There's a lot of optimism for the Raiders as they entering the second year of the Mike Mayock-Jon Gruden regime.
A new city and stadium will give the team a breath of fresh air after the general manager and coach duo built what seems to be a solid foundation. They added young talent, via the 2020 NFL Draft, to a roster that already had intriguing pieces in place.
Las Vegas is still cashing in on the Khalil Mack trade and had two first-round picks at its leisure. After plugging a huge hole at linebacker with the free-agent signings of Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski, the draft was a prime opportunity to add talent at wide receiver, defensive back and a host of other positions.
The Raiders’ complete 2020 draft class:
- No. 12: Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama
- No. 19: Damon Arnette, CB, Ohio State
- No. 80: Lynn Bowden, WR, Kentucky
- No. 81: Bryan Edwards, WR, South Carolina
- No. 100 (from Patriots): Tanner Muse, S, Clemson
- No. 109 (from Lions): John Simpson, G, Clemson
- No. 139 (from Buccaneers through Patriots): Amik Robertson, CB, Louisiana Tech
In this new series, I will analyze quotes that stuck out the most from executives’ pre- and post-draft press conferences. Below are quotes from Mayock.
Question: You had your pick of any of the top three receivers. What made you go with Ruggs?
Mayock: “All three wide receivers we felt were diverse and would bring different things to the Raiders and I feel like coach Gruden and that offensive staff is so good they could have gotten the most out of all three of them. However, the distinguishing factor really was his speed, his explosion and his work ethic. When you’re in the division we’re in and you look at Kansas City and you look at what they have on offense and what their explosion looks like, we needed to get faster and we think that his addition opens up our entire offense. He can run the deep routes. He also gets the manufactured touches, the bubble screens, the jet sweeps. I think if you force defenses to roll coverage, it opens up our run game. You respect our deep routes, it opens up Darren Waller. I just think it does an awful lot of things for us offensively and I think the most important thing is I think coach Gruden and the staff will get everything out of him.”
Analysis: Whether it was the No. 12 or No. 19 selection, one of the most obvious draft picks was a receiver. Interestingly enough, Las Vegas picked the speedy Ruggs. Mayock's comments about how much he affects the entire field and where Ruggs’ skill set separated itself from Jerry Jeudy and CeeDee Lamb were spot on. While his counterparts were more consistent, Ruggs was simply faster down the field.
As a multi-level target, Ruggs was able to incorporate his 4.28 speed in many different areas. His vertical speed and ability to threaten defenses deep is an added incentive to his game, but it's far from the only factor that he brings to the table. Mayock wants to do everything in his power to match the standard Kansas City has set within the division. Ruggs has the potential to be a huge addition to a receiving corps that needed a possible go-to threat.
My pre-draft take:
Ruggs is a match made in heaven for Alabama’s multi-level passing game. He dominated in multiple areas, but it’s his ability to rack up yards after the catch that made him a difference-maker during his three-year career. His physicality levels in his route stems could improve, but defensive coordinators will be hesitant to come down and challenge him because of the vertical dynamic associated with his game. He’s a much better route runner than he’s given credit for and has the ability to stop on a dime in order to change directions without any extra needed steps. Ruggs can win in the short-to-intermediate areas of the field as well. His speed forces defenses to guard every blade of grass, but even when doing so, he can leave tread marks on the playing surface from how fast he runs in an instant. Ruggs is in line to become a top-15 selection and a prospect that can be an instant impact type of threat because of how translatable his skill set is into today’s game.
Question: Why is Arnette not a reach for you at the No. 19?
Mayock: “The reason he’s not a reach is because of his grade in our system. Did I think we could have moved down maybe and still got him? Maybe, but we didn’t want to lose him. What distinguishes him is No. 1, he can run. No. 2, he’s tough as nails and when you talk about competitors. He played most of the season with a cast on his arm. He can play inside, he can play outside, he can play left, he can play right. We feel like this is one of the most competitive football players in the entire draft. So, to answer your question, we don’t feel at all like it was a reach.”
Analysis: One of the biggest surprises of the first round was when the Raiders drafted Arnette. He wasn’t expected to be selected that high, but Mayock has shown extreme comfort with selecting older players from winning programs. His obsession with picking Clemson prospects is well documented, but he also has now drafted players from Ohio State and Alabama.
My pre-draft take:
Arnette is a physical and agitating corner that’s unafraid to get right in the face of matchups. He’s most comfortable when he can get hands on at the line of scrimmage, but he executes vicious one-hand stabs while receivers are attempting to garner clean releases. His jam hand buys him time to mirror the opposition’s initial movements. He’s excellent with disrupting the get-off timing of routes and shows plenty of hand strength.
Arnette is an uncommon example of a starting senior Ohio State cornerback prospect and experienced a valley of highs and lows during his career. Luckily, during his up and down tenure, he seemed to develop a new positive trait. He has the versatility that teams covet with experience at both nickel and outside corner. Arnette’s experience and toughness will be a welcome addition to a team’s locker room and clear fit in a press-man scheme. His special teams value and presence will help his cause to see early action. While not an overly great athlete, he has the traits to become a reliable third corner or one who could fill in for a starter in short stints if forced to miss playing time for obvious reasons.