2019 Draft: Final Thoughts and Grades

The Oakland Raiders, led by “second-year” head coach Jon Gruden and first-year (and first-time) general manager Mike Mayock, walked out of the draft with nine players after some maneuvering (notably on Day 3). For those that were following at the time, it’s safe to say I was cautiously optimistic if not underwhelmed or even borderline disappointed after the cards were turned in on Day 1 (that did change as we headed into and progressed through Day 3, however). As I stated, after getting a few nonsensical tweets off, I truly do like all the players the Raiders came away with. My problem was simply the value. I know it’s a tried-and-true football guy cliché that “there is no such thing as a reach”; if you like a player, go get him. I don’t think that’s necessarily fair. We’ve come too far analytically to stick by those old, dusty narratives. We can be honest now. That’s what I’ll try and do below.

First Round (No. 4 Overall) – EDGE Clelin Ferrell, Clemson

Nobody was upset when an edge defender came off the board. Pass-rush remained the Raiders most glaring need entering the draft, and after throwing around decent cash on the offensive side of the ball, it was no secret where Oakland was going to allocate the draft capital. Ferrell can obviously play. He checked in at 11 overall on my final “big board”, so not a far cry from where he was selected on Thursday evening. My biggest gripe here is obviously the talent that was still available. You can’t pass on Ed Oliver, who I had as the 3rd overall player in this class, and at a position where the Raiders could surely use a hand. Now, draft grades are definitely subjective, but at worse, he was a consensus top-5 talent for most of the “big media” names as we entered the first night in Nashville. But I digress.

Ferrell will be counted on early and often entering his rookie campaign. He looks the part height-weight-wise. He’s a winner, he’s been productive, and he checks all the intangible boxes, which quickly became the running theme for this year’s class. If this was the selection at 24 or 27, it would’ve been a home run. Heck, even off a trade down to somewhere around the 10 or 15 range. There were worse calls to be made at 4, and Ferrell is by no means a bad prospect, but leaving Oliver on the board will continue to sting.

Grade: B-

First Round (No. 24 Overall) – RB Josh Jacobs, Alabama

The draft is a complete crapshoot for the most part. We’re inundated with hundreds and hundreds of mock drafts throughout the year, and a “good mock” hits on 8-10 of the selections in the first-round. Nobody really has any idea what’s going to happen. However, each year, there are a few names you can write down in Sharpie. Jacobs to the Raiders was one of those selections. Jacobs was a polarizing player throughout the process. He was touted as the RB1, far-and-away, by some. Other’s stayed cleared given the lack of production and questionable test results. We now know what side of the debate Gruden was on, making Jacobs the only running back taken on Day 1. There’s plenty of literature out there about the value of the running back position, and why you should avoid sinking considerable capital into one (whether draft picks or contract money). Jacobs walks into a perfect situation in Oakland, Marshawn Lynch having just retired (again). The RB1 chair is vacant, and the volume is there for the taking. His ability as a pass-catcher keeps his ceiling relatively high, and his floor safe enough. The lack of production at school, coupled with the pro day numbers and overall positional value would’ve had me looking elsewhere at 24. Again, I like the player, but would’ve been a lot more satisfied at 35 overall, if not later.

Grade: C

First Round (No. 27 Overall) – SAF Johnathan Abram, Mississippi State

Abram, much like the two players selected before him, quite clearly checks the intangibles boxes. Married in college and becoming a father will do that to you, I suppose. He’s a leader. If it wasn’t apparent through two picks, it was obvious at this point what types of characteristics in these players Gruden and Mayock were after (Gruden historically prefers “self-starters”, and these high-character, high-floor-type prospects embody that). Abram was the SAF7 on my big board, a player that I had given a “round 2-3” grade to. You put on the tape and understand why certain evaluators were higher on him than I was. He’s a thumper. He’s a tone-setter in every sense of the word. He was a hammer working downhill and playing the run; the heart and soul of the Bulldog defense. He’s also probably limited in that regard, too. Keanu Neal can quite reasonably be his ceiling, as NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein suggests. He isn’t as consistent (as Neal) in coverage, but he did have his moments. A player I truly enjoyed watching this offseason but another name that came off the board a round (at least) too early for my liking. His arrival most likely signals the end of the Karl Joseph era, as well.

Grade: C

Second Round (No. 40 Overall) – CB Trayvon Mullen, Clemson

6-1, nearly 200 pounds. 4.46 speed. 123-inch broad jump. Not eye-popping numbers by any means, but numbers that you’d expect from a “top-50 selection”. Press-man corner with his long build, and someone that will get in your face on the line. Teams didn’t look his way all that often (so you won’t see the ball production in the box score; did not allow a score in coverage during his three seasons at school), which should say something. He was the defensive MVP (where he did, in fact, fill up the box score) on the biggest stage, which should also say something. However, all that said, he ended up as the CB17 on my board, with a “round 4-5” grade. The tape shows a player who did get beat, contrary to the high praise. He just doesn’t look confident enough for me, not at this point anyway. He does have above-average hips which allows him to flip and save a play where he was initially beat. That counts, but doesn’t really scream “second rounder”. He’s safe to an extent, and the championship pedigree was enough to rope Mayock and others in, but there’s a projection here as well. Getting close with and working opposite someone like Antonio Brown should help move that process along for whatever that’s worth.

Grade: C-

Fourth Round (No.106 Overall) – EDGE Maxx Crosby, Eastern Michigan

Okay, here’s where things get fun. I thought the Raiders had a really good and productive Day 3, and it started with Crosby. I said it earlier, but this is probably my favorite pick of the draft from a needs-value intersection. This is where you want to land; Crosby just makes sense. He’s a 1.2-sigma athlete (88th percentile). He’s been productive throughout his collegiate career, and you just landed him in the fourth-round. People will probably bring up the level of competition and schedule, but his one true limiting factor at the moment is his build and strength. Mayock made that clear. He’s listed at 255 pounds. If he can get up and running with an NFL strength and condition program, his ceiling grows notably. I’m very comfortable with these kinds of projections on Day 3. Thread below:

Grade: B+

Fourth Round (No. 129 Overall) – CB Isaiah Johnson, Houston

Another freaky athlete, Johnson sits at 1.6-sigma (94th percentile). That’s special, and exactly the type of player you want to gamble on mid-late. You’re never going to see me complain about hording all the plus-athletes. Zierlein had a round 4 grade on Johnson, given the obvious ceiling, which is different than my round 6 grade. It’s easy to fall in love; the flashes are there. You can’t teach 6-2, 208 with 4.4 wheels. At the same time, there’s a reason he’s a Day 3 pick (Gruden suggested that he’d pick him at 40 overall, where Mullen went, which would’ve been a whole other conversation). The tape is sloppy. You can tell he’s raw technique-wise. For every athletic play he makes, he’s getting dusted and beaten on the next series. Still, he landed in a reasonable draft slot for a prospect that’s essentially a moldable piece of clay, looking for coaching to take him to the next level. At worst, you have an immediate contributor on special teams. Thread here:

Grade: C+

Fourth Round (No. 137 Overall) – TE Foster Moreau, Louisiana State

Oakland has a hole at tight end after the departure of Jared Cook this offseason. Moreau isn’t going to be the quick answer in the passing game, but his profile suggests that he can get there. He was underutilized at school, but looks like he can make things move inline right off the bat. He welcomes blocking duties. I compared him to George Kittle (with an asterisk; he’s not on the same level talent-wise, and not quite there athletically) in the sense that Kittle saw his stock receive that friendly bump post-Combine, much like Moreau. Both were/are willing and capable blockers. Both registered similar production scores during their times at school (Kittle had a 48-737-10, receptions-yards-touchdowns line, Moreau with 52-629-6). Point is, the trend continued. This is the perfect upside pick, and at a position of need to boot. I’m a big fan. Thread here:

Grade: B-

Fifth Round (No. 149 Overall) – WR Hunter Renfrow, Clemson

So, Renfrow doesn’t keep the plus-athlete train moving for the Raiders on Day 3, but he is the most consistent and accomplished of the bunch by a wide margin. In what I’d considered a strong wide receiver class, Renfrow arguably has the best hands – almost easily. He said it himself, he just likes being counted on. He just likes being there for his teammates and he just wants to win. Gruden and Carr both collectively removed their pants when he dropped this bit of poetry. He’s going to fit in just fine. He’s not the high-ceiling or high-upside pick you’re accustomed to seeing this deep in the draft. He’s safe, and his high-floor is a welcomed addition to a revamped Raiders’ wide receiver corp, one that experienced it’s share of drops in the recent past prior to this revival. He should push for WR3/4 work and slot duties sooner rather than later. Thread here:

Grade: B-

Seventh Round (No. 230 Overall) – EDGE Quinton Bell, Prairie View A&M

I’m not going to lie to you guys and suggest that I watched (any) Prairie View tape. But I can tell you that Bell is a former wide receiver (yes, a wide receiver) that decided to live in the gym and make the move to the edge. He’s like a create-a-player. Draft those kids in the seventh-round all day:

Grade: C-

Final Thoughts:

Overall, I’m happy with this class. Day 1 was frustrating for a couple of reasons but I was happy to see the Day 3 investments. There’s a level of comfort knowing that this front office appears to be on the same page, singling out these “high-character”-type prospects and valuing them over pure production scores or pure athleticism. There is a happy medium there where you blend all three, and the Raiders were willing to go out of their way for it, for better or worse. I don’t have a “final grade” for this group, but you can draw your own conclusions based on my notes above. I would’ve went in a different direction with a few of these, but I’m just a guy with a Twitter account at the end of the day. I think it’s safe to say that the Raiders got better after this weekend, although that bar was set relatively low prior. If the top of this draft class steps in and steps up right away, and the free agents pan out as expected, Oakland may be able to make some noise in most of these contests — we know their schedule isn’t exactly on their side.

Catch me on Twitter: @StillRyanFive


2 thoughts on “2019 Draft: Final Thoughts and Grades

  1. As you commented, “the draft is a crapshoot”. I don’t agree with letting analytics be the end all in making personnel decisions. Analytics can’t measure heart and desire. Analytics can point out physical traits that should tell what a player is capable of, and can measure production. But there is much more that analytics can’t tell you. It can’t tell you if a player takes some plays “off”, it can’t measure whether or not a player’s desire or physical talents or a combination of both is responsible for his production. And analytics certainly can’t measure the desire and motivation of the competition players draftees played against. Analytics has it’s place, but teams should not depend on analytics to make mistake proof personnel decisions. If analytics could do that there would be no draft “busts” and no need for a scouting depts to have eyes on prospective draftees…

  2. Great work as always. The Abram pick was the only one I really didn’t like. He is undersized, doesn’t seem to have good technique tackling, and isn’t great in coverage. Sounds like someone else we already have in that position.

    I didn’t love Jacobs but he is a needed player and will immediately start day 1. So I can buy it. Same with Ferrel. Loved Oliver but maybe his character issues (coat incident) was too much for the staff.

    Fav pick is Renfrow as a sure handed receiver is something we haven’t had in a while. Not a bad class overall and can honesty say we are a better team now than when we were before the draft.

    Also added Tevon Coney from ND who is an absolute steal as well. Won’t be a pro bowler but will add some much needed depth to our biggest remaining weakness.

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