Over the last several years, the Las Vegas Raiders have invested a lot of draft capital in their defensive backfield and the results have not been good. First-round picks D.J. Hayden, Karl Joseph and Gareon Conley are no longer with the team after unimpressive stints. In 2019, the Raiders selected Johnathan Abram with their last first-round pick and there was a lot of excitement around him considering his impressive training camp.
Unfortunately, he was hit with a devastating injury during the first game of the 2019 season. Now that he’s healthy again, CBS Sports predicted Abram to be among the breakout players for the 2020 season:
Abram missed the entire season with a torn rotator cuff. The energy and attitude that he brings the defensive side of the ball should help the Raiders defense play with an edge. Vocal by nature, Abram had already begun to assert himself as one of the leaders on that side of the football before sustaining his injury. He can play closer to the box if asked.
The Raiders’ defense lacked an edge last season without Abram. Not only does he play with a lot of swagger, but he’s also going to be a strong leader for the unit. The team’s 2019 draft class was already impressive and Abram hardly played. If he’s as good as advertised, his draft class could go down as one of the best ever.
Other Raiders Who Could Breakout
Abram is a very good candidate to have a breakout season but he’s not the only player to keep an eye on. Fellow second-year defensive back Trayvon Mullen should go into the season as the Raiders’ number one cornerback. If he’s able to hold the spot down, he’s going to be a big name very soon. Also, defensive tackle Maurice Hurst has been one of the team’s most consistent defensive linemen. With more skill around him, he could have a chance to put up some great sack numbers for an interior pass rusher.
On the offensive side of the ball, left tackle Kolton Miller seems like he has a really good shot of having a big year. The Raiders are reportedly expecting him to have a Pro Bowl-level year. He’s got the best chance of breaking out on offense.
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Will Relying on Youth Pay off for Raiders?
For the second year in a row, the Raiders are going to rely heavily on young players. There’s a chance they have rookie Damon Arnette starting at cornerback along with Abram who’s only played one game. There’s some serious offensive firepower in the AFC West so the young guys aren’t going to have an easy time. Relying on youth paid off for the Raider offense last season, but not so much for the defense.
Fortunately, the team has brought in some strong veteran talent to help lead the young guys. The defense might still be a year away from becoming a top-15 unit but it’s definitely on the rise.