Raiders: Mike Mayock’s first draft class has been a resounding success

Raiders (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
Raiders (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /

Oakland Raiders general manager Mike Mayock seems to have hit a figurative home run with his first draft class as the leader of an NFL front office.

The Oakland Raiders haven’t exactly shied away from bold and controversial moves over the past two seasons. And at times, it’s been very difficult to buy into this team and trust management.

But after being the butt of the joke for two seasons, the Raiders have managed to become a true success story.

They’ve channeled that criticism and ridicule into wins and on-field success. There’s something special brewing here in Oakland, and it all starts with their 2019 draft class.

General manager Mike Mayock was hired by the team prior to this offseason in what was considered a very risky move at the time. After all, just months prior he had been serving as a commentator and NFL Draft analyst.

Many doubted his ability to run an NFL front office. And many of those same people — perhaps rightfully so — doubted the decision to hand Jon Gruden $100 million over 10 years to be the Raiders’ new head coach back in 2018.

Yet as we sit here in late November of 2019, it appears that the Raiders couldn’t have made any better moves.

Gruden has the Raiders playing hard as the team sits at 6-4 with a road game this week against the lowly New York Jets. A win here would give them seven wins and put them in a great position to make the postseason — something few thought was possible this season.

But the team wouldn’t be where it is today without the stellar draft that Mayock put together in his first offseason.

The trades of Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper gave the Raiders enough ammunition, but drafting isn’t an exact science. Just because you have picks, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to put them to good use.

Just look at the Cleveland Browns of years prior.

But Mayock has seemingly knocked it out the park with impact players everywhere from the first round to the mid-to-late rounds. And you’d be hard-pressed to find a draft class that has had as much of an impact through 11 weeks this year.

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Highlighted by running back Josh Jacobs in the first round, the draft class also features plenty of mid-round picks who have become excellent contributors for the team such as Maxx Crosby, Hunter Renfrow, and Foster Moreau.

An early blemish on the class was fourth overall pick Clelin Ferrell as the former Clemson standout struggled early in the season. But the heavily-criticized Ferrell has come alive in recent weeks and seems to be getting more accustomed to the Raiders scheme with every passing week.

Fellow first-round pick Johnathan Abram could also be viewed as a blemish, but the braggadocious safety excelled in the preseason and looked well on his way to a big rookie season before injuring his shoulder in Week 1.

But the Raiders do seem to have found a keeper for years to come in Abram.

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Even second-round pick Trayvon Mullen has impressed in recent weeks following the trade of Garden Conley. Mullen has rebounded from a slow start and stepped up with Conley’s departure as the Clemson product has the team’s third-highest Pro Football Focus grade in the four games since Conley was dealt.

Perhaps the only non-contributors from the class have been fourth-round pick Isaiah Johnson and seventh-round pick Quinton Bell. Johnson has missed the majority of the season with an injury and was only activated a couple of weeks ago.

For now, he’ll continue to develop while playing in a special teams role. But the 23-year-old has the physical tools to be a very successful player in this league. And as for Bell, Mayock took a flier on a wide receiver turned defensive end in the seventh round and it didn’t work out.

If that’s your worst pick, you’re in pretty good shape.

Mayock’s first draft class as general manager of the Raiders has helped shape the identity of this team and it will hopefully provide a foundation for future success.

Next. Raiders: Maxx Crosby’s career day shows signs of future stardom. dark

From the butt of the joke to a stroke of genius, the Raiders sure have changed their reputation quickly.