Maxx Crosby

Raiders' 2020 rookies are talented, but won't have same impact as 2019 class

Raiders' 2020 rookies are talented, but won't have same impact as 2019 class

Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden hit a home run in their first draft class together. Hell, it was a grand slam.

The Raiders got meaningful contributions from seven rookies in their 2019 class. Running back Josh Jacobs rushed for 1,150 yards and seven touchdowns in 13 games and would have won the Offensive Rookie of the Year if injuries didn't force him to miss three of the last four contests.

Fourth-round pick Maxx Crosby notched 10 sacks, and No. 4 overall pick Clelin Ferrell added 4.5 of his own and turned a corner late and showcased the talent that has the Raiders believing he will be a defensive cornerstone.

Fifth-round pick Hunter Renfrow was a demon in the slot, putting together a seven-game stretch that compares favorably to some of the best receivers in the NFL. Trayvon Mullen flashed shutdown corner potential after grabbing a starting job in Week 8. Tight end Foster Moreau was a touchdown machine, and undrafted full back Alec Ingold was as solid as they come blocking for Jacobs.

The 2019 draft class came in as the foundational piece of a full-on rebuilt. They entered with a focus on changing the culture and had their sites set on a building a dynasty halfway through Year 1 in silver and black.

[RAIDERS TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

Mayock and Gruden entered the 2020 NFL Draft looking to stack talent on top of talent, hoping to add more foundational pieces to a young, talented group. They did that. The Raiders added speed in Alabama wide receiver Henry Ruggs, toughness in Ohio State cornerback Damon Arnette, versatility in Kentucky athlete Lynn Bowden Jr. and physicality in South Carolina wideout Bryan Edwards. Tanner Muse, Amik Robertson and John Simpson round out an impressive class that should mesh well with last year's foundational group.

But don't expect the 2020 class to have the same type of impact that the 2019 crew did. Last year, the Raiders rookies had the most touchdowns (17), most yards after the catch (676), most rushing yards (1,167) and most rushing touchdowns (seven) in the NFL. They came in, were accountable, helped jump-start a culture change and were seven of the most important players in silver and black. That was just Year 1. Not to mention first-round pick Johnathan Abram played just one game after suffering a shoulder injury in Week 1.

The 2020 class is talented, of that, there is little doubt. All are supremely motivated players with chips on their shoulders the size of a Gruden raised eyebrow. Ruggs will start immediately and give the Raiders much needed speed and playmaking ability on the outside. The Alabama will eyes off Jacobs and tight end Darren Waller as defenses try not to get burned by his 4.27 speed. Gruden undoubtedly has spent the last few months scheming up a number of ways to get the ball in Ruggs' hands, hoping the electric receiver can give the Raiders' offense a dimension it was sorely lacking a year ago.

But after Ruggs, who might be the most talented prospect in both classes, the 2020 class has a lot of question marks. Not about their overall talent, but pertaining to the roles they'll have on the 2020 Raiders.

Arnette is a tough, physical press corner who returned to Ohio State for his senior season in order to reshape his legacy. He did, playing the entire season with a broken hand while allowing the lowest passer rating against when targeted. But the coronavirus pandemic wiped out minicamp and OTAs, and now Arnette will enter training camp in a battle with Prince Amukamara for the other starting corner spot opposite Mullen. Amukamara is a steady veteran who Pro Football Focus ranked as the No. 5 press corner in the NFL last season. After an odd offseason, it's easy to see Amukamara getting the starting nod to take some pressure off Arnette initially.

Bowden enters camp as a complete enigma. A super-versatile athlete, Bowden played wide receiver at Kentucky before playing wild-cat quarterback last season. The Raiders drafted him as a running back but plan to play him as "Joker" in Gruden's offense. Bowden has playmaking ability, but we have no idea how he'll be used or how often he'll be on the field in 2020.

Edwards was the steal of the draft. A first-round talent who fell to the third round due to a foot injury, Edwards is a big, physical receiver who should pair nicely with Ruggs. Edwards will enter camp in a battle with Nelson Agholor and Zay Jones for the No. 4 receiver spot. While the lack of OTAs might hurt Edwards' ability to earn the job, his raw talent and massive upside make him the rookie who is most likely to make a massive impact in 2020 after Ruggs.

Robertson, Muse and Simpson all enter 2020 as depth pieces who the Raiders expect to be starters in the future. Robertson is an undersized corner with good ball skills who should take over for Lamarcus Joyner at slot corner in a year or two. Muse will spend the year transitioning from safety to linebacker and Simpson will provide interior line depth.

[RELATED: Four Raiders position battles to watch in training camp]

The 2020 class is solid, with talent to help the Raiders make a big leap in 2020. But it's rare for a team to get as much out of a rookie class as the Raiders did in 2019. It was a combination of supreme talent and opportunity that allowed them to shine and show they were the future of the Silver and Black.

The 2020 class will be essential to the Raiders' growth as Gruden's rebuild hits Phase 2. But in 2020, Ruggs might be the only rookie to make an immediate, eye-opening impact. Edwards and Arnette face tough training camp battles to earn starting roles, and the rest of the solid class will be viewed with both eyes on the future.

The 2019 class set the bar in the stratosphere. It's OK if the 2020 class can't clear their mark. Few can.

How Raiders' Maxx Crosby is making big impact in Las Vegas community


How Raiders' Maxx Crosby is making big impact in Las Vegas community

His roots are blue-collar. Sunup to sundown. Dad still rips up floors and lays tiles and handles demolition. Mom is a photographer who worked as a waitress and held three jobs when he was in high school.

Maxx Crosby knows the importance of perseverance.

And, apparently, a giving spirit.

Read more on the Review-Journal

Jadeveon Clowney-Raiders rumors more fantasy than reality at moment

Jadeveon Clowney-Raiders rumors more fantasy than reality at moment

The Raiders made massive improvements to their defense during the offseason, hoping to inject some life into a unit that ranked 31st in DVOA in 2019.

But with one big fish still swimming in the free agency ocean, the Silver and Black might not be done yet.

Jadeveon Clowney has been biding his time during free agency, waiting for an offer that matches what he believes he is worth. That number started at between $20-22 million and reportedly has been lowered to around $18 million. Clowney reportedly has an offer from the Cleveland Browns with the Seattle Seahawks and Tennessee Titans also in the mix.

On Monday. Cecil Lammey of 104.3 The Fan in Denver reported that the Raiders had joined the party and offered Clowney a contract. He also reported that head coach Jon Gruden would like to up the offer to get Clowney. Lammey reports the offer is lower than two or three other teams and owner Mark Davis and general manager Mike Mayock are hesitant to increase it.

[RAIDERS TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

This is where we need to separate fantasy from reality.

Clowney is a talented player and he undoubtedly would help a Silver and Black pass rush that has struggled since Khalil Mack was shipped off to the Chicago Bears. Clowney is a sexy name and it's easy to automatically plug him on the Raiders' defensive line along with Maliek Collins, Maurice Hurst and Clelin Ferrell/Maxx Crosby and see an improved unit that can give teams problems in the AFC West.

But that $18-20 million is a massive price tag for a player whose production doesn't match the number he's currently asking for. Clowney notched just three sacks last season for the Seahawks and has yet to record a double-digit sack season since being draft with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Per Spotrac, Clowney's projected open-market is around $17.1 million. So his initial asking price already overshoots his on-field production and it's fair to see a number of teams asking to see more sacks, pressures and QB hits before paying the $17 million.

Clowney's health also is of concern. While the South Carolina product only has missed nine games in five seasons, there are some issues about the core and knee injuries he's sustained during his career. Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it's difficult for players to travel and get evaluated by a team's medical staff and that makes owners unwilling to open their checkbook.

This brings us to the second hurdle in any Clowney-Raiders marriage. According to the NFL Player's Association public salary cap report, the Raiders currently have $7.9 million in cap space. But that number will shrink once the Raiders have agreed to terms with all of their recent draft picks, including first-round picks Henry Ruggs and Damon Arnette. At the moment, the Raiders still need to clear some cap space in order to sign their entire rookie class. They simply lack the cap space, at the moment, to add Clowney at the number he's been demanding.

Of course, there are always ways to fit a player in. But for the Raiders to add Clowney at the number he wants, it likely would require a large chunk of the cash to come in the form of a signing bonus and the Raiders still would have to clear space by cutting some players. Right guard Gabe Jackson's contract became guaranteed last month. Quarterback Derek Carr's contract is the Raiders' most pliable but he's set for what could be a career year in Las Vegas.

Plain and simple: It's difficult to see the Raiders finding a way to fit Clowney in at his preferred number.

[REALTED: Renfrow's growth key to Raiders' offensive resurgence]

The Raiders currently are relying on Crosby, Ferrell and free-agent addition Carl Nassib to provide the heat off the edge. Last season, the Raiders recorded just 32 sacks, a number that must improve for them to make way in a tough AFC West.

Increasing pressure on the quarterback is paramount for the Raiders, but Clowney isn't a double-digit sack maven. He's been more of a run-stopper during his NFL career and his production hasn't been equal to the contract he desires. He's a big name who will come with a price tag he hasn't earned.

If the Raiders can find a way to get him at a discount as the season approaches it obviously would be worth it. But right now, any pact between Clowney and the Raiders is more fiction than reality.