You can either prove people right, or you can prove people wrong.
There are many NFL players that have reached superstar heights despite not having the same level of hype coming out of college. Maxx Crosby was recently part of an NFL video where he read one of his scouting reports from his days at Eastern Michigan in 2019. The Raiders edge rusher was considered "below average" talent who would materialize into "an average backup or special teamer." Thankfully for Raider Nation, Crosby has put in the work to defy the odds and exceed his scouting projections. Coming off his fourth season with the Silver and Black, he has 37.5 career sacks, two Pro Bowl selections and a Second Team All-Pro nod in 2021.
Along with Crosby, let's take a look at a few scouting reports from NFL.com of now Raiders and how their careers have panned out since.
Maxx Crosby, Eastern Michigan
Prospect grade: 5.90 – Average Backup Or Special-Teamer
"The Condor" finished his college career with 41 tackles for loss, 20 sacks and two First Team All-MAC selections – making him one of the most decorated players in Eastern Michigan school history. Crosby was invited to the NFL Combine, where he ran a 4.66 40-yard dash with a 36-inch vertical jump. He was given an 85 athleticism score from NFL Next Gen Stats, which was the highest of all edge rushers who participated in the 2019 Scouting Combine.
According to NFL analyst Lance Zierlein, Crosby was a "developmental, long-limbed defensive end who needs a year or two of bulking up before he's ready to see the field. He's long and flexible and will flash on tape as both a rusher and run defender." Zierlein also wrote that if the edge rusher eventually "grows into his gangly frame, Crosby offers a higher ceiling than some Day 3 prospects he could be lumped in with."
"Stop it," Crosby said with a laugh when reading Zierlein's assessment.
Crosby heard his named called early on Day 3 by the Raiders as the 106th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. He saw action a little earlier than Zierlein predicted, starting 10 games as a rookie. He finished his rookie campaign with 10 sacks, 16 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles and finished second in AP Defensive Rookie of the Year voting. The edge rusher has now led the team in sacks for three out of four of his NFL seasons.
"At the end of the day, no matter if you're a first-round pick, seventh-round pick, undrafted, all that matters is that once you get in the building, that's when your legacy starts," he said. "Whatever you put into it is exactly what you're going to get out of it."
Davante Adams, Fresno State
Prospect grade: 6.40 – Will Become Good Starter Within Two Years
Davante Adams had two of the most dominant seasons of college football, leading the nation in catches (131) and touchdowns (24) his sophomore year at Fresno State. After declaring for the 2014 NFL Draft, he received a 99 production score from Next Gen Stats, the highest of any receiver in his draft class.
NFL analyst Nolan Nawrocki projected Adams would be a top-50 pick. Nawrocki said the Fresno State receiver was "a long-limbed, sure-handed possession receiver with starter-caliber, positional traits." In his evaluation, he also wrote Adams "lacks top-end speed and strength" which he contributed to the 20-year-old "still growing into his body and developing core strength."
Adams would have to wait a bit longer than predicted to hear his name called, as he was selected 53rd overall by Green Bay. The Packers were ultimately a great landing spot for the young receiver, creating chemistry with NFL MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and joining a wide receiver room with Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. Adams did develop into a good starter for the Packers, however it didn't happen in a two-year span. The receiver battled with injuries over his rookie and sophomore campaigns. He began to put it all together on the field his third season in the league, posting nearly 1,000 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns in 2016.
He's now one of the most prolific receivers in the league, with three straight first-team All-Pro selections, six straight Pro Bowl appearances and two receiving touchdown crowns. In his first season with the Raiders, he broke the franchise record for most receiving yards in a season (1,516 yards).
Nate Hobbs, Illinois
Prospect grade: 5.82 – Average Backup Or Special-Teamer
The Louisville, Kentucky, native had the benefit of being coached by former NFL Head Coach Lovie Smith at Illinois. Under Smith's wing, Nate Hobbs became a cornerback with eyes on him in the 2021 draft class, racking up 110 solo tackles, 11 pass deflections and three interceptions in 38 college appearances.
While NFL.com gave Hobbs a Day 3 projection, they also wrote that the 6-foot, 195-pounder was an "athletic cornerback with excellent combination of size and speed for the NFL game" and "his size and length can be a major factor in wrecking contested catches." An area of concern, according to the analysis, was that "his route recognition and instincts need to improve."
Hobbs became a Day 3 steal for the Silver and Black, selected with the 167th pick overall in the fifth round. After an impressive Training Camp and preseason, Hobbs was named the team's starting nickel cornerback as a rookie. His aggressive play and exceptional open-field tackling abilities translated to 74 total tackles, three tackles for loss, an interception and a sack. He also received a 80.1 defensive grade from Pro Football Focus, the highest of all rookie cornerbacks (min. 120 snaps) in 2021.
Hunter Renfrow, Clemson
Prospect grade: 6.10 – Good Backup With The Potential To Develop Into Starter
The walk-on receiver from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, left Clemson University as a two-time national champion and Burlsworth Trophy winner. Hunter Renfrow compiled 186 catches, 2,133 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns in his college career.
Zierlein labeled the former Tiger as "a reliable, sure-handed slot receiver" who "creates catch opportunities for himself by varying route speed and running highly focused routes." He also praised Renfrow's clutch playmaking ability at Clemson, with 12 catches, 102 yards and two touchdowns grabs in two title game victories over Alabama.
The main knock on Renfrow coming out of college, by Zierlein and several scouts, was his perceived lack of size and speed as a receiver, claiming he'd "need to add more strength/mass to his frame." The Raiders took a chance on the accomplished receiver in the fifth round with the 149th pick. Despite being the 17th wide receiver taken, he currently has the seventh most catches and receiving yards of all players in his draft class.
He truly exploded on to the scene in his third season, with 103 catches, 1,038 receiving yards, nine touchdowns and a Pro Bowl nod in the process. Not bad for a walk-on college receiver taken on Day 3.
View photos from Phase One of the Las Vegas Raiders' 2023 offseason program at Intermountain Healthcare Performance Center.