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.

[RELATED: ESPN host used to babysit Renfrow, change his diapers]

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 sign first-round draft pick Johnathan Abram to four-year contract


Raiders sign first-round draft pick Johnathan Abram to four-year contract

The Raiders are getting some business done before summer vacation truly starts. The Silver and Black signed a third member of their NFL draft class late Tuesday afternoon when No. 27 overall pick Johnathan Abram inked his rookie contract.

No. 4 selection Clelin Ferrell and No. 40 pick Trayvon Mullen signed earlier in the day.

No. 24 overall pick Josh Jacobs is the only Raiders draftee that remains unsigned, and it’s certainly possible his deal gets done before rookies formally leave on summer vacation later this week. They stayed an extra week after the offseason program’s end to work with the strength staff and player engagement department on off-the-field education common to all first-year NFL players.

Abram was slotted to receive a contract worth $11.45 million over four years that includes $6.380 million in a signing bonus. There’s also a fifth-year team option available that is standard for all first-round picks.

[RELATED: AB setting new standard for all Raiders during offseason program]

The Raiders selected Abram with the first-round pick the Dallas Cowboys gave up for Amari Cooper. Abram impressed during the offseason program and joined the first unit during the final week of OTAs. He was there again in minicamp, and a solid training camp could lock him into a starting safety spot right away.

Trayvon Mullen, Raiders' second-round draft pick, signs four-year contract

Trayvon Mullen, Raiders' second-round draft pick, signs four-year contract

The Raiders offseason program ended Wednesday, but rookies stick around another week-plus to work with the strength staff and player engagement folks, who go over off-the-field insights that used to be covered during the rookie symposium.

That means they’re still around to sign contracts. The Raiders inked their second-round pick Trayvon Mullen to a four-year contract on Tuesday afternoon, shortly after announcing a completed deal for No. 4 overall pick Clelin Ferrell.

Mullen was taken at No. 40, slotting into a four-year contract worth $7.25 million. It comes with a $3.29 million signing bonus.

That’s two former Clemson Tigers signed the same day. The Raiders drafted a third, but fifth-round pick Hunter Renfrow was locked up weeks ago.

Mullen worked primarily with the second unit, at outside cornerback, during the offseason program. He joins a competitive position group led by Gareon Conley. Daryl Worley is another presumptive starter, though Nevin Lawson and Mullen will have an opportunity to push for significant snaps in 2019.

“I feel like you’re getting someone who could potentially be a lockdown corner in this league,” Ferrell said back in May. “He has every athletic skill set that you need in a corner, and obviously has that competitive mindset. That’s the biggest thing, you can have all the ability, but are you a competitor? That’s the thing he definitely has.”

[RELATED: Guenther believes Ferrell perfectly fits Raiders' scheme]

No. 24 overall pick Josh Jacobs and No. 27 selection Johnathan Abram are the only 2019 draft picks who haven’t signed contracts. That could easily happen this week, while rookies are still in town.

Issues aren’t expected with either deal, and could be signed before the full squad reports to Raiders training camp on July 26.