All the talk about the Raiders' 2020 draft class surrounds No. 12 overall pick Henry Ruggs and No. 19 overall pick Damon Arnette. Understandably so.
But the Silver and Black found a gem in the third round when they selected South Carolina wide receiver Bryan Edwards with the No. 81 overall selection. Edwards, 6-foot-3, 212 pounds, is seen by many as the steal of the draft. He was one of the most physically gifted wide receivers in a loaded class, but a broken foot prior to the NFL Scouting Combine sent him sliding down draft boards. That worked to the Raiders' advantage as the Silver and Black had Edwards as a first-round talent, according to NFL insider Adam Caplan.
If you turn on the tape it's easy to see why coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock love Edwards. He's as competitive as they come and put up impressive numbers in four years of SEC competition.
"He's leaving South Carolina as statistically the best receiver to ever play here," South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp said of Edwards, via Raiders.com. "There's been some great ones -- Sterling Sharpe, Alshon Jeffrey -- that have played here at South Carolina. Robert Brooks who coach Gruden has coached as well. First impression, he's going to light up the room with his smile. He doesn't say much. He's a worker. He's a big, physical guy. He's a difficult matchup on smaller corners and certainly inside on safeties. He's a mismatch type of guy. Because of his physicality, his length, his athleticism, it's not a 50-50 ball with Bryan Edwards. It's more of an 80-20 when he's going up to get the football."
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Edwards figures to be the "X" receiver once he's healthy and acclimated to the NFL. That probably won't come until the 2021 season, but the big-body receiver still can play a role in 2020. He can be a red-zone weapon on back-shoulder throws or shift inside and be a big slot who can bully smaller nickel corners on slants and deep ins.
But the truly exciting thing about Edwards' potential is that the Raiders might have snagged someone with No. 1 receiver ability 30-50 spots lower than he should have gone and he is a contested-catch maven who also excels after the catch.
I forgot that Bryan Edwards once dunked on now teammate Amik Robertson in a game pic.twitter.com/YFOALplDsz— Jon Ledyard (@LedyardNFLDraft) April 26, 2020
Just throw it up Carr pic.twitter.com/a9kAH2LQh1— John M (@JohnM_98) April 26, 2020
South Carolina WR Bryan Edwards— Alex Johnson (@a_johnsonFF) April 18, 2020
➕17.8 (!!) Breakout Age
➕4% Drop Rate
➕19 career PRs
➕50% receiving TD Share
➖50.7% of rec in 2019 were screens
➖8.5 avg target distance
➖Incomplete athletic profile pic.twitter.com/mJg6lMzyDn
Edwards averaged 7.5 yards after the catch which ranks fifth in the class behind CeeDee Lamb, Brandon Aiyuk, Ruggs and Jerry Jeudy.
The combination of Ruggs and Edwards gives the Raiders two dynamic playmakers who have the ability to change the game with the ball in their hands. Last season, quarterback Derek Carr's arsenal was ravaged when Antonio Brown demanded his release before Week 1 and Tyrell Williams battled plantar fascitis starting in Week 2. That put the Raiders' offense behind the eight ball as they struggled in the red zone, on third down and lacked the ability to create explosive plays outside of tight end Darren Waller. Losing Brown was a blow to the 2019 season, but the Silver and Black are better off in the long run with the dynamic playmaking duo of Ruggs and Edwards.
With Ruggs and Edwards now in the fold, along with Waller, Williams, Hunter Renfrow and running back Josh Jacobs, Carr will have a full arsenal with which to dissect opposing defenses.
Edwards might not burst onto the scene in 2020, but make no mistake, the ceiling is high for the Raiders' newest weapon.