The Raiders' 2014 NFL draft class was stacked. Khalil Mack, Derek Carr, Gabe Jackson, Justin Ellis and even T.J. Carrie became Raiders in a three-day span that changed the Silver and Black's fortunes.
It took time, but that group bonded together and eventually lead a roster rebuild that sent the Raiders to the playoffs with a 12-4 record.
That success was not sustained due to misses in subsequent drafts.
Jon Gruden dismantled then-general manager Reggie McKenzie’s roster, shipped stars off for draft picks and set off on another rebuild that would only work by hitting home runs on draft day.
Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock sent one pick after another over the fence. The 2019 Raiders draft class made a massive impact this season, with huge hits from players regardless of round. They’ve also grown close and believe they’re on a path toward sustained success after a 7-9 campaign reliant on young players filling huge roles.
“I think we have a great foundation here,” fifth-round receiver Hunter Renfrow said. “The rookie class has bonded well over the course of the year. All my years playing football at different levels, we’ve gone through a year with close losses. The next year, we feel like we can get there and we come through with a great year.
"As we transition to Las Vegas, I believe we’re going to do something special.”
The crazy thing: The Raiders draft class was awesome despite depressed returns from its three first-round picks. Josh Jacobs obviously was awesome and should be voted Offensive Rookie of the Year. Clelin Ferrell showed improvement but lacked the wow-factor expected from a top-5 pick. Johnathan Abram was lost for the year in Week 1.
Second-round cornerback Trayvon Mullen and fourth-round defensive end Maxx Crosby were full-time starters. Renfrow ended up the team’s best receiver. Fourth-round tight end Foster Moreau proved a versatile talent and clutch red-zone threat.
Only fourth-round cornerback Isaiah Johnson didn’t play much due to a facial fracture that hindered his progress. Seventh-round edge rusher Quinton Bell didn’t last long, but late picks always are a crapshoot.
This group is high-character and damn good at football, points proven during this season.
“We have a bunch of young guys who are talented, and not just one or two,” Renfrow said. “I think they’re made of the right stuff. … Everyone has played through injuries and everyone has just wanted to win. I think that’s what you have to have -- that grit and determination to be a good team. I’m excited about who we have and the veterans here to carry us alone.”
The Raiders drafted players largely from high-profile, winning programs and they seemed comfortable competing at this level.
“As a team, we really showed that we’re going to be a presence in this league for many years to come,” Ferrell said. “I feel like we showed, through the draft and the guys we brought in, that we’re becoming a strong team. We have something special going here. I’m excited for the offseason and I’m excited for next year.”
The Raiders need more talent to ascend in 2020. That means Gruden and Mayock have to strike gold again, especially with two first-round picks and three in the third round.
“We have some resources like you say in the draft and we think the Raiders, the Raiders is a great brand for any player to want to play for,” Gruden said. “And we can’t wait to continue building our team and I know Mayock and his group of guys are excited as well.”