During the NFL Draft, the Oakland Raiders built up assets to help construct the future of their franchise.
The Raiders’ front office was a party of three. Mark Davis, Mike Mayock and John Gruden closed ranks, as they put their war room on lockdown, sending all of their scouts home for this draft. There were obvious needs: 13 sacks in 2018 after trading Khalil Mack demanded attention. (The next fewest sack total for ’18 was the New York Giants with 30.)
Depth at the cornerback position was a season-long issue as five players spent time on the injured reserve.
Last season’s top receiver, Jared Cook, will be catching passes from Drew Brees in the Big Easy, and Gruden’s version of the west coast offense relies on production at the tight end position.
Also, an offensive guard to play opposite Grady Jackson wouldn’t suck.
The Raiders entered the draft with eight selections, including three in the first round. Two of those were obtained from trades that sent Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper out of town. This has to be a transformative draft. The team released videos of Mike Mayock telling each newly drafted player that the decision to draft them was contingent on one thing, leadership. Each player had to commit to it, so individual player grades must take that into account. The Raiders were not just drafting players, they were drafting a culture.
Round #1, Selection #4
Clelin Ferrell, Defensive End, Clemson
EXCELLENT PICK! Ferrell is a true defensive end, not an outside linebacker. This means he will be playing with his hand in the dirt and will not be asked to drop back in coverage. Ferrell plays well against the run and pass, and he can play from either end and can move inside. He will be expected to start on day one and has the skills to do so. He plays with fast violent hands and with exceptional pad level. He plays with power, speed, and technique. Ferrell can overpower offensive tackles with his bull rush and he can also use his speed to get to the edge. He has an above average swim move and spins as well. His character and leadership earned him the Raiders’ number one pick.
ROUND #1 PICK #24
Josh Jacobs, Running Back, Alabama
Josh Jacobs is a feature back, a three-down back, and a complete back ready to start day one. He is stout and runs low to the ground and explodes at the hole. He excelled at the college level in the center-guard gaps and will do so at the professional level as well. He isn’t a breakaway back with the speed to take it to the house from any spot on the field but is fast enough to run outside. For a guy who is 5-foot-10, he can deliver punishing blocks and will take a few defenders by surprise. Jacobs is a dynamic pass-catching running back, effective in short, medium, and deeper routes. He is a high character guy who has overcome the extreme difficulty by making good decisions and avoiding shortcuts. Don’t be surprised if he is in the mix for offensive rookie of the year.
ROUND # 1 PICK #27
Johnathan Abram, Safety, Mississippi St
Abram is a fast, athletic safety that hits like a desert bighorn sheep and is a fundamentally sound tackler in the open field. He is most at home playing near the line and he is a disruptive Tasmanian devil against the run. At 6-feet tall, Abram has ideal size and blazing speed. Abram diagnoses plays early and his speed lets him take great angles, often making blockers look flat-footed. Drafting Abram in the first round puts former first-round draft choice Karl Joseph’s future in question and one would imagine that newly acquired free safety Lamarcus Joyner slides to slot corner. Abram showed up at the Raiders’ headquarters with a stack of note cards with the names of all the Raiders coaches and trainers, which shows that he does his homework. Again, high character and leadership qualities along with smarts influenced this pick.
ROUND #2 PICK #40
Trayvon Mullen, Cornerback, Clemson
Many people were expecting Greedy Williams here but Mullen is far more fluid and loose in the hips and changes direction with amazing ease. Furthermore, unlike Williams, this guy can tackle. He also has extensive experience as a starter. Quarterbacks have a 51.1 QBR tossing the rock at his guy. In 801 career coverage snaps, Mullen gave up ZERO touchdowns. In keeping with the trend, many reports on Mullen are peppered with phrases like “high character,” “self-motivated,” and “cerebral.”
ROUND #4 PICK #106
Maxx Crosby, Defensive End, Eastern Michigan
“Mad Maxx,” as Mayock has dubbed him, is a cult of personality. A super athletic guy who plays like his hair is on fire, Crosby’s college tape is ridiculous. He uses a powerful dip and rip to absolutely blow past blockers. There really should not be much to say about this guy; you shouldn’t know his name but he has drawn a ton of interest. He definitely needs to add some bulk but on relentless ferocious hustle alone his play has drawn a ton of attention. Hyperbolic as it may be, he has drawn comparisons to Jared Allen. Damon Harrison of the Lions said in a tweet, “Get stronger and this is THE sleeper in the draft. Literally won’t be able to be stopped once he adds strength.”
ROUND #4 PICK #129
Isaiah Johnson, Cornerback, Houston
Johnson is a converted wide receiver so he has the ball skills and speed of a wideout. He also has the tackling skills of a wideout and is a liability against the run. That being said, he, like Trayvon Mullen, is a long, tall, fast cornerback who transitions from back peddle through his hip rotation into his stride smooth and effortlessly. He a fantastic gunner on special teams and that should get him on the field. Early on, he will be capable of stepping in should the need arise.
ROUND #4 PICK #137
Foster Moreau, Tight End, LSU
Again the Raiders acquire a player known as a natural leader who gives 100 percent effort, 100 percent of the time. Moreau is known primarily as a blocking back in the Lee Smith mold, but he could see playing time this season in two tight end “heavy jumbo” goal line situations.
ROUND #5 PICK #149
Hunter Renfrow, Wide Receiver, Clemson
All Hunter Renfrow does is make tough catches at key times in big games, as he showed during his time at Clemson. There are concerns about his height and speed, but he is a fantastic route runner with two total dropped passes in the last two years. Renfrow will see action as a rookie and he will make an impact.
ROUND #7 PICK #230
Quinton Bell, Defensive End, Prairie View
Bell is an athletic guy who impressed those in attendance at his pro day with a 4.30 time in his 40-yard dash. He is a wide receiver converted to defensive end, and this training camp will give the coaches and trainers an idea of what he could be after a season or two on the developmental squad.