Raiders Rookie S Johnathan Abram Enforcer Defense Needs

With the 27th pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, the Raiders selected safety Johnathan Abram from Mississippi State. Below is a look at what Abram brings to the table. 

A few days before the 2019 NFL Draft, there were reports that the Raiders could have a surprise selection. If defensive end Clelin Ferrell at pick four wasn’t enough of a unexpected move for you, Oakland doubled down on their surprises by selecting safety Johnathan Abram with pick 27. The Draft Network ranked Abram as the 65th overall prospect and while the Raiders needed to upgrade their secondary, a cornerback was needed more than a safety. 

Oakland re-signed safety Erik Harris to a two-year deal and signed Lamarcus Joyner to four-year deal in the offseason. Also, they still have former first round pick Karl Joseph on the roster and because Joseph and Abram have very similar styles of play, they likely won’t be on the field at the same time very often. Joseph is in a contract year and his agent is Joel Segal, whom the Raiders recently had trouble reaching long term deals with. Thus, Abram could be an insurance policy in case Joseph leaves in the offseason. However, with as many needs as Oakland has, a first round pick was a steep price to pay for an insurance policy. Now that the Raiders have Abram, the best move might be to trade Joseph and acquire more draft picks.

Stats from Sports Reference:

Year Total Tackles Tackles For Loss Interceptions
2015* 25 1.5 0
2017 71 5 0
2018 99 9 2
Career 195 15.5 2

 *Played the 2015 season at the University of Georgia.

The number of tackles Abram had in college certainly jumps off the page and that’s a good sign for a safety because that means he is preventing touchdowns. Unfortunately, his interceptions are noteworthy too, but not in a good way. For comparison, in Joseph’s senior year, he had five picks in four games. You would like to see more interceptions for Abram, but ultimately he’s more of a downhill run stopper than a ball hawk.  

Fit for the Raiders

As mentioned above, Abram and Joseph have very similar playing styles, but unless Joseph is traded, Abram will likely be a second string player heading into the season. In his rookie season, Abram may see his most playing time in Oakland’s nickel package, where Joyner will shift to slot corner and if Abram can prove to be more valuable than Erik Harris, Abram can serve as the defense’s 12th man. If Joseph does not return to the Raiders in 2020, Abram will likely become the team’s starter. Until then, don’t expect him to be much of a contributor on defense.

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While studying Abram’s film, the first thing you notice is the guy plays with his hair on fire. He runs around looking to hit people and hit them hard. It’s easy to see how he caught the eye of an old school coach like Jon Gruden. The big hits are great, but Abram needs learn when he can and when he shouldn’t go for the kill shot.  Far too often, he will overrun the play or leaves his feet to make a big hit and doesn’t wrap up. This leads to broken tackles and at the next level, it will result in big plays. 

Abram has excellent closing speed and can make open field tackles on running backs and wide receivers.  This is important as a safety because if the safety doesn’t make those tackles, it’s a touchdown. He can play on all three levels of the defense, but is better the closer he is to the line of scrimmage. Abram will make Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther happy because he is so versatile and is not confined to one area of the field. Covering tight ends has been an issue for the Raiders and unfortunately, he won’t solve that problem. In the Outback Bowl against Iowa and tight end T.J. Hockenson, Abram struggled to cover Hockenson. 

Johnathan Abram has a lot of potential, but he is a delayed gratification pick so his impact likely won’t be seen until the 2020 season or later. Raider fans will have to be patient with this one.

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2 thoughts on “Raiders Rookie S Johnathan Abram Enforcer Defense Needs”

  1. Joseph will play FS
    Abram plays SS

    only reason joseph was playing ss was b/c reggie nelson or nobody else on the roster could be a starting SS on the team

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