ALAMEDA, Calif. — Three players the Raiders coached against in January swapped sidelines Saturday when the team selected former Houston cornerback Isaiah Johnson, Louisiana State tight end Foster Moreau and Clemson slot receiver Hunter Renfrow during the NFL draft’s final day.
Five players were selected Saturday.
The Senior Bowl is a college all-star showcase in Mobile, Alabama, each January. The Raiders coached the North team but received extra exposure to those on the South squad, which the San Francisco 49ers coached.
Along with those three players, the team drafted safety Johnathan Abram in the first round Friday. He was on the South but missed action with a shoulder injury.
Raiders general manager Mike Mayock said he received a message from Senior Bowl director Jim Nagy after Renfrow’s selection.
“The text was cool,” Mayock said. “(Nagy wrote), ‘That was your fourth Senior Bowl pick from the South. Apparently, I gave you the wrong team.’ Coaching and being there really helped us a lot. It really is a big deal to be involved in that game.”
Crosby is a high-motor player who showed impressive measurables at the combine.
He posted a 4.66-second 40-yard dash, a 122-inch broad jump, 6.89-second three-cone drill and 4.11-second 20-yard shuttle. Those final two times were second-fastest among all edge defenders. The Raiders want Crosby to pack on strength to his 255-pound frame.
The Senior Bowl run followed Crosby.
Johnson waited for the call, holding a draft party Friday at a Houston restaurant, expecting to be chosen in the second or third round. About 30 family members and friends attended. No call came. Not until the fourth round when Raiders coach Jon Gruden told Johnson he believes he’ll be “the steal of this draft.”
Gruden added that the Raiders almost selected Johnson at No. 40 overall Friday. They took former Clemson cornerback Trayvon Mullen instead.
Although the 49ers coached Johnson in Mobile, the Raiders were on his radar.
“I was paying attention to the energy of their coaching and what they had their guys doing,” said Johnson, who was considered among the most athletic cornerbacks in the draft. “I was like, ‘Man, this is a pretty good coach and a pretty good coaching staff.’ I knew the whole time that the Raiders had a lot of picks this draft.”
Raiders tight ends coach Frank Smith targeted Moreau.
He worked out the prospect this offseason at LSU. The two also had dinner, Moreau said. He and Johnson could have their most immediate roles come on special teams, given the depth at their positions.
“You know, it’s funny,” Moreau said. “I kind of kept up with (Smith) through the whole process, and I really have an affinity for the Raiders. I obviously have an affinity for Coach Gruden and his staff — one of the great minds in football. So, I kind of hoped this would happen. …I’ve been absolutely killing myself today by watching this freakin’ draft, but it all worked out to be perfect.”
Renfrow became the third former Clemson player to join the draft class. He followed defensive end Clelin Ferrell, chosen at No. 4 overall Thursday, and Mullen. What Renfrow lacks in size and top-end speed he compensates with quickness and sure hands. He’ll compete to be the team’s top slot receiver after the Raiders released Seth Roberts this month.
This is the first time in the Raiders’ 60-year history they drafted three college teammates in the same draft class. Clemson defeated Alabama on Jan. 7 to win the national championship.
Renfrow said that the first thing he did after being drafted is make a video call to Ferrell and Mullen.
“Trayvon switched numbers on me,” Renfrow said with a laugh. “He’s gotten too big league for me. He must have a second phone, so I had to track his number down, but I facetimed both of them. We’re just ready to get to work and bring some of the same stuff we did at Clemson to Oakland, so we’re excited.”
Bell is a highly athletic prospect who is a converted wide receiver.
Like Crosby, Bell must gain weight and — more important — functional strength when he joins the Raiders in earnest. The team will hold their rookie minicamp next weekend. Bell’s uncle, Nick Bell, was a 1991 second-round pick by the Raiders.
The franchise drafted nine players in the three days.
Mayock and Gruden worked together on the process, although this draft class notably had a different flavor than in 2018. Last year’s group featured a greater prominence of players whom other teams flagged for character and/or medical concerns.
The Raiders made a clear point to prioritize character.
And while some prospects carry a longer developmental curve than others, the team noticeably added needed athleticism at edge rusher and in the secondary. Guard was thought to be a positional need, but no selection came there. Denzelle Good will proceed as the projected starter opposite Gabe Jackson, but a future addition cannot be ruled out.
The Raiders also added a number of rookie free agents.
Those include Wisconsin fullback Alec Ingold, UC Davis wide receiver Keelan Doss, Notre Dame linebacker Te’von Coney, Fordham cornerback Dylan Mabin, South Carolina cornerback Keisean Nixon, UCLA offensive tackle Andre James, Alabama guard Lester Cotton Sr. and Penn State linebacker Koa Farmer, sources said.
The Raiders coached Ingold, Doss and Coney at the Senior Bowl.
It’s important to recruit undrafted rookies and, amid interest elsewhere, compel them to sign as free agents. So, maybe the Raiders didn’t coach the wrong team in Alabama after all.
Raiders draft picks
1 (4). Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson
1 (24). Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama
1 (27). Johnathan Abram, S, Mississippi State
2 (40). Trayvon Mullen, DB, Clemson
4 (106). Maxx Crosby, DE, Eastern Michigan
4 (129). Isaiah Johnson, CB, Houston
4 (137). Foster Moreau, TE, LSU
5 (149). Hunter Renfrow, WR, Clemson
7 (230). Quinton Bell, DE, Prairie View