Raiders go heavy on defense in early rounds of NFL Draft

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Oakland Raiders

The Oakland Raiders went 12-4 just three seasons ago and plummeted to 6-10 in 2017 and 4-12 last year. They were poor on offense, ranked 28th in scoring at 18.1 points per game and last in points allowed, at 29.2 per game. With holes to fill on both sides of the ball, we take a closer look at the Raiders three 1st round picks and top six selections in the 2019 NFL draft.

Round 1 (4th) Clelin Ferrell (DE) Clemson

Ferrell did not play in 2015 due to a hand injury, and was a redshirt freshman. He made 50 tackles, including six sacks in 15 games in 2016. Earning first-team AP All-American as a sophomore, Ferrell made 63 tackles with 9.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in 2017. A first-team All-SEC member as a senior, Ferrell had 19.5 tackles for loss, including 11.5 sacks and three forced fumbles.

The Raiders had a dreadful pass rush last season, sacking opposing quarterbacks only 13 times. Ferrell is a solid overall player, who could be a player to build around on the defensive line. The selection of Ferrell was the first time in a decade and a half that the Raiders opted for a pass rusher in the first round.

Round 1 (24th) Josh Jacobs (RB) Alabama

Jacobs made an immediate impact, rushing for 567 yards and four touchdowns as a freshman in 2016. In 12 games as a sophomore, Jacobs averaged 6.2 yards per carry but ran the ball only 46 times. Become a more featured part of the attack last season, Jacobs ran for 640 yards and 11 touchdowns and also caught 20 passes for 247 yards. Adept on kickoff returns, Jacobs averaged nearly 31 yards on 14 returns and a touchdown.

A powerful runner at 5’ 10” and 220 pounds, Jacobs ranked second in the country last season in broken tackles last season. He’s also shown the ability to be a receiver out of the backfield. Look for Jacobs to be an every down back who should make a significant contribution from the start.

Round 1 (27th) Johnathan Abram, S, Mississippi State

As a freshman in 2015, Abram made 25 tackles in ten games with Georgia. He transferred to Jones County Junior College as a sophomore in 2016 before enrolling at Mississippi State as a junior. /He was named first-team All-SEC in 2017 and lead the team with 99 tackles and two interceptions as a senior.

Abram adds much needed size to an otherwise small secondary. At 6’ and 205 pounds, Abram has the ability to play in the box and stifle the run or rush the passes. Not great at playing the ball, Abram likely won’t be asked to cover downfield.

Round 2 (40th) Trayvon Mullen (CB) Clemson

As a reserve as a freshman in 2016, Mullen make 15 tackles. He was All-ACC as a sophomore in 2017 after making 42 tackles and three interceptions. Mullen was second-team All-ACC last season and was Defensive MVP in the title game against Alabama.

The Raiders continued their pursuit of defensive help, selecting their third player on that side of the ball in their first four selections. With the selection of Mullen, the Raiders did a good job added physicality at the cornerback position. He could compete for a starting position during training camp and even if he doesn’t start, Mullen should be an immediate contributor.

Round 4 (106th) Maxx Crosby (DE) Eastern Michigan

As a reserve in 2016, Crosby made 35 tackles, including 5.5 for loss of yardage. During his sophomore season, Crosby was first-team All-MAC after making 57 tackles and team-best 11 sacks. Again making all-conference honors last season, Crosby make 70 tackles, including 19 for loss of yardage.

Adding a second pass-rusher in the draft, Crosby and Ferrell join a group that includes Josh Mauro and Arden Key. It’s not certain whether or not Crosby can contribute significantly in his first season. However, he ranks second in Eastern Michigan history in sacks and tackles for loss, so the potential is clearly there.

Round 4 (129th) {{playerID-3733|Isaiah Johnson}} (CB) Houston

Johnson played two seasons at Houston as a receiver, catching a combined 21 passes for 208 yards before moving to the defensive side of the ball. In 2017, he started five game and had two interceptions. Last season, Johnson made 66 tackles and intercepted two passes in mainly a starting role

My take: A converted receiver when he first arrived at Houston, the 6-f00t-2, 208-pound Johnson might also be turned into a safety by the Raiders, if he improves his physicality. In two seasons as a cornerback, Johnson had four interceptions and 18 pass breakups. He joins Stanford Routt and DJ Hayden in a growing line of Houston cornerbacks taken by the Raiders.

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