Why Raiders should stick to NFL draft blueprint, raid Clemson-LSU stars


Why Raiders should stick to NFL draft blueprint, raid Clemson-LSU stars

On its face, the plan seemed quite simple.

Raiders general manager Mike Mayock and coach Jon Gruden went down to Levi's Stadium last January to watch Clemson and Alabama duel in the 2019 College Football Playoff National Championship Game. What they found were rosters loaded with NFL talent who had been immersed in winning culture for the past three to five seasons. They found a featured back with don't-give-a-[redacted] attitude, a shutdown corner with tireless work ethic, a slot receiver with hands of gold and an unflappable clutch gene, and an edge rusher with all the tools and confidence to be the anchor of a defensive line.

The Raiders loved what they saw and acted accordingly three months later in the NFL draft, making Josh Jacobs, Trayvon Mullen, Hunter Renfrow and Clelin Ferrell the newest members of the Silver and Black and the foundation of a rebuild that eventually will bring the greatness back.

Gruden and Mayock's plan to draft talented players from winning programs might have seemed like an elementary idea. Did they only watch the two best teams in football? There are, after all, many other talented players who weren't on teams vying for a title.

[RELATED: 2020 NFL mock draft 1.0: Raiders go WR, LB in Round 1]

No matter. The plan to bring in elite players from programs with strong culture worked flawlessly last season. Jacobs, Renfrow, Mullen and Ferrell were key contributors to a 7-9 Raiders team that could have made the playoffs if not for a few hiccups.

As Gruden and Mayock look to stack talent on talent, they should go back to that blueprint and jot down name after name that is called when No. 1 LSU and -- you guessed it -- No. 3 Clemson meet in the 2020 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.

Once again, the NFL talent on the field will be off the charts. But both teams also have a number of prospects who will fit the Raiders' vast number of needs as well.

Yes, if Clemson linebacker/safety/athletic mutant Isaiah Simmons is available at No. 12 (he won't be), the Raiders should draft him. Yes, receivers Tee Higgins (Clemson) and Justin Jefferson (LSU) would look good catching passes from whoever the quarterback of the future is for the Silver and Black.

There will be potential secondary help all over the field. Not just in first-round talents Grant Delpit, Kristian Fulton and A.J. Terrell, but also in Clemson safety K'Von Wallace, who could be a late Day 2 or Day 3 pick for the Raiders to target.

Don't count out the Raiders looking at taking one of the two running backs in the game, either, to have another young, electric option behind Jacobs, as both Travis Etienne and Clyde Edwards-Helaire would form a ridiculous 1-2 punch along with Jacobs.

It's not just the 2020 prospects the Raiders should note, either. Yes, Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence will be next year's No.1 pick. Mayock and Gruden also should have their eyes on LSU receiver Ja'Marr Chase, Clemson wideout Justyn Ross, LSU defensive tackle Tyler Shelvin, Clemson edge rusher Xavier Thomas and LSU corner Derek Stingley Jr. all of whom are underclassmen with elite talent.

Last year's blueprint was successful for the Raiders. The talent was needed, but the attitude and culture shift Gruden and Mayock craved clearly took hold. The Raiders, led by their rookies, were resilient against all odds last season. They believed they should have been in the playoffs. The rookies were their harshest critics. They worked tirelessly, performed on Sundays and believe they are the start of something special.

[RELATED: Ranking draft prospects Raiders should watch in Clemson-LSU]

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney summed up his program, the players he looks for and the culture he's built -- something the Raiders were very attracted to and for good reason -- in a succinct way.

"It’s easy to see if a guy can play or not, it’s a lot tougher to see if he’s the right fit. Because not everybody is a good fit for our culture and who we are," Swinney told NBC Sports California in August. "And the way we do things. Because this place is tough, man, this is no-nonsense. Not everybody values education the way we do. Not everybody values discipline and accountability the way we do."

While no two cultures are alike, the one Ed Orgeron has built at LSU appears to be on the same level as his counterpart Monday night. It quickly has taken hold and put the Tigers on the precipice of a dream season. Both coaches are brilliant and demand a lot of their players both on and off the field. They recruit talent, yes. But they also recruit for character and locker-room fit.

Those are the guys you win with at any level. The guys you build programs around and who can change the tides just by walking into the building. Talent is important. It almost always wins out in the end. But when enacting a rebuild, the culture the players were molded in is equally as significant.

Mayock and Gruden got a handful of those players in last year's draft. That blueprint worked to perfection.

The Raiders should follow it again. Raid Death Valley (both of them) of talent and leadership to build an unshakeable foundation for the next era of Raiders football.

Why versatile rookie Lynn Bowden could be Raiders’ secret weapon

Why versatile rookie Lynn Bowden could be Raiders’ secret weapon

Word of warning to anyone wondering how the Raiders are preparing to utilize rookie Lynn Bowden this season: Don’t bother asking him. He isn’t at liberty to say.

“I’m really not permitted to speak about that right now,” Bowden said while taking a break from the Raiders virtual OTA’s.

The mum’s the word response wasn’t relayed out of anger or deceit. The outgoing Bowden can’t wait to get on the field in his first NFL season and is beyond excited to help the Raiders anyway he can. He’s open and frank about all that and doesn’t mind expressing it one bit.

Read more on Las Vegas Review-Journal

Trayvon Mullen has Drew Brees, Saints on bulletin board after comments

Trayvon Mullen has Drew Brees, Saints on bulletin board after comments

The New Orleans Saints' visit to Las Vegas on September 21 already was set to be a marquee game in the NFL with the Raiders set to debut Allegiant Stadium for the first time on "Monday Night Football."

The matchup with Drew Brees got another layer Wednesday after the Saints quarterback said he still saw players who kneel during the national anthem to protest police violence as "disrespecting the flag." Brees' comments came while millions of citizens across the country protest police brutality in the wake of George Floyd's death in police custody. Brees posted a photo on Instagram supporting the Black Lives Matter movement Tuesday and then promptly showed he still didn't understand why former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started taking a knee during the national anthem back in 2016.

As Brees' comments circulated, Raiders cornerback Trayvon Mullen made it known he's looking forward to facing Brees now more than ever with offensive tackle Trent Brown echoing the feeling.

Brees offered an apology for his "insensitive" comments Thursday saying he "missed the mark." While some have accepted Brees' apology, many around the NFL and sports world saw it as an apology for being dragged mercilessly on Twitter and television and not for his actual statement.

The conversation around Kaepernick's protest and taking a knee during the anthem has been reignited after Floyd, a 46-year-old African-American man, died in police custody after Derek Chauvin, a white Minneapolis police officer, knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes. A video showed Floyd telling Chauvin and three other officers who were watching that he couldn't breathe and asking for Chauvin to let up. It was later announced Floyd had died in police custody. Chauvin was arrested and has been charged with second-degree murder, third-degree muder and second-degree manslaughter. The three other officers were arrested Wednesday and have been charged with aiding and abetting in both cases.

Kaepernick started taking a knee during the national anthem in 2016 as a way to protest police brutality and systemic racism. He chose to take a knee in protest after a discussion with Nate Boyer, a former Green Beret, because he wanted to make sure he was protesting in a respectful manner. Kaepernick has not played in the NFL since 2016.

Citizens have marched in protests in cities across American since Floyd's death, looking to put an end to police brutality and systemic racism. A number of NFL players have spoken out since Floyd's death, with Raiders quarterback Derek Carr vowing to no longer stick to sports as he tries to unite people.

[RELATED: Littleton, Kwiatkoski vital to Raiders' defensive renaissance]

Brees' comments drew warranted criticism from across the sports world, with fans, peers and teammates all chiming in to tell Brees how wrong he was on the issue of kneeling in protest during the national anthem.

The Raiders need to get off to a fast start in order to breathe life into a push for the playoffs. Brees has owned the Raiders in his career, but the Silver and Black added a lot of talent to a defense that ranked 31st in DVOA last year. A defense that will be led by a rising star corner in Mullen, who has this game circled.

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