Mason Thompson | January 17th, 2020
Many thought that the Raiders got a steal when they traded for Steelers receiver, Antonio Brown for third and fifth-round picks. Well, we all know how that turned around. Not only has Brown’s playing career turned completely upside down, but his whole life has as well. After his last blunder which showed him live-streaming a profane outburst against his ex-girlfriend in front of multiple police officers, he has lost all but any chance he had at returning to the NFL.
Brown was only on the Raiders for a few months but had the organization in tons of drama without playing a single snap for them. Without him, the Raiders still had a solid season in the second year of a rebuild under Jon Gruden and first-year general manager, Mike Mayock. The Raiders went 7-9 and closed out their campaign in Oakland as they plan to move to Las Vegas before the 2020 season kicks off.
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What Went Right
Despite strong criticism for his drafting, Mayock had an astounding draft class. Fourth overall pick, Clelin Ferrell was a surprise when it happened and it took a while for him to reach his potential. Ferrell finished with four and a half sacks on the season and will be a name to watch next year. Josh Jacobs could very well win offensive rookie of the year with his performance this year. The Alabama product had over 1,000 yards rushing on the year and is one of the top young running backs in the league. Johnathan Abram only played one game, but still made an impact in the game.
Teaming up with Ferrell, Maxx Crosby was an animal. He had ten sacks, four forced fumbles, and four passes deflected, which all happen to be more than Nick Bosa on the year. Trayvon Mullen, who many thought of as a developmental corner, played in all 16 games after Gareon Conley was shipped off to Houston. Mullen had ten passes defended, 48 tackles, and an interception. Hunter Renfrow stepped in as the team’s slot receiver this year. The rookie out of Clemson had 49 receptions for 605 yards and four touchdowns. While Darren Waller might’ve gotten most of the attention at the tight end position for Oakland, Foster Moreau was a great complimentary piece adding 21 receptions for 174 yards and five touchdowns.
Not only were the players that Mayock drafted great, but he also got great production from undrafted players. Wisconsin fullback, Alec Ingold led the way for Jacobs most of the year and helped in the flat for Derek Carr. After Rodney Hudson went down with an injury, Andre James stepped in and did well. Keelan Doss was a draft darling who somehow managed to go undrafted but played a role for the Raiders. Punter A.J. Cole had a great year, including the longest punt of the season.
If Mayock and the front office continue to put drafts together like this one, the Raiders will be contenders. Well, the Raiders have two first-round picks this year again, let’s see what Mayock can do this time.
What Went Wrong
The situation with Brown had the team scratching the surface for any sort of weapon for Carr. Waller came through but Carr was relying on him and Tyrell Williams most of the time. Wide receiver is still a top need for the Raiders this offseason.
The defense still needs work at all three levels. The linebacker position has been ignored for far too long and the Raiders might not be in a position to select the best one in the class at their current slot. Cornerback is still a big concern even with Mullen’s progression.
The Raiders lost their last game at the Coliseum against the Jaguars. The whole situation with a new stadium not being built and the team losing in the final game played in Oakland wasn’t a good send-off for the fans that had supported the team.
Outlook for the Offseason
The Raiders have the 11th-most salary cap in the league with just over $56 million to spend. With tons of holes on defense and a lack of depth at receiver, the Raiders would be wise to take a look at free agency to fill some of the holes before drafting for their biggest needs.
The Team’s Free Agents
The Raiders don’t have many superstars that have contracts up this year. They do have some veteran players playing in crucial roles though.
Richie Incognito was brought out of retirement to play and start on the offensive line. Even with Incognito signed to an extension a few weeks ago, the team will need help and depth along the interior of the offensive line.
DeAndre Washington played a big role once Jacobs went down with an injury. He and Jalen Richard are both two-down backs who can’t handle the every-down workload but Washington showed he can do it all when needed. I’d expect the Raiders to offer Washington a contract.
Doss is an exclusive-rights free agent, meaning he can only sign with the Raiders unless they choose to not resign him. If the Raiders choose not to, Doss will be able to sign with whatever team he chooses. The Raiders should bring him back as the wide receiver room isn’t that great and Doss offers great upside.
The true wild card is Vontaze Burfict. He was suspended following a hit in week four on Jack Doyle. Burfict is currently suspended by the league. The Raiders have one if not the worst linebacker rooms in the league and that is with him in the lineup. The Raiders need to find other options even if Burfict is retained because of the reckless playing style that could lead to him being suspended once again.
Open Market Free Agents
With Nathan Peterman and Mike Glennon set to enter free agency, the Raiders should take a look at the open market for a new backup option to Carr. Geno Smith is the best option as a career backup or they could take a look at Marcus Mariota as well.
I don’t expect the Raiders to make a big move to obtain A.J. Green or Robby Anderson in the open market. I would expect them to target any of Nelson Agholor, Rashard Higgins, or Tajae Sharpe as a reliable option on the outside.
The linebacker position needs desperate help. The Raiders should offer Danny Trevathan a contract if he hits the open market as soon as possible. Other options would include Cory Littleton or Blake Martinez if they aren’t re-signed by their current teams.
Projecting the NFL Draft
1st Round, Pick 12: Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama
The receiver class is incredible this year so the Raiders might be able to snag Jerry Jeudy if teams sit tight and wait on a receiver. I don’t think that will happen though. Ruggs is Jeudy’s teammate at Alabama and is a bit rawer, but he will challenge for the 40-yard dash record at the combine. So, this would be a typical Raider pick.
1st Round, Pick 19: Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma
As I stated multiple times already, the linebackers aren’t great for the Raiders. They aren’t in a position to obtain Isaiah Simmons with the recent retiring of Luke Kuechly without a trade-up and Murray is the next best in a class that isn’t deep at linebacker. He has a great work ethic that Mayock and Gruden will love.
3rd Round, Picks 80, 81, 91: Cornerback
It wouldn’t surprise me if they took a corner earlier than this. However, the Raiders could use all two or three of their third-round picks and move up into the second round and grab a corner. If Mayock and Gruden have their eye on a certain cornerback like Jeff Gladney, I would expect them to be aggressive in addressing this position on day two.
With the move to Las Vegas and the draft also being held there this year, the Raiders will be a team to watch. If they get one more difference-maker on offense and a couple of key defenders on defense, they could challenge for a playoff berth again.
The team’s success still is on Carr. If he doesn’t improve this year, he could be on his way out. I was tempted to give the team a quarterback as part of the draft but I think they will ride with Carr one more year. The AFC looks to be improving so it won’t be as easy as it has been for the Raiders to make the postseason.
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