The new Las Vegas Raiders have a long history of legendary cornerbacks. From legends like Lester Hayes, Mike Haynes, Charles Woodson, and Willie Brown. The pedigree of dawning the silver and black is plentiful with pro bowls and hall of fame inductions.
However, the past two decades are scarce when it comes to the cornerback position. Besides the years with Nnamdi Asomugha being an elite corner, the spot has had the most turnover as any other position on both sides of the ball. Fans have had to deal with Stanford Routt and Phillip Adams for the past decade watching the team give up big play after big play.
While the Raiders have attempted to address the position through the draft, it has led to more bust than hits. D.J. Hayden and Gaeron Conley were first-round picks, and neither one of them ended being anything for the organization. Even late-round players like Keith McGill and Nick Nelson didn’t last longer than three seasons with the team.
Now with Mike Mayock at the helm, the Raiders took a stab at another cornerback to help fit the mold of how they want to play defense. The Raiders love tough, hard-nosed corners who love to tackle, and they started that precedent in 2019 by selecting Trayvon Mullen out of Clemson University.
Mullen’s Rookie Season
Mullen didn’t start the season as a starter as he sat behind Gaeron Conley and Daryle Worly. He got early action against the Denver Broncos but did not fare too well in his first action. However, after the Gareon Conley trade. Raiders fan saw what could be the future shutdown corner for the Raiders defense.
Once he entered the lineup, Mullen got better every single week. He finished the season with intriguing numbers for a rookie corner who usually struggle their first year.
According to Sports Info Solutions, Mullen finished the season giving up a completion percentage of 50.88%. He matched that with a rating of 70.94 allowed for the season. These are the best coverage numbers we have seen from a Raiders cover corner in years and displays Mullens’s full potential.
Mullen numbers would have been even better if he didn’t drop 3 interceptions on the year. This means he has a chance to have a big sophomore year once the game starts to slow down for him.
Dominant last three weeks
The last three weeks of the season is where fans saw Mullen takes his most significant leap. He was absolutely dominant during this period making his side of the field basically a non-target. You could make the case he was one of the best corners in football from Week 15 to 17.
Against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Los Angeles Chargers, and Denver Broncos Mullen was lights out. He allowed a completion percentage of 28%, which was 7th in the NFL with a YPA of 3.36, according to Sports Info Solutions. He allowed a passer rating of 41.07, which was ninth overall allowing just 15.67 yards per game.
With Mullen going into the same system in 2020, his development at the end of the year has to have the organization excited. The last three weeks could be a sign of how dominant Mullen could be for his whole sophomore season if he puts in the work.
AFC West Eraser
Division play is paramount for NFL teams to make the playoffs. The Raiders division rivals each have 1,000-yard receivers who demand attention on every snap. Mullen stepped up and help shut down these receivers during his 10 starts proving to be a menace for the talented group.
It started off Week 13, where Mullen was lined up against Tyreek Hill for five targets. Hill only caught two of those targets for 19 yards with Mullen displaying he could handle the speed of hill and dominate him in press coverage.
Keenan Allen and Courtland Sutton didn’t fare too well against Mullen, either. Allen only had one target, which led to a near interception on the play. Sutton was shut out as well, but he had three targets leading to zero receptions on the day. Mullen’s domination of the top receivers in the AFC West is excellent for the outlook of the secondary next year.
When evaluating a rookie season, you mostly want to see where they finish the year. Mullen excellent end to the season makes you believe he is ready to become a star in the next two seasons
Raiders have been searching for just a consistent corner production for most of the last decade. With the addition of Damon Arnette through the 2020 NFL draft, the future looks bright at the position. Mullen taking the next step could be the key to the defense coming into its own and consistently help the Raiders win football games.