The Raiders hope their entire 2019 NFL Draft class will be part of their long-term future. They’ll be given opportunities to develop and thrive and earn a role on this season’s squad.
That’s good news for young players just starting professional careers. It’s not quite the same for veterans in suddenly cramped position groups.
When a new guy comes in, somebody has to head out, or see playing time impacted. That’s especially true with high draft picks, who are typically in prime position to make an instant impact. And, since the Raiders had four picks in the top 40 and three in the first round, quite a few veterans could feel a pinch as the Raiders move closer to the 2019 season.
Here are a few impacted by this year’s draft.
S Karl Joseph
General manager Mike Mayock was asked Saturday if the Raiders planned to exercise the strong safety’s fifth-year option, considering that deadline for 2016 first-round picks is coming soon.
He wouldn’t answer directly, saying that’s a conversation he’ll have with Joseph personally. That wasn’t a ringing endorsement, especially after head coach Jon Gruden said at the combine he anticipated the Raiders doing so.
What changed? Johnathan Abram.
The Raiders selected the Mississippi State safety No. 27 overall, then gave him the prestigious No. 24 jersey previously worn by Willie Brown and Charles Woodson. Gruden effusively praised Abram’s play and leadership skill over draft weekend, especially his prowess as a physical player and defensive tone setter.
That was Joseph’s job description late last season, when he showed great improvement after a rough start to the year. Joseph was a Reggie McKenzie draft pick, and his size was somewhat limiting, leaving a possibility he wasn’t part of the long-term plan. The Raiders weren’t necessarily looking for help at the position. They were looking for Abram if they could get him. And they did late in the first round.
If the former Bulldog has a good spring and summer, he could well end up in the starting lineup this fall.
RB Isaiah Crowell
Mayock described the versatile former Jets and Browns as a “lead back” just before the draft. He would’ve been had the Raiders stood pat at running back at that point. They did not, adding Alabama’s Josh Jacobs at No. 24 overall.
Jacobs is a feature back with three-down capability expected to carry a significant rookie workload, especially if he’s a proficient NFL pass protector. Gruden likes having multiple options at running back, but Crowell went from first to second fiddle on Thursday night, positioning that should remain this fall.
The addition could have a huge impact on DeAndre Washington, who might be the odd man out with Jacobs, Crowell and Jalen Richard atop the depth chart.
TE Darren Waller
The Raiders were looking for a receiving tight early in the draft to account for Jared Cook’s loss in free agency, but LSU’s Foster Moreau was the first to come aboard in the fourth round. He should help more in the run game and on special teams, leaving Darren Waller in line to be the team’s top receiving tight end.
Waller is a former receiver who can flat run, and had some nice plays after being signed off Baltimore’s practice squad late in the season. Gruden said he could get the “opportunity of a lifetime,” and it’s now coming to life.
“(I saw him in the Raiders complex) and for a minute I looked at him and shook his hands I thought it was Noah Fant,” Mayock said. “You know, from a height, size perspective, he looked very similar and he’s a very athletic kid. So, we feel like we’re hopeful he can be our athletic displaced Y and we’re really excited about the LSU kid Moreau.”
OL Denzelle Good
There was a strong belief the Raiders could draft an offensive guard relatively high to help make up for Kelechi Osemele’s trade to the New York Jets. They didn’t take an offensive lineman at all, leaving Good in line for a starting role at whatever guard spot Gabe Jackson doesn’t take.
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“You know, he played pretty well at the end of last season,” Mayock said. “I’m not sure, you know, he’s going to have to prove to us that he’s the long-term answer. He had some initial success at Indy (Indianapolis Colts) at tackle. He wasn’t able to sustain it. You know, so we need him to be consistent.
"I mean that’s going to be his challenge because he has the natural ability and size to be a starting guard in the NFL but he’s got to sustain it and be more consistent.”