Breaking Down the Las Vegas Raiders Draft
Round 1 Pick 12: Henry Ruggs III, Wide Receiver
There is a meme going around the internet of the Star Wars show, The Mandalorian, where the Mandalorian is flying a spaceship and he sees someone with a flying backpack flying next to him, and he says, “I gotta get one of those.” This is exactly how one would imagine Jon Gruden watching game tape to prepare for the Kansas City Chiefs and breaking down Tyreek Hill‘s impact on the offense. This was a pick that surprised many national observers but was not that surprising to Raiders fans and their team’s legendary obsession with speed. As a team that has struggled to be relevant for years, the Raiders chose the highest upside. While more polished receivers Jerry Jeudy and CeeDee Lamb were on the board, the Raiders chose Ruggs for his game-breaking ability that they believe will translate the best to the next level of the NFL.
Although he is labeled a speed guy, Ruggs has sure hands and his route-running is crisper than some analysis would lead you to believe. Gruden should be excited to use Ruggs to open up the field, limit eight-man boxes attempting to stop bell-cow back Josh Jacobs, and also provide more space underneath for tight end Darren Waller and receiver Hunter Renfrow by drawing safety attention. Ruggs should provide the dynamic boost to the offense that the Raiders were hoping to add when they acquired Antonio Brown. Gruden will likely implement many of the route concepts that he had for Brown and finally be able to field the explosive vertical threat to complement his ground and pound running attack. The Raiders were swinging for the fences here but if Ruggs can make a Tyreek Hill-like impact on the game, it could be a definite help to them being able to catch and surpass the current Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs.
Round 1 pick 19: Damon Arnette, Cornerback
Mike Mayock was a great television analyst and has a good track record as a GM so far, but it’s a good thing he’s not an NBA defender because he is known for reaching! In a surprise move, the Raiders took Damon Arnette, who many people gave a third-round grade, at pick 19. The surprise lies in not the fact that they took Arnette, but that they didn’t trade down for a player who they obviously had rated higher than most other teams. Mayock’s inability to move back has caused confusion for Raiders fans for the second year in a row and put a lot of pressure on Arnette to perform right away.
Arnette has very good tape, similar to that of number-three pick Jeffrey Okudah, his teammate Ohio State. Arnette fell in the draft due to a sub-par 40 yard dash time (4.56). Furthermore, he appeared to have some commitment issues to football during his time at Ohio State. Fortunately for the Raiders and their fans, Arnette’s tape plays much faster than the time he recorded at the combine, and he was said to have a hamstring injury that caused his time to be slower than his tape.
The Raiders were attracted to Arnette by his physical play, his ability to tackle, and his ability to press and transition into coverage. He also showed promise by shutting down NFL-caliber receivers in big games in college. It is expected that Arnette will start opposite Trayvon Mullen at the CB2 spot and at 24 years old, with a stellar college track record, it is not far-fetched to believe he can step in and make an impact on defense right away. The Raiders have struggled in the secondary. The Raiders secondary could finally be competent for the first time in years if Arnette can be the player that Mayock hopes, combined with Trayvon Mullen‘s continued growth as a player.
Round 3 pick 80: Lynn Bowden Jr., Wide Receiver
Another weapon for Jon Gruden. Although Lynn Bowden was listed as a wide receiver, Mike Mayock announced that he plans to use his first third-round pick as a versatile option out of the backfield. Bowden moved around quite often at Kentucky and seems to be quite well suited for this role. Going into the draft, finding a complement to last year’s rookie standout running back Josh Jacobs was a priority. Once again, the Raiders went an unconventional route by choosing a versatile wide receiver to fill that role.
While this does seem a bit aggressive, it is a great idea. Running backs need to be a dual-threat in the new pass-happy NFL. A running back needs to be able to be a threat to make catches out of the backfield. Gruden can now run two-back sets with Jacobs and Bowden. This will allow Derek Carr to audible Bowden into the slot, another attempt to limit the number of eight-man fronts that the Raiders often see.
Bowden played quarterback in high school and took snaps at the running back position in Kentucky, so Bowden gives Gruden a versatile weapon to implement. However, he will have some time to learn. Because Jacobs played so well last year, it will not be necessary for him to make an immediate impact. This is a creative pick. It will really give Gruden the opportunity to show off his offensive acumen in play-calling and play design.
Round 3 pick 81: Bryan Edwards, Wide Receiver
Mike Mayock was feeling like Drake here with an opportunity to go back to back in the third round. Once again, they attempted to add weapons to a stagnant offense. They went with a four-year South Carolina starter in Bryan Edwards. Edwards has size and showed good speed on film. A broken foot prevented him from competing in the Senior Bowl and performing at the NFL combine. This led to a fall in his draft stock. Edward’s injury history is definitely a concern but his upside is worth the risk here. The Raiders are trying to retool a wide receiver room that has lacked punch and explosiveness since losing the Cooper/Michael Crabtree combination that led Carr to be so successful in 2016.
At 6 foot 3, 215-pounds, Edwards will provide some size to go along with the smaller Ruggs and Renfrow, the expected cornerstones in the offense. Ruggs will open up the field and provide explosive plays. Renfrow is good at finding soft spots in the zones. Edwards will hopefully be another third-down target for Carr with his ability to make receptions in tight coverage against smaller cornerbacks. Tyrell Williams did quite well for the Raiders last year but Edwards could be a potential Williams replacement if he continues to struggle with injuries and drops as he did last season. This is another player whose tape is higher than his draft grade. It was only injuries that pushed him back on most draft boards. If Edwards can stay healthy, he could be a fantastic complement to Ruggs and Renfrow.
Round 3 pick 100: Tanner Muse, Linebacker
We knew Mayock could not go too long without drafting a player from Clemson! Tanner Muse filled Mayock’s Clemson quota for the second day. The Raiders addressed linebacker issues in free agency. Yet they will still be looking to improve at a position in which they have struggled to field competent players in the last 10 years. Muse will be classified as a special teams player to start. Finding help at linebacker was a serious need for the Raiders. They hope that Muse can step up and provide defensive depth as well.
For a late-round player, Muse has impressive athleticism running a 4.41 40 yard dash and a 124-inch broad jump. Franchises run by Jon Gruden have overlooked special teams. It is reassuring to see Mayock addressing special teams. Muse should provide an instant impact on special teams. If he is able to cover tight ends at the NFL level, he could find his way onto the field for some linebacker or safety snaps as well. As a great athlete with a great motor, this was a sneaky pick that could pay dividends if Muse is developed correctly.
Round 4 pick 109: John Simpson, Guard
When in doubt, Mayock will go the Clemson route! At this point in the draft, teams are looking to acquire depth. That is exactly what the Raiders did here by choosing an offensive guard. Current starter Gabe Jackson is on the hook for a high salary cap number and the Raiders could be looking to draft Jackson’s replacement here. Simpson is 6-foot 4, 321 lbs. He put together an impressive array of game tape in his time at Clemson. Although, oftentimes he was dominating physically overmatched ACC opponents. Simpson will not be under pressure to start right away. He can spend time developing and learning his craft in a backup role. If things go well, he will probably not make an impact until next season.
Both Jackson and guard Richie Incognito missed time last season which could mean Simpson will be pressed into duty. Depth on the offensive line is a necessity if you want to be able to survive through the grind of the NFL season, which is oftentimes called a war of attrition. This was a solid pick, and the offensive line is a position of need for every team at all times. Mayock did a good job here addressing depth at a crucial position.
Round 4 pick 129: Amik Robertson, Cornerback
Value-wise, this could end up being the best pick the Raiders made in the 2020 draft. Robertson was rated in the fourth round because of his size, not his play. Robertson is only 5-8, 187, but his tape plays much larger than his measurements. Pro Football Focus had Robertson rated their second-highest playmaker at cornerback in college football. He was only behind Jeffrey Okudah, the number three draft pick. Robertson graded out well in several coverage categories including single coverage and contested-catch situations, which is often a problem for a player of smaller stature. If Robertson’s technique and dogged tenacity in coverage translate to the NFL, he could end up being the nickel coverage guy, playing ahead of Lamarcus Joyner.
If Robertson turns out to be the players that the analytics suggest he will be, this could be the steal of the draft. In this case, he will provide them with a great option to put on smaller slot receivers. Smaller slot receivers have given the Raiders problems for years. Raiders fans should be excited about this pick. He is a fourth-round player who has the potential to make an immediate impact in the defensive passing game. Fielding two rookie cornerbacks at the same time could be tough. Growing pains are to be expected. This secondary has plenty of potential. It is the most talented defensive roster that defensive coordinator Paul Guenther has had to work with in his time with the Raiders.
The Raiders did well to address their needs and weaknesses in this draft. The only criticism would be Mayock’s inability to trade back in the number 19 pick. They most likely could have got Arnette in the second round. However, trading back is more difficult than spamming trade requests in Madden franchise mode. If Arnette turns out to be the player that Mayock and Gruden expect, this will be a minor criticism in another successful draft for Mayock. The team and its fans should be excited at all the potential upgrades at their skill positions.
An interesting dilemma facing all NFL teams is the limited amount of OTAs and Training Camps. This will affect rookie preparation as they make the jump to the NFL. Will rookies make less of an impact? They will have less time to learn the offense. They’ll have less time to be around the teammates and absorb what life in the NFL is like. This will be a concern for all teams. Will limited practice time affect rebuilding teams stocked with younger players? Raiders fans should be excited at Mike Mayock’s second go-round as a GM. He upgraded their skill positions with talented players filled with potential.
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