The Raiders did a great job in the offseason addressing their needs through the draft. After free agency, the biggest holes in the squad were at wide receiver and cornerback, which they heavily targeted. The Raiders rookies look like they will fit in perfectly with the team that Gruden and Mayock are building. Many of them will have an instant impact in their first year of NFL football and bring a much-needed spark to both sides of the ball. This article looks at the impact of these players and how the Raiders rookies project for 2020.
Henry Ruggs III – WR
Henry Ruggs III was drafted with the 12th overall pick of the 2020 NFL draft, and the first member of the 2020 Raiders rookies in their inaugural season in Las Vegas. Well known for speed being his best attribute as a receiver, the former track runner clocked in a 4.27 40-yard dash in the combine, the fastest out of the 2020 draft. While the 40 is a good way of highlighting speed, Ruggs also has game-day stats to prove how quick he is. During a game, Ruggs was once clocked at 23.27mph. This is faster than the quickest ball carrier in the NFL last season, Matt Breida at 22.3mph.
Due to his speed, he is often seen as a deep threat player, but he is very effective in the short game. He has the burst of speed to create the illusion of going deep, but then can stop on a dime and separate. His route running is highly impressive, seen in the video below. His ability with the ball gives Gruden some interesting options to use in screen passes and end arounds as well.
Ruggs will not only produce by himself and be the highlight of the Raiders rookies, but will take away the spotlight from Raiders’ other playmakers.
Damon Arnette – CB
Damon Arnette is a cornerback out of Ohio State, drafted with the 19th overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft. Arnette played the entire 2019 season with a broken wrist, the kind of toughness that Gruden loves. During his final college season, he impressed immensely. Arnette allowed a completion rate of 37.9% as a primary defender, the lowest rate in the Big Ten with a minimum of 40 pass attempts. He also returned an interception for 96 yards against Indiana, the fourth-longest interception return in Ohio State history.
During the combine, Arnette ran an official 4.56 40-yard dash. This is a little on the slow side for a man coverage corner, but he’s showing that raw speed isn’t everything. During the Raiders training camp, he produced an impressive interception while covering speed-merchant and fellow first-round pick Henry Ruggs (see below).
Lynn Bowden Jr – RB
Lynn Bowden Jr. is a versatile running back out of Kentucky, where he was also the team’s starting quarterback earlier in his career. He was drafted in the third round of the 2020 NFL draft and adds some intrigue to this class of Raiders rookies.
He is likely to play a role similar to DeAndre Washington before his departure this free agency. Bowden Jr. has the skill set to block and make catches out of the backfield along with elite athleticism that will benefit at running back. He also offers the Raiders some versatility in their play, as he can play quarterback as well. In a press conference earlier this month, offensive coordinator Greg Olson revealed that he has spent time learning plays at quarterback, as well as the running back position.
Right now, we have him working out of the running backs room. He’s meeting with Kirby Wilson, the running backs coach, but also he’s had to learn a lot of things that we do at the quarterback position.”Greg Olson Press conference, 4th August 2020
It will be interesting to see how such an athletic, versatile player is used in Gruden’s offense. The Saints have shown over the last couple of seasons with Taysom Hill what you can do with such a player. If Bowden Jr. can adapt to his role in this backfield, it will be incredibly exciting to watch.
He could also see snaps at quarterback, but it will be an alternative rather than a utility.
Bryan Edwards – WR
Bryan Edwards is a wide receiver out of South Carolina and was drafted by Las Vegas in the third round of the 2020 NFL draft. Edwards is insanely physical at 6’3″, 212lbs and uses his strength to pressure the defender and make contested catches. He holds three South Carolina receiving records for all-time receptions, yards, and consecutive games with a catch, along with 2nd place for all-time receiving touchdowns.
Over the offseason, he’s done nothing but impress during private workouts. In the Raiders’ first padded practice of the offseason, Vic Tafur of The Athletic mentioned the rookie has stood out.
“(Raiders) Rookie Bryan Edwards continues to impress, making every kind of catch and showing he has hands and underrated speed to go with his size.”Vic Tafur, The Athletic.
In the video below, Edwards can be seen making a contested-catch against fellow rookie Amik Robertson. This is where Edwards comes into his own and uses his physicality against smaller-bodied corners. He is expected to be used heavily in the end zone and should see many targets if he can improve his separation.
Edwards will play a limited role in 2020 but has extreme potential to be a WR1. The two Raiders rookies Ruggs and Edwards are going to be a force in this team for years and complement each other very well.
Tanner Muse – LB
Tanner Muse is a linebacker out of Clemson, picked by the Raiders in the third round of the draft. In college, he played as a hybrid linebacker-defensive back but will be a linebacker for the Silver and Black.
Muse is an athletic, hard working player who is going to make an impact straight away on special teams. However, according to reports, Muse has had a difficult time adjusting to the pace of the football played in the pro game. Luckily for him, the Raiders picked up two elite linebackers in free agency so he will have time to adapt. During practice on the 17th August, Muse was asked to cover fellow rookie Lynn Bowden Jr deep 1-on-1. This bodes well for the future and should give Muse some confidence.
It is unlikely that he will see a lot of time this season, and is going to be more of a rotation option for the foreseeable future – don’t expect him to match the production of the other Raiders rookies.
John Simpson – G
John Simpson is a guard drafted in the fourth round of the draft out of Clemson. As a full-time starter, the former Tiger went 29-1 during his stretch protecting Trevor Lawrence. He can play on both sides of the line and was a semifinalist in votes for the Outland Trophy, given to the Nations best interior offensive lineman.
The 6’4″, 330 lbs guard is a solid backup who has time to develop behind a great offensive line. The Raiders struggled with injuries at this position over the last couple of seasons, and the impressive Simpson adds some depth to this class of Raiders rookies and the roster.
Amik Robertson – CB
Amik Robertson was seen by some as the steal of the draft. In the fourth round, the Raiders picked the All-American out of Louisana Tech. PFF predicted he would be taken with the last pick of the second round. Value. Robertson is a quick, athletic cornerback who is small-bodied but can compete with the best of them.
His size was his only weakness coming out of college but has incredible power and contact skills for his size. He is extremely aggressive and has great coverage skills that should help against the run. Robertson has 14 interceptions and 34 pass breakups over his college career. This shows how good he is at anticipating the coverage and making impact plays. He will be contending with first-round pick Damon Arnette for time on the field this season, as a rotation option. He may not have a big opportunity until the future but will be a big-time player for the Raiders when he gets it.
After a record-breaking 2019 draft class, Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden have gone after their guys again and have added some incredible young talent in 2020. Fully expect to see most of these Raiders rookies to have an instant impact on the team. The Raiders have a great chance to contend for playoff football in the 2020 season. The depth created by this rookie class is going to show over the campaign.