The Las Vegas Raiders hired head coach Jon Gruden in 2018 with the intention of turning the team into an AFC powerhouse. Nailing the draft that year was one of the first steps in the rebuilding effort, but looking back, the players the organization got haven’t turned into the playmakers they were expected to become.
When Gruden joined the Raiders, he got back into the action right away and started discarding anything that had a connection to previous management. He then set the 2018’s draft class as a foundation to build upon, but so far, the returns haven’t been proportional to the investment.
Recently, Pro Football Focus (PFF) posted a Tweet with the grades the Raiders 2018 class received last season.
Raiders' Top-100 Picks in 2018 (2019 Grade Rank or Snaps Played if <300)— PFF Las Vegas Raiders (@PFF_Raiders) April 30, 2020
Round 1 (15): OT Kolton Miller (45th)
Round 2 (57): DI PJ Hall(37th)
Round 3 (65): OT Brandon Parker (192 snaps)
Round 3 (87): Edge Arden Key (179 snaps)
Closer Look at Kolton Miller
Kolton Miller was the 45th player at his position in 2019, and that was after getting over a poor rookie campaign. As a sophomore, he allowed seven sacks and 37 pressures, an improvement over his first season totals, 16 and 65 respectively. This upcoming season, it will be interesting to see how much of that increase in play was due to him being finally healthy, and if he can sustain that growth as a player rather than hitting a plateau. In spite of still having ups and downs in his young career, Miller’s the best player the team drafted in 2018.
Defensive tackle P.J. Hall was part of trade talks this past draft. That the Raiders are already considering parting ways with the former second-round pick is worrisome and begs asking whether the team has already given up on him. To make matters worse, he will have a hard time cracking the defensive line rotation with Maliek Collins, Maurice Hurst and Johnathan Hankins ahead of him on the depth chart.
Brandon Parker The Liability
Brandon Parker has been a liability when he’s taken the field. When possible, the Raiders have avoided playing him and at this point of his career, it’s doubtful he will get any better. Las Vegas currently has a plethora of offensive linemen on the roster and many of them seem likely to take meaningful snaps before Parker does.
The Raiders second third-round selection, Arden Key, has become sort of the forgotten man of his class. With the attention 2019 rookies Clelin Ferrell and Maxx Crosby had, Key saw his number of snaps reduced. When he did partake in the lineup, he didn’t have much of an impact. With all the defensive additions the team made this past free agency, his chances of remaining with the team long term are bleak.
Regardless of how involved former Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie was in the draft process that year, someone had to take the fall for the lack of talent the organization acquired that year.
If there’s a broad silver lining it’s that after the Raiders didn’t get the results they hoped for two years ago, they have aggressively tried to add as much talent as possible and move as quickly as possible. However, the fact their best player from that draft is average at his position is less than encouraging.
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Top Photo: Ben Margot/Associated Press