Leave it to a Clemson Tiger to break a dubious Oakland Raiders’ curse. Rookie cornerback Trayvon Mullen has an outstanding chance of lifting the recent hex which began with former general manager Reggie McKenzie. Since taking over personnel matters in 2013, McKenzie’s lone second rounder that panned out is none other than quarterback Derek Carr.
- 2013: Menelik Watson
- 2014: Carr
- 2015: Mario Edwards Jr.
- 2016: Jihad Ward
- 2017: Obi Melifonwu
- 2018: P.J. Hall*
Notice that asterisk by Hall’s name? That’s “McKenzie’s” final second-round selection for Oakland, however, it’s not entirely clear if that was an RM pick or a Jon Gruden pick. The ambiguity results in an asterisk.
Which brings us to 2019 and Mike Mayock/Gruden selection Mullen. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound corner is the prototype press-man shadow back as he’s got the requisite length, speed, anticipation, ball skills and pop as tackler. Throughout training camp and in the preseason opener, Mullen is showing why Mayock and Gruden were shocked to see him still available at pick No. 40.
Sticky in coverage at his height and frame, it’s going to be too enticing for defensive coordinator Paul Guenther to not use him on the outside and even in the slot once the regular season rolls around. Mullen’s speed and physicality can push incumbents Gareon Conley and Daryl Worley from a starting spot — if the former Tiger continues to grow.
Unlike fellow rookie cornerback, fourth-rounder Isaiah Johnson, Mullen isn’t a raw prospect. Despite both being similar physically and athletically, Mullen hails from the National Champions and is accustomed to quality competition and high-pressure moments. There’s a reason he didn’t give up a single touchdown in his collegiate career.
Here’s something to keep your eyes on: Mullen the tight end defender.
If Guenther wants to get creative and deceptive, he has his young DB shadow tight ends. Safeties Lamarcus Joyner (5-foot-8), Karl Joseph (5-foot-10) and Johnathan Abram (6-foot) aren’t the biggest cats around. Joyner is slated to play more slot corner and KJ has been manhandled by bigger tight ends. In fact, the biggest safety on the Raiders roster is Erik Harris (6-foot-3).