Raiders

Raiders' entire 2019 NFL draft class making profound impact on season

Raiders' entire 2019 NFL draft class making profound impact on season

OAKLAND – Jon Gruden gets asked about the Raiders' rookie class almost every week.

Those questions don’t get old, and they’re always relevant.

This isn’t just the Josh Jacobs show. At least a few are making positive contributions each Sunday. That was the case again Sunday when rookie contributions were vital to a 17-10 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals at Oakland Coliseum.

Fourth-round pick Maxx Crosby had four sacks, including a strip-sack where the Raiders recovered. Tight end Foster Moreau, also picked in that round, had a key touchdown catch. Second-round pick Trayvon Mullen had two pass breakups and his first NFL interception iced victory. Undrafted fullback Alec Ingold blocked well as always and converted a key fourth down set up to a field goal.

Oh, and Jacobs posted his fourth triple-digit rushing total in 10 tries.

All that comes two weeks after fifth-round pick Hunter Renfrow caught the game-winning touchdown late to beat Detroit. It also came one week after first-round pick Clelin Ferrell’s breakout performance, where he had 2.5 sacks and six(!) run stops against the Chargers.

We could bloat the internet with this season’s Raiders rookie contributions, but you get the point. This year’s class has been awesome, truly making an instant impact.

Jacobs tweeted, ‘best rookie class since…” after Sunday’s game. The ellipsis is appropriate because you have to stop and ponder that one. That's a tough ranking in league history but it does seem appropriate to say this year’s crop is arguably the greatest collective effort by a group of rookies in franchise history.

Gruden isn’t into bold proclamations like that, but he loves what the young players have provided his ascending team.

“The poise and the production and the professionalism that they play with and come to work with,” Gruden said, “is something everybody would be impressed with.”

The stats have been impressive, to say the least. Some numbers for support, via ESPN:

The Raiders have the most rookie sacks (10), touchdowns from scrimmage (14), scrimmage yards (1,676), rushing yards (937) and receptions (73). They have the second-most receiving yards (739).

Per the AP, the Raiders are the first team to have 10-plus sacks and 10-plus touchdowns over the first 10 games of the season since the sack became a stat in 1982.

Odds are more superlatives will come next week and the week after that, with the Raiders so reliant on rookies who have grown up fast.

"We just bought in,” Jacobs said. “Like I said when we came in, the rookie class came in together and we came to an agreement that we were going to do things the right way and build this program. We wanted to try and shape it back to the Raider culture and back to what we feel like dominating football is. Just to see how we are all coming in and trying to keep that promise and execute every week has been huge."

Jacobs is a frontrunner for Offensive Rookie of the Year and was one of three Raiders first-round draft picks. Ferrell just now is coming on, and Johnathan Abram is missing from the equation after being lost to injury in the season opener. The Silver and Black are receiving key contributions from mid-round picks and undrafted guys alike, with most everyone asked to step up and play.

[RELATED: Raiders protect Coliseum, chart course for playoff push]

This group’s confidence is growing by the game, which will help push for a playoff spot this season and set the Raiders up for sustained success when they move to Las Vegas in 2020.

“It comes down to preparation,” Mullen said. “All of us young guys put the time in and pay attention to details during the week. That allows us to come in on Sunday and play free.”

NFL Draft 2020: Raiders could strike gold with Day 2 cornerback gems

NFL Draft 2020: Raiders could strike gold with Day 2 cornerback gems

The Raiders struck gold in the 2019 NFL Draft by finding Trayvon Mullen, a potential lockdown corner in the second round.

You can pencil Mullen as the starting cornerback on one side of the field for the foreseeable future. The Raiders tried to address the cornerback position in free agency, but they missed out on Byron Jones and Chris Harris Jr. After their deal with Eli Apple fell apart, cornerback became a pressing need to be addressed in the NFL draft.

The 2020 cornerback class has one surefire star in Ohio State's Jeff Okudah and two-to-five other likely NFL starters that should go in the first 40 picks. That's pretty much the range for elite cornerbacks. Over the last four years, Richard Sherman (fifth-round), A.J. Bouye (undrafted) and Malcolm Butler (undrafted) were the only three All-Pro cornerbacks who weren't drafted in the first two rounds. The other 13 all were taken at the top of the draft.

That doesn't mean it's impossible to find talent at cornerback later in the draft, it just means it's a little less likely. The Raiders should be able to address their cornerback need in Round 1, but there are a few later-round guys who they should target if the draft goes a different way.

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Noah Igbinoghene, Auburn

Igbinoghene arrived on The Plains as a talented receiver recruit and turned into one of the draft's most intriguing cornerback prospects.

A relatively new corner, Igbinoghene has the athleticism and physicality to play at the NFL but he will need to get more comfortable with his coverage instincts. He's an explosive athlete with a high NFL ceiling, but there's no telling how long it will take him to reach it. Over 878 coverage snaps at Auburn, Igbinoghene allowed only three touchdowns. Not bad for a converted wide receiver.

Here's the athleticism:

And improving coverage skills.


Bryce Hall, Virginia

Hall returned for his senior season at Viriginia, but an ankle injury limited him to just six games, hurting his draft stock.

The 6-foot-1 defensive back is long and explosive with tremendous ball skills. He struggled at times in man coverage at Virginia and many analysts beleive he might be best suited for a zone-heavy scheme. While he comes with question marks, Hall has is an intelligent player, high character locker room presence and has the ability to make game-changing plays on the field.

He projects as an NFL starter as long as the fit is right.


Damon Arnette, Ohio State

If you're looking for a starter in press coverage, Damon Arnette is your man.

Overshadowed by his teammate Okudah, the 6-foot cornerback has great quickness, is sticky in man coverage, has the anticipation to play zone and brings exceptional ball skills and body control to the table. He had the lowest passer rating allowed in single man coverage in the NCAA last year.

The Raiders kicked the tires on a Darius Slay trade, but it fell through. Arnette has drawn comparisons to Slay and should be able to start in the NFL on Day 1.


Cameron Dantzler, Mississippi State

One of the best cornerbacks in the NFL, Dantzler has the height, length, competitiveness and versatility to be a solid NFL cornerback. While some scouts worry about his narrow frame, the tape shows a corner with great coverage skills in man, press and zone.

Dantzler's anticipation and instincts have some analysts believing he'd be a better zone-scheme fit in the NFL. His production across 22 starts at Mississippi State shows a corner who has the tools to fit into any scheme if given the time.

The 6-foot-2 corner also played LSU's Ja'Marr Chase -- the Biletnikoff Award winner and likely top-10 2021 pick -- the best of any corner. While Chase torched Clemson's A.J. Terrell, a likely top 40 pick, in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game, Dantzler held Chase to just five catches for 49 yards and one touchdown when they squared off.

If you've seen Chase play, you know that's a win.

However, Dantlzer's 4.64 40 time and 30.5-inch arms will raise a lot of questions about his staying power in the NFL.

[RELATED: Why trading up to draft Okudah is perfect move for Raiders

Troy Pride Jr., Notre Dame

Potentially one of the most underrated prospects in the draft, Notre Dame's Troy Pride Jr. played well at the Senior Bowl and could be one of the steals of the 2020 NFL Draft.

The 5-foot-11 corner has the requisite quickness, speed and change of direction to thrive in man coverage. While he thrives in man, Pride also has the instincts to play zone and has played in a press-scheme as well, making him not scheme dependent.

Hurting Pride are his less than exceptional ball skills and lack of production in run support. While he might not be a Day 1 starter, Pride does have the skills and potential to be a starter in Year 2 or Year 3.

NFL Draft 2020: Raiders can find plug-and-play cornerback in first round

NFL Draft 2020: Raiders can find plug-and-play cornerback in first round

The Raiders entered this offseason hoping to secure the services of a shutdown cornerback. They haven’t done that yet, though it wasn’t for lack of effort.

They backed up the Brinks truck for Byron Jones and offered Chris Jones Jr. a decent sum. They poked around on a Darius Slay trade. They didn’t get any of those guys.

They agreed on terms with Eli Apple as an alternate plan, but even that deal fell apart. They signed Damarious Randall, but the initial expectation is that he’ll play free safety.

So Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock enter the 2020 NFL Draft looking to satisfy a pressing need that exists despite their affinity for 2019 fourth-rounder Isaiah Johnson.

They have two first-round picks -- Nos. 12 and 19 -- to acquire a cornerback they can plug in and play outside opposite Trayvon Mullen. There’s a belief among NFL draft experts that there aren’t many instant impact cornerbacks available, so it may take a high pick to get one.

Ohio State’s Jeff Okudah falls decisively into that category, but there’s no way in holy heck he lasts until the Raiders pick. The Raiders could possibly trade up to get him -- our Josh Schrock thinks the Raiders should do that -- but it would take significant capital to get high enough and might not be worth the expense.

So let’s eliminate Okudah as an option and focus on players the Raiders could realistically get where they’re currently slotted:

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No. 12 overall

CJ Henderson, Florida (6-feet, 204 pounds): The former Gator probably is the only cornerback considered worthy of the No. 12 pick, provided Okudah is off the board as expected. Henderson certainly is a step above every other draft prospect, with the size, length and athleticism to be a respected NFL cornerback.

He challenges routes and is a competitive sort, which the Raiders would like. He has experience playing both man and zone but is a top tier press-man prospect, and that fits what the Raiders are looking for. The rare knocks, per draft analysts, are that he’s not a great run defender, not a sure tackler and he doesn’t have elite ball skills, but his work ethic suggests he could develop in those areas.

[RELATED: Why Raiders trading up for Jeff Okudah is perfect move]

No. 19 overall

Trevon Diggs, Alabama (6-foot-1, 205 pounds): The former member of the Crimson Tide secondary has elite size, length and strength for the position. Stefon Diggs’ younger brother has competitive drive to spare and has experience in a press-man scheme. He got better with technique and discipline but still has room to grow. He already has excellent ball skills, analysts say, with an ability to jump routes and defend passes.

Jaylon Johnson, Utah (6 feet, 193 pounds): The former Ute is built for press coverage, which may be enticing for the Raiders. He has the size and length to play tough at the line of scrimmage and delay timing of receiver routes. He also can play off, armed with the anticipation and ball skills to break up passes. He’s also a good communicator and has good leaping ability on deep balls. There’s development left to be made, analysts say, especially when the ball’s on its away, and that he can struggle against precise, elite route runners. He’s still projected as a quality NFL starter, which the Raiders definitely need. The Raiders might still be able to snag him and trade down in the first round, getting a good corner and an extra selection or two.

A.J. Terrell, Clemson (6-foot-1, 195 pounds): The Raiders already have one starting cornerback from Clemson. Why not two? Mullen showed proficiency running the Raiders scheme, so there’s reason to believe Terrell could do the same. He struggled mightily in the national title game versus LSU, but there’s plenty of good tape out there. He’s another press-man cornerback who can close in open space and make plays on the ball. He’s good working deep, but overall there’s improvement to be made in several areas and he might not qualify as the plug and play right away cornerback the Raiders need.

Others worth consideration: Kristian Fulton, LSU, Jeff Gladney, TCU