Talent wins games. Teams that can draft and coach All-Pro talent regularly like the Chiefs, Patriots, and Steelers have no trouble stringing together winning seasons. The Las Vegas Raiders?
It’s been half a decade since the Raiders were able to boast an All-Pro player.
Not since Khalil Mack and Kelechi Osemele in 2016, have the Raiders had such consensus talent. That has to change in order for the Raiders to turn the corner under Jon Gruden. Who has a shot to make All-Pro on offense in 2021? There are two players that have a shot at the decorated award.
Josh Jacobs has been as advertised since being drafted in the first round of the 2019 draft. Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock loved his tape, his maturity, and his all-purpose ability on the field. His sophomore season was a hit.
Among running backs, Jacobs was eighth in the NFL in rushing yards (1,065), fourth in touchdowns (12), and fifth in first downs.
After earning his first Pro Bowl nod in 2020, the next step for his development is securing an All-Pro selection. It will not be easy.
Derrick Henry currently holds the mantle as the best running back in the NFL. He was absolutely dominant in 2020 with a staggering 2,027 yards and 17 touchdowns. He got insane usage with 378(!) rushing attempts and is pretty dominant after contact:
Rush yards after contact since 2019:
1. Derrick Henry 2,758
2. Nick Chubb 1,893
3. Dalvin Cook 1,805
4. Ezekiel Elliott 1,660
5. Josh Jacobs 1,614 pic.twitter.com/pmAWOlmOMQ
— NFL on CBS 🏈 (@NFLonCBS) May 27, 2021
To earn All-Pro over Henry in 2021, Jacobs is going to have to lead the NFL in rushing touchdowns or rushing yards. The addition of Kenyan Drake might eat into one of those opportunities in favor of a two-headed monster in the backfield.
There will also have to be a bit of luck involved. If the Titans lean off King Henry to dial up plays for Julio Jones and A.J. Brown, his stats may take a hit. It certainly won’t be an NFL defense stopping Henry if he gets a high volume of touches. It would not be a stretch to see Gruden’s run-heavy offense finally produce an All-Pro running back.
While Jacobs is a long shot to win All-Pro, Darren Waller has the award at his fingertips.
Travis Kelce and George Kittle are the only other tight ends that even come close to Waller in terms of production. He’s the number one target for Derek Carr, he does his job as a blocker, he hauls in yards after the catch, and he cooks defenders lined up outside as a receiver. Simply put, there is no ceiling high enough for #83
— TURRON DAVENPORT (@TDavenport_NFL) June 24, 2021
What does Waller need to do to make All-Pro in 2021? He needs Gruden and Carr to feed him the ball and let him go to work. The recipe is that simple.
When Waller gets the ball, great things happen. His 107 receptions in 2020 were fourth in the league for all pass-catchers, not just tight ends. His targets ranked sixth. He’s doing more with fewer targets. The only players to catch more passes were Stefon Diggs, Davante Adams, and DeAndre Hopkins.
Darren Waller became the 4th tight end in NFL history with 200 yards and 2 TDs in a single game.
— Las Vegas Raiders (@Raiders) December 7, 2020
Waller makes All-Pro this year if he cracks the top five in touchdowns for pass catchers. He finished 2020 with nine scores; putting him at the number 10 slot among all receivers. It’s not unreasonable to think he will get more shots at the end zone this year, he certainly gets open in the painted area.
If Derek finds him for 13+ touchdowns, expect the accolades to pour in and Darren Waller to become a household name.
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*Top Photo: Jeff Bottari/Associated Press