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Within two weeks, the Las Vegas Raiders have moved on from both of their first-round picks from the 2020 NFL Draft: wide receiver Henry Ruggs III and cornerback Damon Arnette. Both of which were let go following off the field incidents.
These two cuts opens up the possibility that general manager Mike Mayock may be a part of the problem. Despite the idea that former head coach Jon Gruden was calling the shots, all of the moves made ultimately fall onto Mayock, as he’s the one risking his reputation on them. As such, it opens him up to criticism and evaluation amongst his peers and the public.
It was very early on in his tenure with the then Oakland Raiders that it appeared it may not work out. One of the first moves made by Mayock was trading for controversial wide receiver Antonio Brown. Despite giving up a third and fifth-round pick for him, Brown never saw the field with the team.
Instead, Brown had a series of events revolving around the helmet he wanted to use, missing practices and contracting frostbite from cryotherapy. All of this lead to the team voiding guaranteed money before ultimately releasing him.
That year’s draft (2019) turned out to have a great running back in Josh Jacobs, a top defensive end in Maxx Crosby and wide receiver Hunter Renfrow. The story isn’t about them though, it’s about how they burned two of their three first round picks into busts: defensive end Clelin Ferrell and safety Jonathan Abrams have largely underwhelmed since arriving on the team. The rest of their selections that year are also now backing up or off the team.
Their first season under Mayock: the team finished 7-9. That would get them third place in the AFC West and keep them out of the playoffs.
The next year saw the team move to Las Vegas and open up their wallets a little more. Massive free agent signings included linebackers Nick Kwiatkoski and Cory Littleton, tight end Jason Witten and wide receiver Nelson Agholor. Ruggs III and Arnette were added in the first round to help bolster the team, as well as guard John Simpson in the fourth round. It seemed like they were primed to make a run.
Ruggs III and Arnette are now off the team. Littleton has been a bust, and Kwiatkoski is no longer a starter, instead having been relegated to a rotational role. Meanwhile, Simpson has been nothing short of a bust, having failed to break a 60 grade on PFF.
Despite being in the playoff race until the end, Las Vegas finished 8-8 last season. They lost out on a wild card spot to the Cleveland Browns.
Heading into this season, fortune has seemingly gone the way of the Raiders. Despite early disappointments from their first round pick, guard Alex Leatherwood, draft picks like safety Trevon Moehrig and cornerback Nate Hobbs have paid off. Free agents like cornerback Casey Hayward Jr. and defensive end Yannick Ngakoue have looked good as well. Even in a limited role, running back Kenyan Drake has been reliable filling in for Jacobs.
Despite being in first place in their division and boasting a 5-3 record, controversy has shrouded the team. Starting with the firing of Gruden following an email scandal, the microscope was quickly placed on the black and silver.
Add to it the dismissal of Ruggs III for a driving under the influence charge that caused a death. Also add to it the dismissal of Arnette for making a threat on social media, before showing a firearm and more questions arise.
While the success is definitely in view for this team, with all that’s happened, is it outweighed by the controversies that have followed the team? It also brings up the question: is Mayock doing enough digging into these players? If it was one player that made a questionable decision, that would be one thing. However, when it’s been three players in three years, that’s when things look a little dicey.
Things will more than likely stay the same, but it does make someone think. A little food for thought if you will.