Since Jon Gruden became the head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders, his draft selections have faced constant ridicule. Even when he brought Mike Mayock on board, every media pundit was not excited about their first-round picks.
Many of the criticism is for a good reason. The Raiders collected five first-round picks in 2018 with the Khalil Mack trade and earned the number four spot with a 4-12 record-setting them up for success.
Drafting the defensive end to replace Khalil Mack was paramount for the Raiders, especially with high-end pass rushers at the top of the draft. The front office decided to shock the world and draft Clelin Ferrell out of Clemson.
The shock of that reverberated through Raider nation and even became a meme for many on Twitter. It set the reputation for the Raiders during the regime. Ferrell became the face of their draft class.
Ferrell, of course, has not lived up to his draft status. He has six and a half sacks in three seasons. He is a backup in the defensive line rotation behind Carl Nassib and might be trade bait at the deadline.
While facing the same scrutiny, the rest of the class hasn't had the same fate as Ferrell. Five of the nine draft selections are starters, and a sixth is a consistent contributor.
Josh Jacobs is polarizing because he was a running back taken in the first round. However, he has 24 touchdowns with two 1000 yard finishes in three seasons while dealing with injuries, including five touchdowns in five games this fall.
Jonathan Abram's struggles last season are well documented, but he has improved his coverage passer rating from 123.3 to 51.4 using PFF metrics.
Abram plays football like these guys stole his money pic.twitter.com/xYP2IqlFAP— BD Williams (@BDWilliams18) October 15, 2021
Move to the second round, and Trayvon Mullen has become a solid starting corner who was off to a career year before the injury. When he returns, he will create a tandem with Casey Heyward with a combined coverage passer rating of 62.05 in 2021. Mullen keeps us his play as we advance. He might receive another contract.
Then you move to the fourth round, where the steal Maxx Crosby arrives. Crosby was the tenth edge rusher when he heard his name off the board. He has shattered expectations and leads the class in sacks and quarterback hits. The Texas native has jumped into near elite status with his 2021 performance leading the NFL in total pressures using PFF. He is second using NFL nextgen stats.
The top 5 players in terms of QB pressures this season:— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) October 27, 2021
1) #Raiders Yannick Ngakoue
2) #Raiders Maxx Crosby
3) #Bengals Tey Hendrickson
4) #Titans Harold Landry
5) #Broncos Von Millerpic.twitter.com/COR9xi49Rw
Foster Moreau exhibited his ability as a tight end with Darren Waller out vs. the Philadelphia Eagles. He has eight touchdowns in three seasons with limited snaps the previous year behind Jason Witten. Moreau's issues with blocking earlier in 2021 were not typical and have bounced back with a new run game.
There is the fifth-round gem Hunter Renfrow who has become a fan and twitter favorite. Renfrow is a football player with great instincts who has developed into one of the premier slot receivers in the NFL. Going into the bye week, the former Clemson Tiger leads the team in targets and receptions on the year.
All of Hunter Renfrow's 11 MTFs(missed tackles forced) pic.twitter.com/CN0hHLqchq— Marcus Johnson (@TheMarcJohnNFL) October 27, 2021
These five players have contributed to helping the Raiders get off to a 5-2 start. Any viable GM would take nine total touchdowns, five sacks, and two inceptions from his draft class going into year three. It will be hard to retain all of these players, but hopefully, they can help the Raiders reach new heights.