After a gut-wrenching 26-25 loss to the Miami Dolphins, the Las Vegas Raiders have been eliminated from playoff contention once again. For the second year in a row, the Jon Gruden led squad has experienced a late-season collapse. While coaching and execution bear a fair portion of the blame, the Silver and Black have a much larger problem on their hands.
The Raiders have used a questionable approach to acquire talent
When Jon Gruden returned to the Raiders in 2018 as head coach, his first order of business was to trade Khalil Mack.
Jon Gruden opens up about how the Khalil Mack trade went down. pic.twitter.com/hOZHlbpLmv
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) September 3, 2018
In that trade, the Raiders sent Mack to the Chicago Bears in exchange for coveted draft capital. Not long thereafter, the Silver and Black shipped out Pro Bowl wide receiver Amari Cooper to the Dallas Cowboys. The new regime quickly placed an emphasis on draft picks over proven NFL talent, and in 2019, they brought in Mike ‘Draft Guru’ Mayock to be their general manager.
Unfortunately, the Raiders are still reeling from the consequences of both trades. They may have acquired an abundance of resources, but they have not capitalized on it by any means. These are some of the players they have drafted in the last two years.
The fourth overall pick in the 2019 draft is simply not a game-changer. The Raiders utilized a Top 5 selection on an edge defender who is quality while stopping the run but fails to consistently pressure the quarterback. Meanwhile, the draft selection after him seems to know a thing or two about wreaking havoc in the backfield from the linebacker position.
Devin White with another sack this season. 9 on the year from his ILB spot. Only 22-years old.pic.twitter.com/y1mg9zNjNy
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) December 26, 2020
Aside from a showing against the New York Jets earlier this season, the former Top 5 pick hasn’t warranted his selection and more than likely never will.
Josh Jacobs is a standout who’s heading to his first career Pro Bowl in just his second season. However, he is only averaging 3.8 yards per rush. This puts him in the bottom ten of all NFL rushers in 2020. When a Jacksonville Jaguars undrafted free agent, James Robinson, leads in numerous categories at the position, it is perhaps time to reflect on the 2019 24th overall pick’s true production at a position where players can go undrafted and have sustained success.
The Alabama standout is a talented player, but he is not an elite back considering that his longest rush of the year is only 24 yards. With glaring needs on the defensive side of the ball and his consistent injury issues (that he plays through but still), this draft pick is undoubtedly in question.
The 28th overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft has done more talking than he has shown quality football. The former Hard Knocks sensation has proven to be a liability in coverage. So much so, that he is the NFL’s worst coverage safety.
In his last 5 games, #Raiders Johnathan Abram has been targeted 14 times, allowing 13 catches for 264 yards and 2 TDs per @sportradar. (This doesn't even include Kelce game-winning TD in Week 11 because he vacated his coverage assignment on that play)
— Josh Dubow (@JoshDubowAP) December 17, 2020
In addition, opposing teams constantly turn Abram’s aggressive/undisciplined play style against him when it matters most.
Your @ArrowheadGuys offensive play of the game. Mahomes was surgical down the field to win it for the Chiefs. Mahomes leaves the pocket and draws Abram to him leaving Kelce wide open in the endzone. The respect of the run opens a TD. Aweosme. pic.twitter.com/Y1oA9mYiLK
— Daniel Harms🎳 (@InHarmsWay19) November 23, 2020
Abram is nothing more than a liability that has cost the Raiders a first-round pick.
What about the Raiders’ draft picks in 2020?
Henry Ruggs III
The Raiders’ 12th overall pick in 2020 has shown that he is capable of making plays. However, the Silver and Black refuse to give him opportunities to shine. Instead, the coaching staff would rather see Jason Witten receive more targets.
Jason Witten was targeted on 5 of his 11 pass routes for #Raiders tonight. Henry Ruggs was targeted twice on 23 routes w/ 0 catches
— Josh Dubow (@JoshDubowAP) December 27, 2020
Ruggs has flashed at times this season, but not enough. The first wide receiver selected in the 2020 NFL draft has struggled, but at the same time Derek Carr and Jon Gruden have left him out in the cold more times than not.
Sunday was the first game that I’ve felt if Carr had slightly longer in the pocket or looked his way, Henry Ruggs could’ve taken it to the house multiple times.
He was getting open consistently!
— 𝐑𝐲𝐚𝐧 (@Raider_Ryan1) December 10, 2020
The Silver and Black bought a Lamborghini and are trying to test-drive it in downtown Los Angeles’ rush hour. His talent is evident, but as of now, he’s nothing more than a decoy.
The Raiders 19th overall pick in 2020 can’t stay on the field. Damon Arnette has only played in eight contests this year to date, and he hasn’t even made it through all of those. Whether it is the thumb injury from college or getting concussed due to horrible tackling form, Arnette simply hasn’t justified the use of a first-round pick. In fact, he displayed the opposite this past Saturday night against the Miami Dolphins.
Tons of blame to go around in the Raiders locker room but Damon Arnette… what are you doing bro?
Why on earth would you ever let Hollins go running up the sideline unguarded. Don’t care what the defensive call was that is completely unacceptable. pic.twitter.com/9fAdoXN1oG
— Andrew McDevitt (@AMcDevittTV) December 27, 2020
His football IQ is questionable, and his maturity can also be evaluated to an extent. He and numerous other Raider players feel the need to attack and disrespect fans who are beyond tired of losing.
Y’all commenting under pictures with my son and stuff, Y’all lame ass get off my shit. I can tel it be the Raiders fans who still live w they momma tho. Ion need y’all support who are y’all? We good🖤
— Damon Arnette (@damon_arnette) December 27, 2020
Nobody can justify anyone that attacks a child or wife, however, countless NFL players go through the same experience and manage to have a quality relationship with their fans.
The Raiders have to change how they do things
The Raiders’ struggles to draft impact players is evident. Those discussed above were only the first-round selections, the mid-round choices haven’t been much better. Mayock was brought in as the general manager to assist Jon Gruden though it seems as if he doesn’t have a voice.
The Silver and Black have a multitude of issues, and they can all be traced back to a man making $100 million over ten seasons. In his three years, he has not led the organization to a winning record, and change will be necessary or the Raiders will continue to be a treadmill team.
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Top Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images