Three Raiders poised to break out in 2020: Johnathan Abram headlines list of second-year players

The Raiders are making the move from Oakland to Las Vegas this offseason, and are coming off of a bittersweet 2019 campaign. While they improved from 4-12 to 7-9, they lost their final game in Oakland and couldn’t put together something special for the fans during their last season in “The Town.” On the flip side, many of the Raiders’ nine draft picks made an immediate impact, including former No. 24 overall pick Josh Jacobs, who set multiple franchise records by rushing for 1,150 yards and seven touchdowns while averaging 4.7 yards per carry. 

While the young talent is evident on this team, major questions still remain. Is Derek Carr really the franchise quarterback? Can Jon Gruden continue to build on last year’s progress and get this team to at least .500? The Raiders have seven picks in the 2020 NFL Draft — including two first-rounders — but the fans in Las Vegas won’t just be counting on the new faces to change this team for the better. They also hope 2020 will serve as a breakout season for many of the young players on the roster who now have a year or two under their belts, and are ready to step into leadership roles for this team. 

Let’s take a look at three players who are poised to break out this upcoming season

2020 projection: 69 combined tackles, five passes defensed, one interception

The last of the Raiders’ three first-round picks in 2019 didn’t see the field much last season, but through training camp and in just one game, Abram made an impact on this team. In the season opener against the Denver Broncos, the former Mississippi State star made five combined tackles and one pass defensed — but tore his rotator cuff and labrum, which prematurely ended his season. 

The draft’s almost here, so who are the top TE and OL prospects? Pete Prisco joins Will Brinson to break it all down on the Pick Six Podcast; listen below and be sure to subscribe for daily NFL goodness.

Abram might already be one of the most aggressive safeties in the league, and that’s not an exaggeration. He inadvertently injured teammate Gareon Conley, who had to be carted off after trying to tackle running back Royce Freeman as he was heading out of bounds. Abram came in to finish the play, but his leg hit Conley’s head — which caused the injury. Even during the play in which Abram injured himself — he was clearly out for blood.

What’s incredible is that Abram ended up returning to the game and continued to play at a high level. It wasn’t revealed until after the game that he would have to be placed on injured reserve.

“I think he probably got a little bit too reckless at times,” Gruden said of Abram after the Week 1 win, via the San Jose Mercury News. “Made some great plays, some impact plays … I think some tackles he’s gotta make for us – he missed. His debut was pretty good.”

Abram looked more excited than anyone to be making his NFL debut last season, and since he missed the last 15 games of his rookie season due to his injury, I can’t imagine how amped up this hard-hitting defensive back is going to be entering 2020. If he can stay healthy, Abram has the potential to be a star for this defense. 

2020 projection: 61 combined tackles, 9.5 sacks, 16 tackles for loss

If you were shocked to see the Raiders take Ferrell with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, you were not alone. While the two-time College Football National Champion was expected to go in the first round, no one was expecting him to be a top-five pick. 

Ferrell had a decent rookie season, as he started in all 15 games he played in and recorded 38 combined tackles, 4.5 sacks and five passes defensed. Clearly not the numbers you would probably expect from a top-five pick, but he did show flashes. There’s no doubt that Ferrell has the potential to be a great player in this league.

Ferrell will enter the 2020 season as the starter opposite of fellow second-year player Maxx Crosby. While he was selected in the fourth round in 2019, Crosby actually led the team in sacks with 10. The Raiders aren’t going to give up on the player they supposedly reached on, however, and Ferrell has the potential to be a part of a dynamic pass-rushing duo with Crosby.  

2020 projection: 59 receptions, 864 yards, six touchdowns 

Renfrow will go down as a college football legend, but not many thought he would be a legitimate NFL player. While the former Clemson walk-on proved he could shine on the biggest stage — catching a game-winning touchdown from Deshaun Watson in the 2017 National Championship Game against Alabama — was that success and competitiveness really going to carry over to the next level?

Gruden took a flier on Renfrow in the fifth round last year, and there’s no doubt that he got more comfortable as his rookie season went on. He caught just two touchdowns in his first 11 games, and then suffered a broken rib and punctured lung during the Week 12 loss to the New York Jets. It appeared Renfrow was going to miss the rest of the season, and even if he did come back, he wouldn’t be 100 percent. After missing three games, however, Renfrow returned and had two incredible games. 

In the Week 16 win against the Los Angeles Chargers, Renfrow caught seven passes for 107 yards and one touchdown. He scored a long touchdown that showcased his big-play ability — which got fans excited for his potential moving forward.

Renfrow proved he wasn’t a flash in the pan the following week when he put up 102 yards and another receiving touchdown on six catches in the regular-season finale against the Broncos.

He has reliable hands, good speed, good route-running ability and is pretty excellent when it comes to the scramble drill. While the Raiders may take a receiver in the first round later this month, Gruden clearly feels Renfrow has earned a spot in this offense, and he could be the starting slot receiver for years to come. He finished second on the team in receptions and targets, and third in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns despite playing in just 13 games. 

Source link