Raiders awards: Why rookie Josh Jacobs was easy choice for 2019 MVP

Raiders awards: Why rookie Josh Jacobs was easy choice for 2019 MVP

The Raiders are working hard to get their guys some hardware. They’re campaigning for Josh Jacobs to be NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, a worthy cause, and for Maxx Crosby to win the Defensive Rookie of the Year Award, an honor seemingly earmarked for 49ers pass rusher Nick Bosa.

The team has some awards coming their way from us at NBC Sports Bay Area no matter what, honoring several Raiders for efforts good and bad this season. And, since we have a voting body of one and that’s me, I was open to bribes. Alas, none came.

So these honors were handed out on merit alone, with some conventional honors and some completely off-the-wall ideas. Take a look at who won what as I try to print out some certificates the guys will absolutely cherish for the one moment it’s in their hand before throwing it into the trash.

M-V-P! M-V-P!: RB Josh Jacobs

The first-round draft pick simply was awesome in a rookie year where he instantly looked like a top-five back. The Alabama product is physical, aggressive and doesn’t care one bit about what you think. He hands-down should be the Offensive Rookie of the Year and already is one of the NFL’s best during a season where he proved tough enough to take on a massive workload. He missed three of the final four games with a fractured shoulder, an ailment he played through for weeks.

That might take him out of voter’s minds for OROY, but it didn’t change the opinion here that Jacobs deserves a higher team honor. He’s the unquestioned MVP, especially for setting the offensive tone after Antonio Brown went nuclear. The Raiders became a run-centric offense and the yards kept coming even after the whole world knew he was getting the ball. Impressive stuff from a runner getting compared to Hall-of-Fame players. Jacobs should be an elite running back for years to come.

Gruden’s greatest mistake: Antonio Brown trade

The Raiders got Antonio Brown for a rock bottom price. The gave up just third-round pick and a fifth-round selection for the steadiest producer in the game, a practice warrior who was nothing short of awesome during his run with Pittsburgh.

Head coach Jon Gruden made that deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers and created packages making Brown the offensive centerpiece. Those plays ended up fueling a dumpster fire. Brown was volatile at best, leaving a mushroom cloud in his wake after getting cut by the Raiders just days before the season started (and his $15 million base salary would’ve become guaranteed).

He created an oil fire that actually galvanized the locker room and bumped up the Raiders’ level of play early in the season. They couldn’t live on adrenaline alone and eventually wore down. That’s when Brown’s absence was most glaring. He was probably worth two or three wins on the roster, but that wasn’t possible after the issues he created. A trade that once looked like a steal become a pockmark on the season. While they didn’t get anything of value from Brown, at least they didn’t have to pay him a dime.

Biggest surprise: DE Maxx Crosby

I had to google Maxx Crosby when the Raiders took the edge rusher from Eastern Michigan. The guy had one Division 1 offer and a bunch of numbers against small-school competition. He was too light. Couldn’t play the run. He was all motor and not enough athleticism. That’s what the draft profiles said, anyway. Boy, were they wrong. Crosby evolved into a three-down edge rusher more than capable against the run. He also finished the year with 10.5 sacks. That’s a massive number from someone who broke his hand during the preseason and wasn’t a full-time player until Week 4.

Few saw this rookie year coming from Crosby, who should anchor one edge for years. Mike Mayock struck gold with this mid-round pick.

Breakout season: TE Darren Waller

Darren Waller had 1,145 receiving yards as a tight end and didn’t make the original Pro Bowl roster. Absolute travesty. There is, however, a logical reason why. Pro Bowl voting is often a popularity contest skewed toward established stars and players on good teams.

Nobody knew what to make of Waller early in the year. Maybe they had never heard of him. Waller had been around but spent most of his career suspended over substance abuse issues. He got clean and signed off Baltimore's practice squad in 2019 and blew up the following year. His story is inspiring. His play is downright dominant, and fully earned the contract extension given around midseason. Waller’s an elite talent. After a breakout season, the whole league knows how good he is.

Biggest disappointment: WR Tyrell Williams

This was a tough call, with Williams and slot cornerback Lamarcus Joyner not living up to huge free-agent contracts.

Williams gets the nod here after failing to be the No. 1 receiver the Raiders needed him to be after Brown left. He’s a top-tier No. 2, but injuries led to ineffectiveness and flushed out a pedestrian first year for the Raiders. It may double as his last, with the Raiders able to get out from under the $44 million pact without dead money attached.

Despite him being here, we can’t underscore how much his painful, season-long bout with plantar fasciitis hindered his production. Sticking with Williams might be a smart long-term play, though even the receiver himself admits this was as frustrating a year as he has ever had.

Best cameo: S Johnathan Abram

The No. 27 overall NFL draft pick was a bit too amped for his NFL debut. The do-everything safety was hitting hard during a Week 1 contest with Denver, maybe while sacrificing technique to do it. Abram ended up getting himself hurt in that game, suffering a season-ending shoulder injury. He went on injured reserve and never was eligible to return.

His energy and tone-setting style were sorely missed on the back end, where Curtis Riley and eventually Erik Harris were enlisted to replace the energetic Mississippi State product. The Raiders could’ve been much better in the back with Abram available. His time as an Oakland Raider was far too brief, essentially giving the 2020 team another first-round pick to debut in Las Vegas.

Heat-seeking missile award: FB Alec Ingold

You might assume this goes to Jacobs for his over-the-top touchdowns this season. You’d be dead wrong. It goes to fullback Alex Ingold for his leap over the pile as a lead blocker against the Chicago Bears in London. Jacobs flew into the end zone right behind him thanks to expert path creation that was a little nuts. Ingold was a pleasant surprise as an undrafted free agent who earned a major role and pairs well with Jacobs.

Defies expectations award: RT Trent Brown

Trent Brown was damn good before signing a four-year, $66 million deal last offseason. His then-record deal reflects that. But there were questions about his work ethic and whether he would mail it in after getting paid. That was not the case. Brown was a locker room leader more than willing to take younger tackles under his wing. He was awesome on the field, allowing the Raiders to help other areas with extra protection, and respected presence who earned his money in his first Raiders season.

[RELATED: Jon Gruden reveals when Raiders officially will move to Las Vegas]

Worst use of nachos: Anonymous Black Hole resident

Even if you just get the molten cheese and forgo fancy toppings, stadium nachos aren’t cheap. They’re certainly bought to be eaten, not flung onto the field in frustration after the Raiders blew a late lead in the Oakland Coliseum finale. The crowd turned hostile at that point, flinging water bottles down on players trying to say goodbye to fans. Real classy, Raider Nation. The nacho throw, however, is etched in everyone’s mind as an example of how that last East Bay game went so wrong.

The lighting rod award: QB Derek Carr

Love Derek Carr or hate him. There’s apparently no middle ground among the fan base. Arguments get ugly on the topic of whether Carr is a good quarterback worthy of continued employment with the Raiders.

Proponents argue with stats. Critics argue with win totals. Nobody can see the other side. They yell and scream and fill his mentions with filth. Carr can’t do right at this point. He can’t play well enough. He can’t say anything without taking flak.

He said leaving Oakland would be a breath of fresh air, and he isn’t wrong. Let’s not forget he got booed off the field in his last two Oakland Coliseum games. That's a sad ending for a player who has been darn good for a long time.

It’s not his fault he has got through two rebuilds and a billion play callers and, as everyone forgets, wins are not a quarterback stat.

NFL Draft 2020: Six receiver prospects Raiders should target on Day 2

NFL Draft 2020: Six receiver prospects Raiders should target on Day 2

An offense without weapons at wide receiver is like a great white shark without rows of razor-sharp teeth. It doesn't pose nearly as much of a threat.

That's what the Raiders' offense had to deal with in 2019. While Hunter Renfrow was a revelation in the slot and Darren Waller blossomed at tight end, the lack of weapons at receiver put a ceiling on Jon Gruden's offense.

Tyrell Williams will be back as the team transitions to Las Vegas, and the Raiders hope the plantar fascitis that hampered him last season is a thing of the past. The Raiders signed Nelson Agholor and hope to get more out of Zay Jones, but they need to add dynamic playmakers if they plan to take the next step.

The Raiders should add an elite receiver with one of their two first-round picks in the 2020 NFL Draft, but one isn't enough. Make no mistake, adding either CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy or Henry Ruggs would make the offense worlds more dangerous, but more help is needed. No, the Raiders won't use both first-round picks on receivers, they have too many other needs to focus just on the hole out wide.

But they have three third-round picks, a fourth-round pick and fifth-round selection to play with, and this draft class is loaded at receiver, giving the Raiders several Day 2 and Day 3 options to look at.

K.J. Hamler, Penn State

I'm going to start here. Hamler is a household name and he'll likely be off the board in Round 2, but the electric Penn State receiver has the explosiveness and big-play ability the Raiders sorely lacked in 2019.

He has the route-running and hands to make him a high-target slot receiver in the NFL and his ability to make defenders miss and turn a 9-yard gain into a huge chunk play is something that should have Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock salivating. Hamler isn't any sort of hidden gem. His ability and break-neck speed are well-documented and the Raiders no doubt will have their eye on him.

Exhibit A:

Chase Claypool, Notre Dame

There were questions about Claypool's positional fit before the NFL Scouting Combine. Some teams asked the 6-foot-4, 238-pound receiver to workout at tight end. That doesn't matter now.

After running a 4.42 40-yard dash and recording a 40.5-inch vertical at the combine, it's clear that Claypool's size and freakish athleticism will allow him to find a home in the NFL.

Only two wide receivers since 2005 have recorded a sub 4.45 40 while measuring 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds. Claypool and Calvin Johnson.

He can be a vertical threat on the outside or operate in the slot as a possession receiver to move the sticks. His versatility will make him a coveted Day 2 pick. Claypool likely won't be available in Round 3, but with a class this deep and versatile it's hard to tell who will go where after the first four receivers are off the board.

Contested-catch ability? Check.

K.J. Hill, Ohio State

As shown by last year's draft class, Mayock and Gruden put a premium on production and culture fit. Look no further than Ohio State's K.J. Hill.

No player has caught more passes in Ohio State history than Hill, and that includes the likes of Cris Carter and Michael Thomas.

At 6-foot, Hill comes with some physical limitations -- so did Renfrow -- but he's a silky route-runner with elite separation skills, good hands and natural run-after-the-catch ability. The Buckeye star should be available in Round 3, and it's easy to see Gruden selecting Hill after an adding outside threat in Round 1.

Michael Pittman Jr., USC

The Raiders really struggled in the red zone last season. A healthy Williams should give them a boost, but they'll need more to capitalize on scoring opportunities.

Introducing, USC's Michael Pittman Jr.

The 6-foot-4 receiver is long, strong, has huge hands and a massive catch radius. He is great at winning on nine routes, comebacks, quick outs and slants. His big frame and physicality give him the ability to win on contested catches.

Pittman isn't the fleetest of foot and can struggle to create separation but the physical tools will be hard to pass up.

Devin Duvernay, Texas

If the Raiders have learned one thing from going against Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs, it's that deadly speed is something you need to have lots of and it can't be taught. That's why I opened this with Hamler, despite him not being a "hidden gem," and that's why we now arrive at Devin Duvernay.

The 5-foot-11 Texas slot receiver can burn it up. Speed, hands and physicality are what you need to know about his game. When the ball is in his hands he's as dangerous as anyone. His lack of separation agility has some people questioning his fit, but he has skills you just can't teach and could be a dynamic weapon for the Silver and Black. Oh, and he had zero career dropped passes in the red zone during his four years in Austin.

[RELATED: DTs Raiders could look to draft in Round 1]

Van Jefferson, Florida

I'll end this with a high-floor prospect who is a likely Day 3 selection.

Florida's Van Jefferson is a nuanced route-runner with good ball skills. While the hands are good and the routes are clean, Jefferson will be 24 when he takes an NFL snap and has an average athletic profile.

He can play both outside and in the slot. He thrives in the middle of the field and should have a productive NFL career as a second target.

Raiders set to use rest of Khalil Mack trade assets in 2020 NFL Draft

Raiders set to use rest of Khalil Mack trade assets in 2020 NFL Draft

The Raiders traded Khalil Mack just before the 2018 regular season and didn’t get anything in return to help that year’s roster. That was a main reason why that season went up in smoke and put the Raiders’ decision under fire.

Jon Gruden in particular became a punching bag the trade's detractors, without evidence of the trade's return coming for a year or more. 

The Raiders head coach is about to get a fat dividend check. 

The Mack trade will start looking a bit different next month, because the bulk of assets exchanged will be used either to acquire NFL draftees or as trade chips.

As a reminder, the Raiders traded Mack, a 2020 second-round draft pick -- coughing up that selection remains an eybrow raiser, but it got the deal done -- and a conditional 2020 fifth-round draft pick that is now a seventh-round draft pick to Chicago for first-round draft picks in 2019 and 2020, with a 2020 third-round draft pick and a 2019 sixth-round draft pick.

The Raiders used the Bears’ 2019 first-round pick to acquire running back Josh Jacobs. That’s not a bad deal even as a straight swap, but there’s a lot more to account for when evaluating this deal.

Following where the 2019 sixth-round pick would require heading down a rabbit hole leading to Wonderland, so let’s just say it was traded to the Jets along with Kelechi Osemele for an asset that started a series of 2019 in-draft trades that helped acquire several members of an excellent draft class, including Trayvon Mullen and Hunter Renfrow.

Here’s what the Raiders have yet to use from the Mack trade:
2020 first-round draft pick (No. 19 overall)
2020 third-round draft pick (No. 81 overall)

Here’s what the Bears have yet to use from the Mack trade:
2020 second-round draft pick (No. 43 overall)
2020 seventh-round draft pick (No. 223 overall)

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Using those selections will give us a clearer picture of what the trade looks like, even though it’s imprudent to evaluate draft picks until they’ve played a few NFL seasons.

Raiders fans should have some level of confident coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock will do the right thing with extra assets considering how well last year’s draft went, the Jacobs pick in particular.

This year’s No. 19 overall draft pick is an important one, likely producing the other headline name in a deal that will be remembered alongside shipping Mack to Chicago and the Jacobs pick.

[RELATED: Mack makes All-Decade Team, largely for work with Raiders]

Our latest NBC Sports Bay Area mock draft has the Raiders taking Alabama safety Xavier McKinney at No. 19, while Gruden and Mayock could be looking for a cornerback or a defensive tackle at that spot. It’s also a trade chip that could get the Raiders into the second round, where they currently don’t have a selection.

The Jacobs pick made fans feel a lot better about the Mack trade, especially with 2019 fourth-round draft pick Maxx Crosby proving a formidable edge rusher with 10 sacks as a rookie. Using their assets correctly might even make the Raiders come out ahead, or darn close to it, with young players on the roster and money Mack would’ve demanded spread out among several other veteran free agents who are good but not at Mack’s elite level.