Raiders fans may be a little spoiled at the moment after the showing of last year’s rookie class. Much of that had to do with how many spots the team needed to fill combined with having four picks in the top 40 in which they selected three Day 1 starters in Clelin Ferrell, Josh Jacobs, and Johnathan Abram and eventual starter Trayvon Mullen.
It wasn’t just those four top-40 picks who made major contributions on the Raiders. There was also fourth-round edge rusher Maxx Crosby who became an every-down player by midseason, tight end Foster Moreau who was a part-time starter as a blocking tight end and occasional receiving threat, and fifth-round wide receiver Hunter Renfrow who worked his way into a starting slot receiver job and Derek Carr’s go-to third-down target.
With the exception of Abram, who was lost for the season in the opener, that’s seven starters by season’s end.
That’s lofty expectations for this year’s class. Can they come close to that? Let’s see.
Day 1 starters
WR Henry Ruggs III, CB Damon Arnette
First off, the team’s first-round picks are considered instant starters. Ruggs is the speedy Z receiver the team had been looking for all last year before, during, and after the failed Antonio Brown experiment. The closest he has to any sort of competition is free-agent acquisition Nelson Agholor.
Arnette will step into the starting cornerback spot across from 2019 rookie Trayvon Mullen. The team says they like what they have in 2019 fourth-round pick Isaiah Johnson, but even when healthy he couldn’t get on the field ahead of undrafted rookie Keisean Nixon. The position has some depth, but none have shown they are good enough options to have a first-round pick sit on the bench.
WR Bryan Edwards, RB Lynn Bowden Jr
Edwards at No. 81 will not be stepping into a starting role right away. But he does offer some all-around receiving skills that figure to have him rotating onto the field early. Tyrell Williams, Ruggs, and Renfrow are the starters. I would expect 30-35 targets for Edwards this season as well as offer the team a big red zone target.
Bowden at pick No 80 will see some part-time duties to complement Josh Jacobs while catching some passes out of the backfield. Though as long as Jalen Richard is in-house, he figures to be the top target out of the backfield. Bowden will also get a shot to be the team’s primary punt returner.
Next man up
CB Amik Robertson
For the time being, final fourth-round pick Amik Robertson is the backup nickel corner behind Lamarcus Joyner. Last season there was a lot of shuffling in the secondary, namely at safety with the losses of both Abram and Karl Joseph. Trading away Gareon Conley at midseason is what opened up a starting job for Trayvon Mullen.
As of now, the Raiders have three good options at safety and some depth at corner. Robertson can step up as in the slot which would allow the team to move Joyner to safety if needed. An option they didn’t have last season.
LB Tanner Muse, OG John Simpson
Tanner Muse at pick No. 100 will see most of his time on special teams, so outside of an injury to a starter, I wouldn’t expect much from him right away. The team invested in new starting inside linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski and outside linebacker Cory Littleton.
Fourth round guard John Simpson is buried on the depth chart at present. He is most comfortable at left guard and Richie Incognito is entrenched there. Gabe Jackson is still the starter on the right side. Returning as backups are Denzelle Good and Jordan Devey.