Raiders

Raiders

In any other year, Bryan Edwards would not have been sitting there in the middle of the third round waiting for a team to call his name.

But with a loaded wide receiver class filling up the 2020 NFL Draft and the coronavirus pandemic making it impossible for teams to examine the broken foot he suffered while preparing for the NFL Scouting Combine.

So he slid, and the Raiders were there waiting for the 6-foot-3 big-body receiver, drafting him with the No. 81 overall pick Friday night.

"I think it definitely played a part in me kind of slipping a little bit in the draft," Edwards said Friday on a conference call with Raiders media. "But I feel like God's plan obviously everything worked out for the best."

The South Carolina receiver gives the Raiders something their offense desperately needed. While some analysts believe he will struggle to separate on vertical routes, Edwards' big frame, physicality and massive hands should allow him to be a  contested-catch maven with the ability to play outside as back-shoulder threat, or inside as a "big slot" receiver. He was plagued by inaccurate quarterbacks while at South Carolina. But his ability to run a variety of routes and use his body to leverage defenders should make him a friend of quarterback Derek Carr.

There aren't many guys who can do this.

The Raiders' receiving corps needed a facelift in the draft. The Silver and Black added blistering speed in Alabama's Henry Ruggs in the first round, and went back to SEC well by injecting play-making ability they sorely lacked a year ago.

Edwards made some ridiculous catches during his time in Columbia, South Carolina. He brings toughness, physicality and a competitive edge coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock love. He embodies what they want the identity of the new Raiders to be.

He's also a load to bring down and excels at breaking tackles. In short, he's a game-changer. You put the ball in his hands and good things happen.

"I feel like I'm a playmaker man," Edwards said. "I feel like I can make plays with the ball in my hand. I can win 50/50 balls. I can help this team win."

Pairing Edwards with Ruggs gives the Raiders a young, complementary duo who can change the course of the game in an instant. The explosive, NOS-powered Ruggs and physical Edwards add a dimension to the Raiders offense that should allow them to move the ball in chunks and capitalize on red-zone opportunities where they struggled last season.

For Mayock, the pairing of Ruggs and Edwards is beyond perfect for what he and Gruden envision the Raiders' offense becoming.

"I think they complement each other," Mayock said of Ruggs and Edwards. "I think when you look at Ruggs, I love the fact that Jon Gruden knows how to use him. Not only will he run vertical, and trust me he will, but we'll also have some manufactured touches for him. Whether they are jet sweeps, screens, just an ability to get him the ball in space and use that speed. Now, Bryan Edwards is a different cat. Bryan Edwards is a guy you can go three-by-one, you can put him on the backside, let him run down the red line, throw back-shoulder fades, regular fades, slants. All the big-body throws where you think you can win. He's physical, he's tough, he's got great hands."

[RELATED: How Bowden, Edwards can change Raiders' offense]

With Ruggs, Edwards, Lynn Bowden, Darren Waller, Hunter Renfrow and Tyrell Williams, the Raiders now have a number of receiving weapons who can be used in a multitude of ways.

 

Adding Edwards at No. 81 was nothing short of a steal. If he can stay healthy, he can be an explosive playmaker for the Raiders both on the outside and in the middle of the field. Edwards and Ruggs are exactly the type of complementary, dynamic pieces the Raiders need to inject into their offense to help them compete with the best offenses in the NFL.

Edwards and Ruggs are game-changing talents the Raiders were missing at wide receiver a year ago. Consider that need filled and then some.