By the end of the 2019 season, the Raiders' rookie class was the undisputed top group in terms of production from top to bottom compared to other rookie classes around the NFL.
Based on what we saw this year, Head Coach Jon Gruden and General Manager Mike Mayock hit a homerun on nearly every pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, especially the picks later in the draft. Clelin Ferrell, Josh Jacobs, Johnathan Abram – despite playing one game – Trayvon Mullen, Maxx Crosby, Hunter Renfrow, and Foster Moreau all flashed immense potential, and were a major reason the Silver and Black took a significant step forward in 2019.
We all know the woes of the defensive line from 2018, as it was regurgitated over and over again throughout the offseason and even the beginning of this season; however, Clelin Ferrell and Maxx Crosby put those critics to rest by combining for 14.5 sacks and leading the defensive line to a total of 32. When you look at Crosby's numbers as a whole, it's perplexing he isn't being brought up in the Defensive Rookie of the Year conversation more. He finished with more sacks (10), forced fumbles (four), and passes defensed (four) than San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa.
Gruden and Mayock wanted to draft foundational pieces who would help rewrite the culture of the organization and it's safe to say that Ferrell and Crosby will be cornerstone pieces on the edge for years to come.
While we can now say that the Raiders' rookie class had an impressive season, following the draft a lot of NFL pundits questioned some of the team's selections, but they proved the naysayers wrong. For example, Trayvon Mullen was selected in the second-round and was labeled as a raw talent with the potential to become an NFL starter. After Gareon Conley was shipped to the Houston Texans for a third-round pick, Mullen stepped in – despite taking some lumps – and showed the coaching staff that he's capable of being a lockdown corner. He played all 16 games, started in 10, had 10 passes defensed, 48 tackles, and one interception.
Everywhere you look, there was some form of reliable contribution from the draft class, especially from running back Josh Jacobs. The recently named PFWA Offensive Rookie of the Year was touted as the best tailback in the draft and he didn't disappoint. Starting in 13 games, Jacobs rushed for 1,150 yards and seven touchdowns while averaging 4.8 yards per carry. Whether it was Offensive Rookie of the Week, Month, or Year, it felt like Jacobs was receiving a being awarded a new accolade frequently.
In terms of the numbers, here's a combined total of each major stat from the rookie class.
Game Starts: 60
Games Played: 131
Passes Defensed: 20
Forced Fumbles: 4
Fumble Recoveries: 1
Receiving Yards: 1,122
Rushing Yards: 1,167
Yes, guys like Jacobs, Renfrow, Moreau, Ferrell, and Crosby were major contributing factors statistically, but it was guys like fullback Alec Ingold, offensive lineman Andre James, punter AJ Cole, and wide receiver Keelan Doss who also played a role in the team's success – and they all went undrafted.
Ingold was one of Gruden's favorite toys all year, bringing back his famous style of smash-mouth football, which caters perfectly to the fullback's brand of football; whether it was Spider 2 Y Banana, or opening lanes for Jacobs, Ingold was one of the most exciting players to watch this year.
Andre James served a crucial role when Pro Bowl center Rodney Hudson was injured and stepped in without hesitation when called upon. Offensive line coach Tom Cable molded James from a tackle into one of the most versatile players on the team.
As mentioned previously, the Raiders struggle to get after the quarterback in 2018, but they also struggled mightily when it came to field position, but Cole helped turn things around this season. Gruden said during training camp Cole was "Ray Guy-esque" and had a rangy kick, which allowed him to boom punts downfield -- Cole's longest punt of the year was a 74-yard moonshot.
Following the end of the season, Derek Carr highlighted that the rookie class never complained, did what was asked of them, and avoided making excuses. There's a renewed sense of accountability surrounding this team and it's that kind of mentality that gets you into the postseason tournament. If Gruden and Mayock can replicate this kind of success in the 2020 NFL Draft, it's going to be a scary sight going forward.