There will be quite a few young Raiders who receive a significant amount of playing time in 2019. With such a young roster, not many have a chance to make their first Pro Bowl. Of course, all players who haven’t been selected have a chance to reach this achievement, but below are the three players I think are the most likely to take the next step.
Maurice Hurst, Defensive Tackle
The fifth round pick was widely considered a draft day steal and out played his draft selection. After a year where Hurst infamously led the team with four sacks, there are some high expectations in 2019. While the number of sacks might not jump off the page, Hurst was tied for third in sacks amongst rookie defensive tackles. What makes Hurst’s sack total more impressive is the two players ahead of Hurst played in all 16 games, while he only played in 13. Staying healthy will be key for the second year defensive tackle. If he can play a full 16 game season and continue to build upon a successful rookie year, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Hurst represent the Silver and Black at the Pro Bowl.
Gareon Conley, Cornerback
Speaking of high expectations, third year CB Gareon Conley might have the highest expectations of anyone on Oakland’s defense. Many are projecting 2019 to be a breakout year for the young corner. These expectations are a direct result of Conley’s outstanding play in 2018. Last season, he allowed a quarter back rating of 72.8 when targeted and that was 14th best amongst corners (minimum 232 snaps).
Also, Conley allowed a completion percentage of 54, which was good enough for 17th lowest. If he can mix in a few highlight plays and continue to progress as a shutdown corner; 2019 might be Conley’s first Pro Bowl and likely not his last.
Josh Jacobs, Running Back
There have been a total of four rookie running backs selected in the last two Pro Bowls. In 2018 (2017 Regular Season), the Saints’ Alvin Kamara and the Chiefs’ Kareem Hunt, and the following year the Giants’ Saquon Barkley and the Broncos’ Philip Lindsey were Pro Bowl selections. With the exception of Lindsey, one trait all of these backs have in common is the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.
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With the way offenses are evolving in the NFL, this is an important trait and one that Jacobs possesses. He will also have a chance to become the Raiders feature back, giving Jacobs an opportunity to join the 1,000/500 yard club (1,000 yards rushing and 500 yards receiving in one season). Given that the rookie will have the opportunity to prove himself and other players in similar situations have been successful, it wouldn’t be a shock to see Jacobs make the Pro Bowl in year one.
There are certainly more players on the Raiders roster who could make their first Pro Bowl in 2019. Comment with whom you think will be making their first appearance this season!