The Las Vegas Raiders made the most of their 2020 NFL Draft, bringing in seven players who will make an impact immediately this season.
Every team believes they hit a home run with their picks in the 2020 NFL Draft, but we know that a draft class cannot truly be evaluated for at least three years. For the Las Vegas Raiders, the hope is that they are putting the final pieces in place on the rebuild they started when Mike Mayock took over as general manager.
The Raiders did an excellent job addressing many needs on both sides of the ball during this past draft, primarily at wide receiver and cornerback. Jon Gruden and Mayock made some picks that surprised some, but also did a very good job finding some steals at certain spots, including with their final selection, Amik Robertson.
One thing that can't be argued is the 2020 Raiders got better over the weekend, adding some highly talented young prospects to an already up and coming roster that is primed to make a run at the playoffs. This is a team that needed to get faster, and they accomplished that in a big way over the three-day period.
Now that the draft is behind us it's time to take a deeper dive into the picks and slap a grade on each of them.
Henry Ruggs III
Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden got their guy in Henry Ruggs III, a speedy wideout from Alabama that is just what this offense needs. The scenario at pick 12 could not have worked out any better for the Raiders, with all three of the consensus top wideouts available for them, including Oklahoma's CeeDee Lamb, and both Ruggs and Jerry Jeudy from Alabama.
In Ruggs, the Raiders get a legit threat for Derek Carr who will open up the offense. Defenses will need to respect Ruggs's long speed by rolling coverage in his direction. His presences will take the focus off of tight end Darren Waller and Josh Jacobs will see less loaded boxes.
Although he never caught more than 46 balls in a season at Alabama, he was as sure handed as they come, and averaged a touchdown every 4.1 catches. When he was given the opportunity he was explosive and on a Raiders team that struggled to find the end zone last season, he fills an immediate need.
Ruggs will fill multiple roles for the Raiders, as not only will he be a starting receiver, but the plan is to have him return kickoffs as well.
With the second of two first round picks, the Raiders addressed their next biggest need by selecting Ohio State cornerback, Damon Arnette. I have several reasons for my grade of this pick, the first being that I don't think they got the best value possible by taking Arnette at No. 19 overall.
Mayock spoke in his conference call that he fielded several calls about trading the pick, but in the end, he opted to stay put and take his guy, citing that he wasn't sure he would still get Arnette in a trade back scenario. This is a talented corner, but at No. 19, it may have been a bit of a reach.
I would have liked to seen the Raiders gamble that Arnette would have been on the board later in round one and picked up an extra pick later in the draft. One of my other concerns is Arnette's long speed, as he was only clocked a 4.56 in the forty at the combine. It's not a deal breaker but he could have trouble dealing with speedy receivers.
Besides the value, I think Arnette has the potential to be a very good fit in the Raiders defense with his tough, physical style of play. He has plenty of experience playing man to man from his days at Ohio State, and the Raiders needed a guy who can come up and play press-man coverage.
Lynn Bowden Jr
Simply put, Lynn Bowden Jr is a baller. I really like the pick the Raiders made at 80th overall with with the versatile Bowden out of Kentucky. When you look at what he was able to accomplish in 2019 at Kentucky, it really is remarkable, as he was a do-everything player for the Wildcats.
Changing positions during the season shows he has a team-first approach and is willing to do whatever it takes to win. The NFL is a copy cat league, and Gruden is looking to take a page out of two of the more successful offenses in the league with Kansas City, and Sean Payton in New Orleans with his usage of Taysom Hill.
Bowden offers versatility as he can play running back, wide receiver, and possibly even quarterback if Gruden wants to really get creative. One thing is for certain, the best way to utilize Bowden is to put the ball in his hands and let him make things happen.
Finally, Mayock also mentioned the possibility of using Bowden as a punt returner, so the value the Silver and Black got from this pick is off the charts.
Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock made it clear from the start that the mission in this year's draft was to get Derek Carr some help on offense. Again, they went offense with their second of three picks in round three by selecting wide receiver Bryan Edwards from South Carolina.
After not getting a lot of value with their 19th overall pick, they made up for it with this one. Edwards is a big-bodied, physical receiver who can be deployed in multiple ways. He is very good in the screen game with his run after the catch abilities but he can also be used down the field to make jump ball catches.
Pop up his film and you will see multiple acrobatic, one-handed catches. I think Edwards will be a big time red zone threat with his knack for going up and over smaller defenders. If it were not for some injury concerns, Edwards would have heard his name called in round two.
No disrespect to Tanner Muse, but this pick left me scratching my head. The Raiders pulled off a trade back with New England and picked up an extra fourth round pick, which was nice to see, but other than that I was disappointed with the pick.
For me, this pick was about lack of value. At pick No. 100, I personally thought there were better prospects available that could come in and contribute right away on defense. At the moment, Muse is nothing more than a special teams contributor and a developmental project at linebacker.
Mayock himself said that going into the draft he would be looking to add three starters in round three. You could consider Muse a special teams starter, but I don't see him contributing on defense for a couple of years.
The positive, he offers versatility, which was a common denominator for of all of this year's picks, he comes from Clemson, and he can run, posting a 4.41 40-yard time. Muse was a three-year starter at Clemson.
Like many of this year's selections, he was chosen as a team captain in college.
With 37-year old Richie Incognito currently the starter at left guard, the Raiders needed to go out and find an eventual long term replacement. John Simpson is solidly built, with thick legs that he uses to drive defenders into the ground. He is very comfortable and reliable in pass protection.
He was a two-year starter for Clemson and a consensus All-American selection in 2019. Depending on who's pre-draft rankings you were looking at, Simpson was widely considered as one of the top guard prospects in this years draft.
Overall, Simpson has the potential to be a full time starter, but will provide the Raiders with depth behind Incogntio and Gabe Jackson to start his career. Remember, there is a chance that the team trades away Jackson due to his cap number, and if that is the case, Simpson should be good enough to come in and start on the right side.
You've heard me speak a lot about value throughout this piece and with their final pick in the draft at 139 overall, Mike Mayock nailed it. If Amik Robertson was 5-foot-11 inches, he would have been a second rounder for sure. During the draft broadcast, NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah called Robertson the best slot corner in the draft.
He displays all of the qualities that the Raiders are trying to build within the locker room. He is a fierce competitor, has toughness, is a natural leader, and is an absolute bulldog in coverage. He possess elite ball skills as well, breaking up 48 passes, and intercepting 14 more during his three-year career at Louisiana Tech.
Lamarcus Joyner should be concerned for his job, because if he struggles out of the gate in 2020, Robertson might take it from him and not give it back. Robertson projects as the long term starter at slot corner, and one look at his tape shows the kind of defensive back the Raiders need to be bringing in to change the culture in the secondary.
Overall, I gave the 2020 Las Vegas Raiders draft class a B+. They were able to fill many needs, including playmakers on offense and in the secondary, and also brought in some versatile players who could be used all over the field this season.
At the end of the day, when you look at the selections that were made, you can see that there was a common theme among them all. Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden are looking to build a team that at the core of it's foundation has high character, a strong work ethic, loves the game, is fast, offers versatility, and is tough.
When you look at it through that lens, than the objectives were met, and this is a better team than it was on Wednesday. There is a clear plan and vision for the direction of the organization, and Mayock and Gruden are executing it, and the future certainly looks bright as the franchise moves to Las Vegas.