Google ‘Raiders Draft’ and you’ll see a handful of journalists tearing apart the Raiders’ draft decisions. I mean I get it, it’s easy to rip on the Oakland Raiders when they are a dumpster fire and reach for a pass rusher when better ones were available. But that’s just bad journalism. It’s easy to hop on the ‘Roast of the Raiders’ train when everyone else on Twitter is. So, you can listen to them and all the memes or hear out a true football guy perspective on the Raiders 2019 draft class.
Let’s start with the fourth overall pick in the draft, everyone was thinking the Raiders were going with Josh Allen. The 6’ 5’’ Edge Rusher out of Kentucky that was tied for second in the FBS with 17 sacks in the toughest conference in college football, the SEC. Do I like the guy? Of course. I actually thought this was who the Raiders were going with and would have liked to see on the roster rather than Quinnen Williams, who they were also projected to land in this past draft.
But the truth is all analysts, wannabe analysts and fans out there like myself aren’t Gruden or Mayock. As much as we in the media like to poke fun at these guys, they know football better than you know yourself. Jon Gruden once called his former quarterback in his Tampa days while he was on his honeymoon to talk football, discuss coverages and break down film. The man eats, sleeps and breathes the game. He is a football freak.
Not only that but Mike Mayock is a draft guru and has dedicated nearly half of his life to college football. He most recently worked for the NFL Network for nearly 15 years as an analyst and draft expert. He knew every detail about every player in any given draft, as well as the guys who went un-drafted. That is far from normal. Now he is a GM, which means his knowledge can only get deeper with the one-to-one interactions he will experience that he was not authorized to have from the outside looking in.
What I’m trying to say here is that the Super Bowl Champion head coach and freak of a college draft guru may know a little bit about what they’re doing.
What people don’t understand is that you cannot simply just look at the numbers, the stats, the flashy highlight reels and what people say on SportsCentre. But what gets overseen, is the key to building a winning team and those are the intangibles. For instance, when a 3-star recruit with a whole lot of grit and passion lines up across from a 5-star recruit who lacks those traits, the former goes further in life every time. In fewer words, character always beats talent.
So, let’s get back to their first selection of three in the first round. With the fourth overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft the Oakland Raiders select, Clelin Ferrell… Huh? Instant backlash from most and looks of defeat in Raider Nation fans that attended the draft. But hang on, this can actually be what the Raiders need. Let me explain…
First of all, Ferrell is one of three players from Clemson that the Raiders selected this year and that isn’t a fluke. It’s not even just because the Clemson Tigers are two-time National Champions in the past three years, it’s because of their culture. Head Coach Dabo Swinney didn’t just get paid $93 million over 10 years for no reason. He changed football culture at Clemson University and turned them into a winning program by pushing a believer and a never quit attitude onto his players. His values are simple yet powerful and have a trickle down effect on life, “If your beliefs aren’t good, your thoughts aren’t good, now your words and your actions stink, then your habits stink. (Now) your values ain’t good and then your destiny doesn’t end up the way it’s supposed to”.
It sounds a lot better in a Southern accent, but the point is he pushes values hard onto his players and extends his beliefs beyond the field. Which in turn actually makes you a better player. This is because the better man you are, the better your values are. And this only leads to more passion you have to exert between the lines. Everything at Clemson is larger than football, what they preach at that school translates not just onto the field or academically, but in life as well. They shape men for success with commitment, good values and never doubting your beliefs.
Clelin Ferrell is everything a passionate Raiders fan should want to see on their team. The Raiders are a team that were built on a base of pure grit and character. He was raised by military parents who taught he and his siblings core values, has persevered through injuries as well as the death of his father and has already graduated from Clemson in just three and a half years. This guy is nothing but character and fans are going to get every ounce out of him because nothing came easy to him. He has done nothing but work to become the person he is. Just watch the moment when he got drafted and listen to what he repeatedly says to Mayock.
The next of three first rounders is Josh Jacobs. Did you catch the College Football Playoff? Well, he was the guy who was a spitting image of beast mode, running through a mafucka’s face. This guy runs with attitude and tore apart Oklahoma in the semi-final for 158 total yards and a touchdown. NFL execs say that he runs ‘pissed off’ and that he’s their favourite player not just on the team but in the draft.
What makes him so good? Sure he’s talented, but he wasn’t even highly recruited out of high-school. The answer? You guessed it, character. Let us not forget that Jacobs was a 3-star recruit joining a powerhouse team out in Alabama filled with 5-star talent. What did Nick Saban see in him?
As a kid Jacobs chose to live with his father Marty after his parents separated and money was tight. He and his siblings would move from apartment to apartment, motel to motel. They even had to sleep in the back of a car. He remembers sleeping in the back while his dad would recline the front seat with a pistol on his lap, Jacobs says he doesn’t remember his father ever falling asleep.
Even when they stayed in motels, they would find places that provided continental breakfast so they could eat before school. When his dad would come back with food, he swears of never seeing his dad eat and to this day has no idea how he did it. Football was Josh Jacobs’ escape from the mental and physical pain of his everyday life. To him, football is therapeutic.
However, he wasn’t getting much love and of the few teams that did show interest, they wanted him to change positions because there were ‘millions of running-backs they could find like him’. So if his play alone wasn’t enough he had to find another way to make a name for himself. Taking advantage of the times, he created a Twitter account where he posted all his high school highlights, and this began to catch people’s attention. Including Division I schools like Missouri and Oklahoma, but ultimately it was the Crimson Tide that he chose to commit too.
One thing that people see as a downside is that he did not have a lot of touches which led to minimal production, this resulted in 640 yards rushing and 571 receiving. However, he still managed to get 16 touchdowns with Alabama being a team that splits carries among its running-backs. Some may see this as a downside, but some can look at it as a good thing because too often we see running backs get overused in college which results in their NFL careers not reflecting their good ol’ days. Jacobs is fresh and ready to run through defender’s faces in the NFL.
The last first round pick is safety Johnathan Abram from Mississippi State. There is one thing that his name is known for and that’s being a hard hitter. It has been argued that sometimes it may be even too hard. He has gotten a few targeting penalties, but that will go away with NFL coaches teaching him some self-discipline. His hits are so big that Gruden wants him to wear iconic Raider numbers like 32 and 43 which were worn by Jack Tatum and George Atkinson, stone cold hitters and beauties. Just like Ferrell, Abram has a degree as well but in business and has even applied at some schools in masters programs.
It looks like Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock have made clear what their goal is and that’s to have a team with attitude. Guys with the grit and hard working character that you can’t teach. (took out a sentence cuz it sounded weird/didnt fit/was gay, idk ill let u figure er out) This was a gritty draft class by Oakland which even ripples into their later selections. Football is just as much a mental game as it is a physical game and with the place the Raiders are in, they need players that are mentally tough.
Grit, character, passion and commitment to excellence. This is your new look Oakland Raiders.
Information & Photo Credits
ESPN | Oakland Raiders' 2019 draft: Analysis for every pick | Paul Gutierrez
NFL.com | Prospects | Clelin Ferrell
ESPN | Clelin Ferrell's rise at Clemson was all about family | David Hale
Raiders.com | Raiders select nine players in 2019 NFL Draft |Eddie Paskal
Youtube | Dabo Swinney's impact on Clemson football | College Football | ESPN
Bleacher Report | Alabama Running Back Josh Jacobs Is Living the Impossible Dream | Adam Kramer
YouTube | The Call: Clelin Ferrell becomes a Raider | Raiders
The Mercury News | Raiders’ first-round foundation pieces on display