If you’re looking for entertainment mixed in with your College Football / NFL analysis, look no further than Thor Nystrom from Rotoworld. Not only does this guy know his stuff, but he always has a unique perspective that isn’t afraid to be a bit different than everything else you’re reading.
For that reason, I reached out to Thor to see if he’d be willing to sit down for an interview about the Las Vegas Raiders’ draft class. Ultimately, he was very generous with his time — offering great insight on just about everyone in the draft class, including tons of quotes you’ve probably already seen throughout our “Deep Dives” series.
Because there was way too much goodness to fit into that series alone, we decided to publish the interview in full, so enjoy!
What did you think about the Henry Ruggs pick at No. 12?
I understand the thinking there, and while I would have preferred Lamb or Jeudy, the kind of prospect that Ruggs is changes the way that the defense defends you on every play. It’s a field-tipping thing. play in and play out. He forces the safety back and the safety to that side on every single play no matter what, so I understand what Mayock and Gruden are thinking there.
His comp is Tyreek Hill — when he’s on the field you have to account for him at all times — even when he isn’t getting the ball, which will open things up for other players. The other two guys are more complete receivers, but philosophically I can’t argue with it. He was my 15th ranked player, and he went 12th. The only thing you could possibly quibble with is him over Lamb/Jeudy, but I understand what they’re doing.
Overall, I think Ruggs impact will be less in yards — just like at Alabama. He had second biggest hands in class, and only dropped a couple passes his entire career and that’s no fluke. He’s explosive and reliable. His value will be more than aggregated numbers.
Overall, though, you weren’t super pleased with the Raiders draft — giving them a C- post-draft grade, which was tied for the ninth-worst mark in the league.
My bigger issue with what they did in the first round — the only real issue I had with the class in general — is with the Arnette pick. The Raiders have seen kids differently than me, and this is an example of that.
I had him as the 83rd ranked player in the class — in tier 3 of corners (CB11), and so a third round guy. Smaller corner, athleticism is not upper tier. I thought there were better guys out there at 19. I thought the Vikings got a guy (Jeff Gladney) a lot better later in the round — not to mention Jaylon Johnson (if his shoulders check out) and Kristian Fulton (who did have some character concerns, so maybe that played a role).
The Raiders like a specific kind of player and Arnette is a feisty kid — which has gotten him into trouble at times — and it’s the Gruden grinder kind of thing, but it just felt like a reach. For me, he was one of the two biggest reaches in the first round.
I totally get that, and I know his speed was part of the reason some people were down on him. And yet, you don’t see him getting burned at Ohio State…
Well, he had a guy playing on the other side (Okudah). Arnette wasn’t getting run by because he wasn’t on the top assignment every time — or even most of the time. He was in advantageous matchups quite often. He did okay, but he was also an older kid as well who had physically matured as well — and as a person.
When I’m looking at an older player who is consistently drawing secondary receivers and doesn’t have the athletic juice thing which is why I see him grabbing sometimes, it worries me. I just didn’t see it with him. I had him at 11, so I had him above a bunch of guys — I think he’s going to be a starter. If they take him in the second or third, great. But if you take a guy in the middle of the first round he has to be a tremendous athlete — you can’t take a guy whose profile puts a glass ceiling on what he can do.
I’m projecting him as a solid No. 2 NFL cornerback, but if you’re going to draft a kid top-20 you’re telling the NFL you think he can become a potential No. 1, NFL shutdown cornerback. But what tape are you seeing that is showing you that?
The other pick that got some heat was Tanner Muse from Clemson in the third — was that another reason you struggled with the Raiders’ draft?
Ever since Mayock and Gruden combined to take over, it’s strange because I leave the first round scratching my heads both times, but later on in the draft I love everything that they do. Like last year, Maxx Crosby was one of my favorite Day 3 picks. Starting on Friday I loved everything.
Personally, I love the Tanner Muse pick. He’s a guy that in college, I didn’t like him as a player at deep safety — but I think he was miscast, and when they played him in the box, he was a stud. And it wasn’t just an eye test thing, but if you look at his PFF things, the advanced numbers on him when he’s playing in the box it’s super interesting the way his coverage grades change.
When he’s in the box he is AWESOME in coverage, and he’s always great in run support because he’s a big athletic kid who loved getting his nose dirty. People that didn’t like him watched him at deep safety — he’s just not comfortable running with big time athletes in space, but when he just has to pick up a RB or TE, he’s awesome because he’s more athletic about them.
So you think he’ll be able to play linebacker at the NFL level?
The narrative about him being a position convert is a mistake because over the last two years he actually played double the snaps in the box (710) as he did at deep safety (350) — so the transition won’t be as difficult as some people think it will be. Clemson loves screwing with positional labels — (defensive coordinator Brett) Venables loves to do that, they just move people around. I ranked Muse No. 112 and they took him No. 100. Raiders probably saw him exactly the way I did, and I’m sure they saw the advanced numbers, and if we put him at linebacker all those weaknesses go away.
Their first third-round pick was Lynn Bowden from Kentucky, who Mike Mayock says will start out at running back. What do you think about that idea?
He’s just a guy you want to get the ball in his hands, because with his broken tackle rate it’s hard not to think that kind of transition is going to work. What he did last year is unprecedented in modern, big boy football. He started out as an undersized slot receiver, then in the middle of the year, they move him to quarterback and all these ridiculously talented defenses know you can’t throw and they’re going to be geared up to stop him. And they couldn’t do anything.
Some of his runs are just crazy, his vision is insane, he’s hard to get an angle on, hard to square him up so guys are sliding off him, he’s very quick — deceptively so — and he has some deceptive speed too. He’s not the fastest guy, but he has some juice to him. He’s a smaller guy who breaks a ton of tackles.
I Had him as the 14th receiver, and compared him to Randall Cobb. I just really like his game, and he’s a fighter too. And it said a lot about him that in his last college season he was willing to do a super wonky thing and move to quarterback. I thought it was so cool. For some guys it would be more difficult to project in the slash role, but the one guy you can is the guy who did something unprecedented. I know he can play multiple positions in the NFL. I like that pick. The Raiders are obviously trying to become more dynamic and multiple, they clearly have some ideas for stuff screwball type with Bowden.
Right after Bowden they grabbed Bryan Edwards — a guy I really loved at that spot — what did you think about the value there?
Edwards is a guy who if he hadn’t snapped his ankle may have gone higher, so they may have gotten value — not to mention the deep class. Normal class and healthy, last year he would have been a second round pick.
Part of his problem is that he was used weird at South Carolina, which didn’t help his cause. They throw a lot of screens and stuff, which was Deebo (Samuels’) game, and they tried to use Edwards like that but it isn’t really his game. You want him outside, doing intermediate or downfield stuff — you don’t want him in confined areas near line of scrimmage, but in space.
He’s one of the most physical guys in the class, and he was freaking shredded at the combine when I saw him up close, so I imagine that the Raiders are going to use him more how he should have been used, which I think that will be more advantageous to his game. He may be limited to being a possession receiver, but if that’s the case he’ll be a good one. I say that because we didn’t get to see his testing numbers, so that part of it is a mystery. That’s the unfortunate part.
If you think of it like a basketball team, you want guys with different skill sets. You have Ruggs as the guy who is your explosive guy and gets the YAC, then you have the stud slot in Bowden, and then the really good physical receiver in Edwards. They perfectly play off one another.
The last guy they grabbed was someone a lot of people — including yourself — were really high on, Amik Robertson. Should Raider fans be thrilled?
I was surprised Amik Robertson was there, and heard it was only because of health concerns, otherwise he would have been long gone by then. I had him 70th overall, and the Raiders got him at 139, so I thought he was a steal there — and if his body holds up it was highway robbery where they got him.
He’s one of the class’ best pure slot guys. What can he not do? He’s not an outside guy, but that’s fine. Starting slot cornerback is now a starting position in the NFL and you have to treat it that way. In college he was just as active as any other cornerback (stats). He had 23 TFL, 3 sacks over 38 starts — and he’s another guy who has the attitude, maybe even more than Arnette.
He plays with a “we are Sparta” attitude, banging the sword against the shield. He plays bigger than his size and is totally willing to throw his body around. Just tosses himself like a projectile on run defense. Kid growing up in Louisiana who idolized Tyrann Mathieu and while he’ll be a slot corner, when he plays run defense and blitzes that’s who he evokes. He’s not as big, but he acts like he is.
Okay last question: when you look at the big picture with this class, what are your takeaways?
It’s kind of like the emoji with the guy throwing his hands up. It’s “wait and see…”.
The Raiders are one team that I philosophically get the type of player they’re attracted to, but I still don’t understand the way that they value the top part of their board. But then they get awesome value later.
I think I understand the direction they’re taking things, but they have this emphasis on character, but they’re over-emphasizing things earlier on. They’re going to have to do a better job of looking around the poker table, understanding the value that other teams are putting on other guys (Just like with Clelin Ferrell last year). The Vikings were sitting at 20 whatever, and they wanted Gladney, and they were still able to gamble that he would still be there — and of course he was still there. Why did the Raiders not do the same thing? And if someone wanted Arnette, then who cares, take Gladney or Fulton. They can’t argue that he’s such a superior prospect that they had to have him.
I think the Raiders are doing some things really well, but the value at the top of the board, I need to see how some of these things shake out. I thought overall this year I thought it was a step forward in terms of getting value because Arnette was the only pick I had qualms with.
To check out more of Nystrom’s stuff, check him out on Twitter at @Thorku
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