip Thomas and George Atkinson. Those guys knew how to play defense, and they did it the "Raider way."
Oakland's secondary was among the worst in the entire NFL last season as they were constantly torched week after week.
Part of the problem can be attributed to injuries, but in the scheme of things, the talent just wasn't there.
The opposition isn't exactly shaking in its boots when Ron Bartell is your best cornerback at the start of the season.
Things were so bad that Michael Huff was forced to play cornerback after spending his entire career as a free safety.
Everything about Oakland's pass defense was horrible last year, from the anemic pass rush to the non-existent secondary led by an overpaid Tyvon Branch.
The Raiders' first order of business in the draft must be to get a legitimate pass rusher who can bring pressure off the edge.
Oakland is without a second-rounder, and unless general manager Reggie McKenzie is able to make some trades for a higher pick, the Raiders will be forced to wait until the third round to address their other Achilles heel on defense: the secondary.
Drafting a cornerback will allow Huff to move back to his natural free safety position, and will give the fans some hope that maybe the Raiders can actually play some defense next season.
A young and talented cornerback is what Oakland desperately needs in the draft, and there are several of those available in the third round.
Here are three in particular the Raiders should have on their watch list.
Darius Slay, CB, Mississippi StateDarius Slay finished his senior season at Mississippi State with second team All-SEC honors.
Slay was ninth in the nation with five interceptions, including four in his first three games. He also returned one of those picks for a touchdown and blocked a punt in the Bulldogs' season opener against Jackson State.
NFLdraftscout.com has him ranked as the 10th-best cornerback in this year's draft class, and the Raiders would be wise to give him a good look.
Logan Ryan, CB, RutgersIn terms of all-around cornerbacks, Logan Ryan is one of the best in the country.
The junior from Rutgers finished last season with 94 tackles, four interceptions and 18 passes defended.
Needless to say, he was all over the field.
He earned All-Big East honors for the second consecutive season in 2012, and his ability to cover plenty of ground while making open-field tackles makes him a hot commodity at this stage of the draft.
Nickell Robey, CB, USC
The Trojans' defense had several flaws during their ugly six-loss season, but Nickell Robey was not one of them.
His numbers aren't exactly mind-blowing as he only finished with 52 tackles and one interception, but that's only because opposing quarterbacks weren't throwing the ball in his direction.
Even at an undersized 5'8'', 165 pounds, Robey possesses the speed and the skill set to become a solid pick for the Raiders if they choose to draft him.
Robey isn't picking off passes left and right, but he plays a fundamentally sound defense that lets opposing quarterbacks know where he is at all times.
When teams are afraid to throw at a guy that is smaller than almost every point guard in the NBA, it speaks volume to that player's game.
Steven Slivka is a Featured Columnist for the Oakland Raiders. You can follow him on Twitter @stevenslivka
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