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Hill: Raiders’ draft class already clears low bar set in 2020

None of the nine selections the Raiders made in April’s draft has made a single play in a regular-season NFL game.

Yet it’s a virtual lock the class will be more accomplished than the organization’s 2020 debacle.

At this point, it’s not much of a stretch to call it the worst draft in recent league history, though the 2017 Raiders and 2012 49ers classes might have something to say about that.

The Raiders, at the time run by coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock, had five picks in the top 100 in 2020.

There was a time this week when none of those players was on an NFL roster.

Wide receiver Henry Ruggs (No. 12 pick) was off to a promising start, but will spend at least the next three years in jail. Damon Arnette (No. 19) had a multitude of legal issues that derailed a career that already appeared to be going nowhere fast on the field.

Lynn Bowden (No. 80) was traded before even playing a game for the Raiders. He has bounced around and was waived by the Saints this week only to sign with the practice squad the next day. Wide receiver Bryan Edwards (No. 81) had 45 catches and four touchdowns in two seasons with the Raiders, but has been released by the Falcons, Chiefs and Saints since then and is currently unsigned.

Tanner Muse (No. 100) never played a down for the Raiders and is on his fourth team after being claimed off waivers by the Chargers this week.

Only one remains

Later picks John Simpson (No. 109) and Amik Robertson (No. 139) salvaged the class. Simpson was waived by the Raiders during the season last year, but is expected to start at guard for the Ravens. Robertson, a cornerback, is the lone player still with the Raiders.

Not great. And it was made even worse by the fact it came on the heels of the Raiders hitting on just one of three first-round picks in 2019.

It’s the kind of disaster that could take a franchise years from which to recover. The Raiders, now run by Dave Ziegler and Josh McDaniels, may not have hit any home runs with their first draft class in 2022, but they did make solid contact on a pair of offensive linemen in Dylan Parham and Thayer Munford. Plus, the first two picks from that draft were used to acquire superstar Davante Adams.

Add that infusion of talent to the nine players who were selected this year all making the roster — none of whom has been arrested yet — and the Raiders’ brain trust believes they are back on track.

None of that guarantees success. This project is still very much a work in progress, and on paper, the Raiders are still only the fourth-best team in a four-team division.

And if you’re thinking it wasn’t a rebuilding project because they took over a playoff team, stop. That playoff appearance was the definition of fool’s gold, and the biggest mistake Ziegler and McDaniels have made was treating the 2022 team as if it were a legitimate contender instead of tearing the whole thing down and starting from scratch.

The 2023 draft class may include some foundational pieces. Tyree Wilson is a raw freak. Michael Mayer looks as good as advertised as a route runner. Jakorian Bennett may be an absolute steal.

Aidan O’Connell showed some good things, though preseason success is often a poor indicator of regular-season ability. Seventh-rounder Nesta Jade Silvera had some dominant practice reps.

None of that means anything yet. But the bar wasn’t very high.

Rising star

It took Mamadou Fall two years to get from Las Vegas to Barcelona, which is typically about a 13-hour flight.

His journey was actually rapid.

After making eight appearances for the Las Vegas Lights of the USL in 2021, the LAFC defender has been loaned to FC Barcelona and will spend this season in La Liga.

It’s a massive opportunity for the 20-year-old Senegal native and a chance for local soccer fans to watch one of their own in an elite league on one of the world’s most famous teams.

And with the current traffic situation in Las Vegas, fans can probably reach Spain easier than they could have made it downtown to see him play.

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on Twitter.

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