After the NFL draft, the off-season hits a slump. Barring the occasional arrest or training camp clip that gets blown out of proportion, there’s not a whole lot going on. So fans and analysts begin to speculate about what the next season will hold for the 32 franchises, especially with their rookie additions. We’ve never seen these players compete at the pro level, and not everyone will immediately live up to their expectations. Here are some realistic goals for the 2019 Oakland Raider rookie class.
Realistic Goals for the 2019 Oakland Raider Rookies
The Oakland Raiders shocked the world when they selected Clelin Ferrell with the fourth overall pick.
Honestly, I have tempered expectations for Ferrell. Not because I don’t think he can be a great player, I think he was a fantastic pick, but because it’s tough for pass rushers to make the transition to the pro game.
Just look at the likes of Chandler Jones, Chris Long, Cameron Wake, or even J.J. Watt. None of those guys had more than six sacks during their rookie seasons. Even Khalil Mack, who Raider Nation knows a little bit about, only had four sacks as a rookie.
I think Ferrell’s film will impress long before his statsheet does. So here’s what I expect from the Raider’s first pick. I expect a few “almost there” sacks, some really great plays against the run, and consistency. I expect Ferrell to come in and set the edge on day one, even if it takes a little longer to become a dynamic pass rushing threat.
Let’s put him in the neighborhood of 50 tackles, seven of which go for a loss, and four or five sacks. That might sound underwhelming, but he’s gotta make the jump, and it’s not like he’s on a loaded front seven that’s going to make it easy on him.
Of all the Raider rookies, I expect Josh Jacobs to make the biggest impact right away. Tailback is the easiest position to transition anyway, but Jacobs has the benefit of being the perfect back for the kind of offense Jon Gruden wants to run. He’s a capable runner in between the tackles and a very good receiver out of the backfield.
Towards the end of last season, the Raiders really got the run game going. In the second half of the season, Doug Martin and company averaged 108 yards rushing per game. Meanwhile, the team’s leading receiver (in receptions) was a tailback, Jalen Richard. In total, Raider tailbacks were responsible for 2,289 of the team’s 5,379 yards. That’s nearly 50% of their offense.
Now, obviously the Raiders had offensive line and receiver issues last season, and that played a big part in the Raiders relying on smaller, more conservative plays, but I don’t think the additions to the offense hurt Jacobs’ chances.
Odd Man Out
In fact, I bet the additions of players like Trent Brown, Antonio Brown, and Tyrell Williams will open things up for Jacobs. Imagine a defense perfectly schemes to take A.B. away, and then they shift someone over for Williams. Sure, there are tight ends and slot guys to worry about, but ultimately, Jacobs will have every opportunity to prove he was worth a first round pick.
So let’s say 1,100 yards on the ground, 600 through the air, 11 total touchdowns? That might be a little generous, but I believe in inflation by volume, and Jacobs should see no shortage of touches during his rookie season.
I think Jonathan Abram might be my favorite rookie from this whole class. He’s got good film, but his attitude is what Raider Nation is going to fall in love with pretty quickly. He plays with fire and when you hear him talk, you can feel the confidence. When Gruden called Abram to let him know he was being drafted, the ball coach told his rookie safety that he’d be coming after him in practice, and without missing a beat, Abram told him he’d return the favor.
He’s going to be a dominant force in the defensive backfield for the Raiders, and I think he’ll make an impact early. He might struggle in coverage, so don’t expect a ton of interceptions, but I wouldn’t put a couple of forced fumbles and a decent chunk of tackles past him.
Trayvon Mullen won’t be a day-one starter, but I could see him breaking into the rotation before the season is over. He’s behind Gareon Conley, Daryl Worley, and Nevin Lawson on the depth chart right now, and that’s a good spot for him. The transition from college to pros can be really hard for corners, and Mullen should be brought along slowly. But he’ll probably end up playing on Sunday’s after the bye.
Statistically, it’s really hard to say. I’d like to say he grabs his first career interception this year, but picks aren’t always a good indication of good coverage.
Mad Maxx Crosby is one of the most intriguing rookie players on the Oakland Raider roster. He’s some weight gain away from being a real player for the Raiders. He’s got a really, really high ceiling, but he’s just physically not ready yet. As a result, I don’t know how much of an impact he’s going to make as a rookie. Lack of depth at the position might see him get some extra snaps, but my expectations for a player I really like aren’t very high for his rookie season.
Isaiah Johnson is a physical freak. He’s got the ideal size and speed that you want from a cornerback in today’s NFL, and I think he could be a starting corner in a year or two. However, he’s still very, very raw. He just moved from wide receiver to corner two years ago, and against pro competition, he could be exposed at this point. Given how competitive the cornerback room is right now, between Conley, Worley, Lawson, and fellow rookie Mullen, Johnson’s biggest impact will come on special teams this season.
With the departure of Jared Cook in free agency, there’s an open competition for the tight end spot. Foster Moreau joins Derek Carrier, Luke Willson, Darren Waller, Paul Butler, and now Erik Swoope on the Raider roster. Darren Waller saw some playing time late last season, and seems to be the favorite to land the job on day one. Having said that, Moreau’s ability to runblock should see him get on the field every now and then.
Derek Carrier got on the field in a similar capacity last year, and made a decent impact, including the game-winning touchdown catch against the Pittsburgh Steelers. I don’t think he’ll be a player you target in fantasy football or anything, but he does have the ability to grow into a starter as time progresses. Just not this year.
Hunter Renfrow is a unique position to succeed right away, despite being a fifth round pick. Renfrow is a good football player that slipped in the draft for two reasons. Firstly, he’s a pure slot receiver. Being a smaller receiver, he’s never going to be the guy that can line up outside and take on the team’s best corner. Secondly, he’s not an elite athlete.
At the end of the day, Hunter Renfrow is the quintessential white slot receiver, as funny as that sounds. He’s a coaches son, he’s quicker than he is fast, he’s got a high motor, he’s a student of the game, it’s a running stereotype, but it just so happens to apply to Renfrow perfectly.
Considering the Raiders already have a do-it-all number one in A.B. and a big deep threat in Williams, there’s a real opportunity for Renfrow to step in day one and do what he does best.
I’m gonna be optimistic here and say Renfrow goes for 40 catches, 500 yards, and three touchdowns. That sounds like a lot, but I’m telling you, if he can beat out Ryan Grant and J.J. Nelson, he’s going to be lethal on third down.
Quinton Bell epitomizes late round flyer. He doesn’t really have film or production to speak of, but his pure athleticism makes him a player to watch. At 6’4, 250 pounds, Bell is a converted wide receiver and a former sprinter, and reportedly ran a 4.4 40 yard dash at his pro day. That kind of athleticism will make a scout overlook how much coaching it will take to make him a productive member of the team.
I doubt Bell sees any time on defense this season. He’s just so fundamentally underdeveloped that he’ll find himself at the very bottom of the depth chart. It would be fantastic if the Raiders could sneak him onto the practice squad, but if not, I wouldn’t expect more than some special teams work for the Prairie View A&M product.
Tongue in cheek, looking at a raw athlete with rare gifts like this, I can’t help but chuckle thinking that Reggie McKenzie might’ve taken him in the third round.