It was clear from very early on in the season that the Raiders absolutely nailed their draft class. It seemed like every week a new rookie would step up. Running back Josh Jacobs was the first to make a big impact. Maxx Crosby became a force for the final three-quarters of the season and Clelin Ferrell made some really big plays.
Another rookie defender played a massive role on the defense and that was cornerback Trayvon Mullen. Gareon Conley was supposed to be a shutdown corner for the team in 2019, but after he was traded, it was clear that Mullen was the better option for the team. The second-round pick impressed enough to earn some massive praise from head coach Jon Gruden
“He is the brightest light of the whole thing for me,” Gruden said about Mullen Monday. “You know we traded Conley, which was hard to do early in the season. It kind of opened the door for Trayvon. And I think after the Tennessee game when you watch the Jacksonville performance, when you watch him play against the Chargers in LA, (it) is impressive.
The Raiders and Mullen had a huge scare in Week 16 when the rookie had to be taken off the field on a stretcher due to a neck injury. However, he showed his toughness and didn’t miss any game time. This stuck out to Gruden.
“What really impressed me is he got carried off the field on a stretcher in that game and he’s ready to practice and he’s playing on the road in Denver, and he played good again. So, he’s a tough guy. He’s, I think, improved his level of play, his overall consistency. He’s got a huge upside.”
To say Mullen is the “brightest light” out of all the rookies is a pretty bold statement by Gruden. The Raiders should be really excited about their rookie cornerback.
Raiders DB Coach Pushed to Draft Mullen
Despite having a dominant college career where he didn’t give up a single touchdown reception and won defensive MVP for the 2018 National Championship game, Mullen wasn’t the hottest name at defensive back heading into the 2019 NFL Draft. Fortunately, defensive backs coach Jim O’Neil knew he wanted to land the Clemson star.
“Everybody was talking about DeAndre Baker and Greedy Williams, but the more I watched of him, [Mullen] ended up being my top guy,” O’Neil said, per The Athletic’s Vic Tafur. “I put myself out there on him, but the way it turned out, the other side of the building — the personnel side — felt the same way about him. We didn’t think he would be hanging around in the second round, but fortunately he was.”
The Raiders have struggled greatly at drafting a solid cornerback since they took Nnamdi Asomugha in 2003. Since then, the team has drafted Fabian Washington, D.J. Hayden and Gareon Conley in the first rounds of drafts. Hopefully, Mullen can buck the trend of failed Raiders cornerback draftees.
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Mullen Talks Raiders
The Raiders have been home to some of the best cornerbacks in NFL history. Willie Brown, Mike Haynes, Lester Hayes, Charles Woodson and Nnamdi Asomugha all wore silver and black. Mullen understands the meaning of being a cornerback for the team.
“The legacy is amazing, and it’s something I have talked about with the coaches and other people here,” Mullen said, per Tafur. “It’s an honor and something I intend to live up to.”
There’s no doubt Mullen still has a lot of work to do if he wants to live up to the Raider legacy. He’s off to a very good start and should only get better in year two.