Johnathan Abram

Foster Moreau defends Raiders' 2019 rookie class, claps back on Twitter

Foster Moreau defends Raiders' 2019 rookie class, claps back on Twitter

Oh, the disrespect. 

The Raiders' 2019 draft class was one of the best in recent seasons, in all of the NFL. Running back Josh Jacobs was an Offensive Rookie of the Year finalist, and defensive end Maxx Crosby was up for Defensive Rookie of the Year. Apparently that doesn't mean much to NFL.com's Gennaro Filice and Nick Shook. 

The duo of writers gave the Silver and Black's rookie class an A- grade, but ranked them as just the seventh-best in the NFL. That didn't sit well with Raiders rookie tight end Foster Moreau. 

As Moreau's tweet shows, the Raiders' rookie class finished first in rushing yards, first in receptions, first in yards from scrimmage, first in scrimmage TDs and first in sacks. Case closed. 

Moreau himself had 21 receptions for 174 yards and caught five TDs in 13 games. The fourth-round draft pick's rookie year was cut short with a knee injury. Before his injury, he impressed coaches as a run blocker, pass protector and receiver.

On offense, Jacobs led the way. Many believe he was snubbed as Arizona Cardinals QB Kyler Murray was voted as Offensive Rookie of the Year. Jacobs broke almost every Raiders rookie rushing record, most of which were previously held by Marcus Allen. The Alabama product averaged 4.8 yards per carry and had 1,1150 rushing yards despite missing three of the last four games with a fractured shoulder.

Hunter Renfrow, selected in the fifth round of the draft, had the second-most receiving yards by a Raiders receiver this season, despite also missing three games to injury. Renfrow finished the 2019 season with 49 receptions for 605 yards and four touchdowns. 

Crosby, a steal out of the fourth round, totaled 10 sacks -- the second-most by any rookie throughout the league. He led the Raiders in sacks and tackles for loss (19), 9.5 more than fellow rookie teammate Clelin Ferrell. 

[RELATED: How Raiders' 2019 rookies are laying bedrock for success]

Ferrell, the No. 4 pick in last year's draft, vowed to return a completely different player. Safety Johnathan Abram, the No. 27 pick from last year, will be back and healthy in 2020.

The Raiders had a three-win improvement this past season. With a great rookie season behind them, the 2019 draft class can take the Raiders to new heights as they move to Las Vegas.

How Raiders' 2019 draft class is laying bedrock for sustained success

How Raiders' 2019 draft class is laying bedrock for sustained success

The Raiders assembled quite a collection of talent during last year’s NFL draft. Everyone knows that by now.

First-round safety Johnathan Abram, however, doesn’t want you to forget about those who came directly after.

“Don’t forget Alec Ingold. He’s the man,” Abram said on the Raiders Talk Podcast. “And don’t sleep on A.J. Cole, either. That guy can punt. He’s the real deal.”

Abram’s right. The Raiders even got significant contributions from undrafted players in 2019. Ingold’s the long-term solution at fullback, and Cole’s a specialist off to a good start.

The 2019 rookie class was highlighted by rookie of the year candidates in feature running back Josh Jacobs and 10-sack sensation/defensive end Maxx Crosby. Both guys were runners-up for the offensive and defensive awards, making the Raiders one of two teams in the last 15 years with top-two finishes in both, per the Associated Press' Josh Dubow.

This group showed great depth. Cornerback Trayvon Mullen excelled after assuming a starter’s role following the Gareon Conley trade. Hunter Renfrow proved a quality slot receiver all season but found great form and chemistry with quarterback Derek Carr at its end.

Tight end Foster Moreau was a significant contributor as a run blocker and red-zone receiving target.

The Raiders' rookie class was awesome, despite No. 4 overall pick Clelin Ferrell not quite living up to his draft slot in where he moved around the defensive line and got really sick before midseason. Abram was a non-factor in 2019 after missing 15 games with a shoulder injury.

Members of this Raiders rookie class believe they’re the bedrock of the Raiders rebuild, and 2019 ended with the arrow pointing up. They understand that fact, even if it goes unspoken.

“We talk about it here and there, but it’s more of something we just know,” Crosby said. “We know what we’re here for and how good we can be. Me and John and Josh and Cle and everybody else, we’re all close. For us, we know what Gruden brought us here to do. We’re grinding away and preparing to get in the playoffs and go win some games and eventually win a Super Bowl.”

[RELATED: Raiders safety Abram learned 'valuable lessons' after injury]

The Raiders draft class is recognized among last year’s best, if not right at the top. The group was first in sacks and total yards from scrimmage. They were first in receptions and rushing yards.

It has growth potential, with high ceilings and improvement all around. Ferrell vowed to return a completely different player. Abram will be back and healthy in 2020.

And while offseason rankings don’t mean much, Moreau took umbrage with an NFL Media list placing the Raiders rookie class at No. 7 in the league.

That could fuel fire down the line as the Raiders try to build a roster capable of sustained success. The group had high hopes, with expectations even higher with a season’s experience in hand. It doesn’t just fall on the higher picks. The entire group sees good days ahead.

“That was the best part of it,” Abram said. “No matter what round we came in, we put all that behind us the day we showed up at the facility. We were all hand-selected and brought here for a purpose. We just have to get the job done.”

Raiders rookie Jonathan Abram learned 'valuable lessons' after injury

Raiders rookie Jonathan Abram learned 'valuable lessons' after injury

Johnathan Abram lost 15 games and more than triple the practices his rookie year after tearing his rotator cuff in the Raiders’ regular-season opener.

That’s invaluable experience the tone-setting safety can’t get back. Last year’s No. 27 overall NFL draft pick still found ways to get better and avoid the depression associated with such professional disappointment.

Most players on season-ending injured reserve vanish, returning to the facility for checkups and required rehab appointments. Abram, however, was at the facility a ton. He was determined to stay engaged in meetings or private film sessions with Raiders staff.

“Being around the team really helped me mentally,” Abram said during Super Bowl week, an exclusive interview available on the latest Raiders Talk podcast. “Being around the guys, going through game plans and seeing all the adjustments that needed to be made was what helped me the most. I couldn’t exercise my muscles. I had to exercise something.”

With his shoulder in a sling, Abram exercised his mind. Many in silver and black call Abram a third first-round pick entering in 2020 after he missed so much time, but the 2019 selection comes with a solid knowledge base and a more mature perspective entering his second NFL season.

Abram may have played the season opener against the Denver Broncos a little too wild and aggressive at times, but that would’ve tempered some had he gotten the chance to play on and learn by doing.

A shoulder injury he suffered in the first quarter of his first game and played through denied him that chance and brought a new and difficult reality to a campaign filled with optimism.

“It was frustrating, but it was a lesson I needed more than anything,” Abram said. “My entire career, I had never been injured. I never had to go without the game. It taught me some valuable lessons, to appreciate the game. Coach Gruden says all the time that the best ability is availability.”

Abram is nearing full health now and expects to be 100 percent and ready to go during the Raiders offseason program.

“What I went through last year has only made me more eager to get back to work,” Abram said. “Everybody got a taste of what I could do, but it was nothing near what I’m capable of. Coaches saw glimpses in camp, but I had to tone it down going against my teammates.”

[RELATED: Raiders' Jacobs wows Alabama alums Henry, Drake]

There was a pair of teammates Abram studied in college that he was able to learn from when healthy and after he got hurt. Lamarcus Joyner and Karl Joseph were vital to Abram’s growth during a mostly down year.

“Two of the guys I modeled my game around, I got a chance to play with,” Abram said. “When I was a freshman at Georgia, [then Bulldogs defensive coordinator] Jeremy Pruitt had coached Lamarcus Joyner at Florida State. That was one player he always showed me as an example of playing with relentless effort. He wasn’t the biggest or strongest, but he never gave up and always played aggressive football. That was something implemented into my game.

"Then, when I went to junior college [in 2016], I watched a guy go in the first round for knocking the crap out of people. That was Karl Joseph. I learned that I can get turnovers and knock people around and set the tone, I can get drafted really high. I just took that and rolled with it. Both of those guys influenced my game and having the chance to be around them as a rookie was truly unreal.”

Abram will build off his experience in 2019 and try to realize vast potential. The Raiders have great confidence in Abram as a producer and a leader who should set the tone in the secondary.

“A great safety is important in every system,” Abram said. “It’s vital. Coach Gruden tells me all the time that he needs me to be a leader, to get people to rally around me and bring the energy. Sometimes people are flat. I’m always pumped up and ready to go. I bring energy all the time, and I think people respect that.”