The Oakland Raiders struck gold with their three Clemson Tigers draft picks in 2019, and they should look to the program once again in 2020.
In his first draft as an NFL general manager, Mike Mayock had a lot of pressure on him to rebuild this Oakland Raiders roster. The franchise had traded away Pro Bowl players for multiple first round draft picks, as they looked to stockpile talent after a four-win season in 2018.
Despite being new to the general manager game, Mayock came out blazing, putting together the best Raiders rookie class in recent memory. Most of his 2019 draft class played huge roles for the team as rookies, including running back Josh Jacobs, who could end up being the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year.
In his final season in college, Jacobs took on the Clemson Tigers in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game. The Crimson Tide were beaten by the Tigers on that day, and little did Jacobs know, he would be playing with a bunch of guys on that team in the pros only a few months later.
With his first ever draft pick, Mayock rolled the dice on Clelin Ferrell from Clemson, a guy who won two national titles as a member of the program. Many expected Mayock to go for Josh Allen, who was rated the second-best defensive player in the draft class, but Ferrell was the first of a few Tigers to hear their name called by the Raiders over the next few days.
Allen had a stellar start to his NFL career this season, but so did Ferrell, who really came on strong later in the season. In round No. 2, Oakland again went the Clemson route, adding cornerback Trayvon Mullen, who, like Ferrell, played exceptionally well down the stretch for the Raiders, proving to be a true CB1 moving forward.
In the fifth round, the Raiders struck gold via Clemson again, bringing in Hunter Renfrow, who had a title-winning catch for the Tigers a few years earlier. Renfrow proved to be automatic in the slot for the Raiders this season, ending his first year in the Silver and Black with back-to-back 100-yard games.
In 2020, the Raiders need to look to the Tigers once again, as they have a few players who could fill major roles for the franchise moving forward. Based on his first draft, Mayock is going to bring in players from winning programs, and Clemson has been the best of the best in recent seasons.
Linebacker/Safety hybrid Isaiah Simmons may be the second-best defensive player in this draft class, and would play a dual-role on a Raiders defense that struggled mightily at times this season. Simmons is an incredible athlete, and if quarterbacks go early in round one, he could fall to the Raiders at No. 12 overall.
In addition to Simmons, wide receiver Tee Higgins is a guy who could land in the Raiders lap later in round one, and he brings a dimension that this offense is lacking. The Raiders had major issues at the wide receiver group all season long, and Higgins is the kind of player who could step in and be a true WR1 for Derek Carr in 2020.
Lastly, one player to keep an eye on is A.J. Terrell, who was a starter alongside Mullen as a Sophomore last season. Terrell is an excellent cover corner, and could fall to the Raiders in the third round, where he would be an absolute steal.
Mayock proved his draft savvy in 2019, and you can be sure all eyes will be on him as the Raiders host the 2020 NFL Draft. Clemson will battle it out for the national title in two weeks, and Mayock and company will be all over it once again.