Raiders newcomers poised to make big impact on 2019 campaign

Raiders newcomers poised to make big impact on 2019 campaign

The Raiders could see half the regular-season roster turn over from last season to the next, maybe more. That’s no shock for a team with four wins in 2018 going through a full roster rebuild entering head coach Jon Gruden’s second season (this time around) and general manager Mike Mayock’s first.

They’ll need big impacts from new players both young and old this season to remain competitive, with some all-star efforts to show roster upgrades are actually happening.

Let’s take a look at five new players poised to make a major mark this season:

WR Antonio Brown

The top spot is also the most obvious. The Raiders gave Pittsburgh a third-round pick and a fifth-rounder for Brown, and then gave the All-Pro a massive raise. Trade compensation wasn’t much, but the money certainly is a sum the Raiders hope to turn into significant offensive production.

That seems likely, considering Brown’s recent track record. He has recorded at least 101 catches, 1,284 yards and nine touchdowns over the last five seasons. Again, that’s a baseline for what to expect in 2019, which would mark one of the best receiving seasons in Raiders history. He doesn’t drop passes – Brown caught 104 of 105 catchable targets – and works incredibly hard to maintain great health. Brown is also a great improviser and is working hard to build the chemistry required to utilize that trait.

Brown talked extensively in his introductory press conference about setting a new standard in the Raiders' locker room. Time will tell if that happens, especially if the Raiders start losing, but the production should be dynamic and steady if he remains healthy. That will also create openings for others in the pattern, making life easier on the entire passing game.

DE Clelin Ferrell

The first of three Raiders first-round draft picks fills the position of greatest need rushing off the edge, where the team received little production last year. Ferrell is a perfect scheme fit capable of playing a 4-3 base end spot, with experience setting an edge in the run game and getting after the quarterback with efficient technical ability.

Critics may cry about his lack of elite athletic traits, but Ferrell was always productive for college football’s best team. He had 27 sacks for Clemson the past three seasons, including 11.5 sacks and 20 tackles for a loss last year. His offseason work and progress with defensive line coach Brentson Buckner, a fellow Clemson alum, will be key in him filling a three-down role as a rookie.

It’s always difficult to expect such returns from a rookie, but the Raiders need it from someone they took so high in last month’s NFL draft. They’ll get great work ethic and character, but they need steady production as well.

RB Josh Jacobs

The Raiders longed for a young feature back with Josh Jacobs’ traits. That’s why it was important they got him in the first round, landing him with the No. 24 overall pick. He could be a true three-down back at times, even with Jalen Richard taking some of the load off his back.

There’s great potential to fill a major role right away. After all, Jacobs, is powerful, quick, agile and excellent in space as a runner and receiver. He’s a willing pass protector, as well. He hasn’t been a true featured back since high school, and producing at a level worthy of such a role would be a sign the Raiders got a good one. He and Brown could offer production from the skill positions required to make this offense dynamic and life easier on quarterback Derek Carr. There’s some uncertainty about whether Jacobs can do so much right away, but he has the qualities required to prove doubters wrong.

OT Trent Brown

The Raiders handed Trent Brown a record-setting contract right after free agency began, and it was no surprise he accepted it without hesitation. All that money must be worth one thing above all else: peace of mind.

Brown must be a stable, impenetrable force on the right side in 2019, preventing quarterback pressure and creating rushing lanes from his side. Nothing else will do.

Brown was excellent for New England down the stretch last season, pairing great size with surprising athleticism to perform his job well. Brown is capable of locking down the right side, especially while playing next to standout right guard Gabe Jackson. Brown often promotes his rags to riches story, but maintaining excellent production will be as important as his ascent. That especially true for the team that paid him so much money.

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DB Lamarcus Joyner

The Raiders will move the high-priced free agent signing around the secondary, always in vital roles. He’ll play mostly free safety in the base defense, and move to slot cornerback during the regular occurrence where sub packages are required.

Those were two weak positions last year, and Joyner can strengthen both with solid play in his preferred rotation. The Raiders will need safety depth to account for Joyner’s movement, and certainly have it with Johnathan Abram, Karl Joseph and others. The Raiders needed a smart analyst playing deep, with speed to close and defend deep shots. Joyner can do that, and blanket smaller, quick slot receivers on key downs.

Raiders inform NFL draft prospect of parking-ticket history at combine


Raiders inform NFL draft prospect of parking-ticket history at combine

NFL Scouting Combine interviews can be harsh, inappropriate and even downright weird. Ross Blacklock's interview with the Las Vegas Raiders this week in Indianapolis was revelatory. 

The TCU defensive tackle told reporters Thursday that the Raiders informed him he had 37 parking tickets he didn't know about during his time in Fort Worth. 

Blacklock offered a compelling reason for his lack of knowledge on the subject: He claimed the TCU athletic department handled each ticket on his behalf.

"I don't know how they get that," Blacklock shrugged. 

Thirty-seven of anything is a stunning number, let alone when you're counting parking citations. It clearly took the Mike Mayock-led Raiders brain trust aback enough to prompt them to bring it up in an interview, one of 45 they're allowed to conduct during the week in Indianapolis. Those interviews are limited to 18 minutes, so you wonder what question(s) didn't make the cut if Blacklock's ticket history did.

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Those citations made the Raiders scratch their heads, as you might find yourself doing, too. Alas, it's difficult to envision Blacklock's previous fines dampening teams' enthusiasm for the 6-foot-3, 290-pound defensive lineman. NFL Media's Daniel Jeremiah ranked Blacklock No. 19 in his Top 50 and The Ringer's Danny Kelly slotted Blacklock at No. 38. The prospect didn't crack the first round of NBC Sports Bay Area's latest mock draft, but Blacklock likely won't have to wait longer than a day to hear his name called at the NFL draft in Vegas this April. 

Blacklock has talent, but the Raiders simply have bigger needs than along the interior of their defensive line to draft the former Horned Frog with one of two first-round picks. If the Silver and Black passes on the D-lineman, it won't be because of the parking tickets. 

NFL Draft 2020: Raiders should target these six players on Day 2

NFL Draft 2020: Raiders should target these six players on Day 2

All the talk surrounding the Raiders' 2020 NFL Draft plan revolves around their two first-round picks.

With picks No. 12 and No. 19, how will the Raiders build on the success of last year's draft class? Will they trade up for a quarterback? Take the best receiver available and whatever linebacker is left? Do what is necessary to put Isaiah Simmons in silver and black?

The questions are endless. But the Raiders' draft class truly will come together on Day 2 of the draft, when they have three third-round picks. That's enough ammo to move up into Round 2 or select three players who can contribute immediately to the up-and-coming Raiders. Yes, they could take a flier on Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm or try and develop the enticing talent that is Jalen Hurts, but they have many needs outside of quarterback. 

With the Raiders getting a good look at the best the draft has to offer this week at the NFL Scouting Combine, let's look at six Day 2 prospects for the Raiders to target.

Marlon Davidson, DE, Auburn

Davidson is fast rising so he likely will be gone by the time the Raiders go on the clock in Round 3.

The 6-foot-3, 303-pound defensive end has an impressive array of skills that most NFL teams would love to have on their roster. He has heavy hands and a quick first step. He played outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme on The Plains but might be better suited for an interior role at the next level.

He's a high upside guy who has the ability to help the Raiders in one of their biggest areas of need.

K.J. Hill, WR, Ohio State

The Raiders need more than one wide receiver. While they likely will land one of CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy or Henry Ruggs, the Silver and Black need more weapons for whoever the quarterback is.

This is a deep and talented wide receiver class, so the Raiders could go a number of ways.

I'll highlight Hill because he's a great route-runner with solid hands. He had a down senior season but was an explosive weapon for Dwayne Haskins two years ago.

He'd be a great addition as Gruden looks to build a more dynamic offense.

Troy Dye, LB. Oregon

We all know the Raiders need linebacker help. Whether they trade up to draft Simmons, take Patrick Queen or Kenneth Murray or avoid going linebacker in Round 1, they need to build depth at the position. 

Dye was a four-year starter at Oregon, whose leadership helped keep the program from nosediving. 

He's an athletic, rangy linebacker with the explosiveness to be an impact NFL starter. He needs to work on his play processing and taking better angles in space.

Kenny Willekes, EDGE, Michigan State

The Spartan defensive end has an extremely high floor. He's a very competitive guy with a high motor who would thrive under Gruden.

Willekes has a variety of pass-rush moves and is a stout run defender. 

He racked up 47.5 tackles for loss and 22 sacks during his career at Michigan State and would be a solid addition to the Raiders' defensive end rotation. 

James Proche, WR, SMU

Proche is a name that you don't hear a lot in this loaded class, but he could be the steal of the draft.

At 5-foot-10, the SMU slot receiver has big hands for his size (9 5/8). Those hands were golden during his time at SMU as Proche basically caught anything thrown in his zip code. He has no problem snagging balls at high velocity with one a hand or in the air or off balance.

He's not the fastest or strongest receiver, but he's a guy who could be a valuable weapon in a four-wide set.

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Davon Hamilton, DT, Ohio State

Hamilton is 6-foot-4 and 310 pounds. The Raiders are in need of a big body who can disrupt offenses up the middle.

He's an outstanding run defender and found success against constant double teams while at Ohio State.

His pass-rush skill needs some polishing, but you can't teach size or power. Hamilton has both and the quickness to boot.