Here at Silver and Black Pride, two of our favorite types of articles to write are predictions and awards pieces for the Las Vegas Raiders, so why not combine both?
Last season, we handed out midseason and end the of the year awards for Most Valuable Player, Offensive and Defensive Players of the year, and Rookie and Comeback Players of the year. Today, we’ll take a stab at predicting those same awards for the 2022 campaign, all of which will surely be 100 percent correct and not end up on Old Takes Exposed at the end of the season…
The Raiders have brought in a few significant new faces this offseason, so we have a good variety of players for each category, and I’ll try to avoid any repeat winners from last season. That way we’ll simultaneously get a quick snapshot of what some of the new guys bring to the table with training camp less than a month away.
MVP: Davante Adams
2021 Midseason winner: Derek Carr
2021 End of year winner: Derek Carr
Carr is the low-hanging fruit for MVP and honestly, he will likely end up winning the award when the year is over, seeing as he plays the most important position on the field, is a good player and Las Vegas’ offense should have no problem putting up points. However, I’m going to step outside of the box and go with one of the new guys.
Adams comes to the desert having eclipsed the 1,300-yard mark three times in the last four regular seasons. The one outlier was 2019 when he missed four games and notched 997 yards. He’s also registered double-digit touchdowns in five out of eight career seasons with his rookie year and a couple of injury-plagued campaigns serving as the three ‘down years’.
Obviously, Adams should help the Raiders’ offense put up some points, but the biggest reason why he’ll be the team’s MVP is his presence should help open things up for the rest of the team’s playmakers. The former Packer consistently drew double teams in Green Bay, which should benefit guys like Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow as well as help open things up for the running game.
Darkhorse pick: Maxx Crosby
OPOY: Kolton Miller
2021 Midseason winner: Hunter Renfrow
2021 End of year winner: Hunter Renfrow
With Adams off the table and to avoid taking the easy route with Carr, I’m going to go with an offensive lineman here.
Everyone knows the Raiders’ line likely going to be the weakest offensive position group; however, Miller can serve as the team’s stabilizing force up front this year. He posted the seventh-highest PFF pass-blocking grade (84.4) among offensive tackles last year while also earning a career-high 76.3 grade as a run blocker. The latter may have only ranked 20th across the league, but it was more than a 20-point improvement from the previous season for him.
The personal growth from Miller has been great as he’s gone from a potential first-round bust to a Pro Bowl quality tackle. But the next step for him to take in his career is to emerge as a leader and get the four other offensive linemen to play at a high level. If he can continue to have individual success and help elevate his teammates, he’ll get my vote for OPOY which is a difficult award to win as a lineman.
Darkhorse (not really) pick: Darren Waller
DPOY: Chandler Jones
2021 Midseason winner: Maxx Crosby
2021 End of year winner: Maxx Crosby
Again, there’s a low-hanging fruit option and that’s Crosby, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jones walk away with the hardware when it’s all said and done. He’s managed to record double-digit sacks in every season where he’s participated in at least 15 games, and that’s primarily been while drawing tons of double teams and commanded the offense’s attention as the team’s top pass rusher. Playing on the other side of Crosby should help the 10-year veteran draw more one-on-one blocks and take the offense’s focus away from him to post another 10-plus-sack season.
While I am in the “sacks are an overrated stat” camp, they do matter for awards like this and Jones is no slouch when it comes to pressures, too. In five of his ten career seasons, he’s posted 60 or more pressures during the regular season and he’s had at least 40 in eight of the ten. The two years the pass rusher didn’t reach either of those benchmarks were 2014 and 2020 when he participated in 13 games combined.
It wouldn’t surprise me to see Jones out-pace Crosby on the stat sheet this year and thus, earn some notable recognitions.
ROY: Neil Farrell Jr.
2021 Midseason winner: Nate Hobbs and Tre’von Moehrig
2021 End of year winner: Tre’von Moehrig
This is the first category where I don’t think there is an obvious choice. Without a first or second-round pick, there’s a good chance the Raiders won’t even have a Week 1 rookie starter. However, there is a gigantic opportunity for any defensive tackle on the roster, especially Farrell.
Right now, Las Vegas’ starting defensive tackles are Johnathan Hankins and Vernon Butler, assuming Bilal Nichols plays more as a 4i- to five-technique or in a bigger end type of role. In other words, it’s an open competition on the interior of the defensive line and one that the LSU product could easily win.
The main reason I think that is his versatility. Farrell has the strength to effectively two-gap, and he has the get-off to penetrate when one-gapping. Versatility is something that the new coaching staff has preached this offseason, especially defensive coordinator Patrick Graham. So, the fourth-round pick could easily fall into the coaching staff’s good graces early on.
It also doesn’t hurt that he was a stud in Baton Rouge who ranked tied for fifth among SEC defensive tackles with 24 pressures last season and racked up 24 run stops, the most at the position in the conference.
CPOY: Trayvon Mullen
2021 Midseason winner: no consensus pick
2021 End of year winner: Darius Philon
This is going to be a pivotal season for Mullen. Not only does he enter a contract year, but he also has put together a couple of disappointing campaigns recently.
The Clemson product showed a lot of promise as a rookie with a slightly above average 62.5 defense grade from PFF, but he took a step backward in year two with a 55.3 mark. Then there was last season where he struggled to stay healthy and only participated in three full contests.
With that, Mullen is a perfect candidate to win Comeback Player of the Year, and he’ll have a chance to emerge as the team’s No. 1 cornerback this season.