2020 Raiders Draft Pick Series Bryan Edwards

2020 Raiders Draft Pick Series: Bryan Edwards

  • #2020NFLDraft
  • Bryan Edwards
  • Henry Ruggs III
  • Jon Gruden
  • khalil mack
  • Mike Mayock
  • NFl Draft
  • South Carolina Gamecocks
  • Tyrell Williams
By theoeleven May 23, 2020 0 Comment
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The Las Vegas Raiders doubled-up at wide receiver in the 2020 NFL Draft by taking Bryan Edwards 81st overall.

Despite drafting Henry Ruggs III 12th overall, the Las Vegas Raiders selected South Carolina wide receiver Bryan Edwards with the 81st pick. This selection originally belonged the Chicago Bears, but was sent to the Raiders as part of the Khalil Mack trade.

Bryan Edwards was not a household name outside of South Carolina or the SEC. However, his story and career production are remarkably impressive.

South Carolina Career

Edwards enrolled a semester early to participate in spring camp as a freshman. Following an outstanding freshman season where he started all 12 games, he was elected to the SEC All-Freshman team in 2016 and was a 2nd-Team Freshman All-American.

As a sophomore he led the Gamecocks in receptions (64), receiving yards (793) and touchdowns (7). During his junior year, Edwards finished second on the team in each of those three categories behind current 49er Deebo Samuel. Edwards did lead the team in yards per catch (15.4) while setting career highs in that category and receiving yards (846).

As a senior this past season, Bryan Edwards was elected team captain and once again led the team in all major receiving categories. His 71 receptions (4th in the SEC), 816 yards (9th in the SEC) and six touchdowns in just ten games earned him 2nd team All-SEC Honors. Furthermore, he managed this level of production despite playing with a backup, true freshman quarterback. He missed the final two games of the season due to a knee injury.

Over his four year career, Edwards caught a pass in all 48 games he played in, which is a school record. He also finished as the Gamecocks all-time leader in receptions (234) and receiving yards (3,045).

Good production in college does not always translate to the NFL, particularly at the wide receiver position. However this level of consistent production over four years in the SEC is rare. And it suggests that Edwards’ transition to the NFL should be nearly seamless.

Bryan Edwards Draft Profile

So how did a player with that much production fall to the third round? For starters, the knee injury likely scared away some teams. In normal years, injuries raise red flags, but this year was even worse than normal due to teams’ inability to get prospects in their building to conduct medical evaluations.

The other, more relevant factor is that the 2020 Draft contained an outrageous amount of talent at wide receiver. Bryan Edwards was the 14th wide receiver off the board, yet was picked 81st overall. That’s not normal. Though quite frankly, everyone picked before him was deserving. In almost any other year Edwards would have been a mid-to-late 2nd round pick.

Here’s a look at what makes him so dynamic.

Strengths

NFL size. At 6’3″ 212lbs with 32.25″ arms and 9.5″ hands, he measures above the 50th percentile in each category. Scouts refer to him as a prototype HWS (Height-Weight-Speed) prospect.

Typically, players of Edwards’ size struggle at the line of scrimmage. However, his release is arguably his best on-field trait. He shows the footwork and strength to execute a variety of release moves to win at the line of scrimmage versus press coverage. With very good strength and length he is also able to keep his hands free during the stem phase.

Against off-coverage he shows very good acceleration off the line of scrimmage with long strides to eat up the defenders’ cushion and set-up his breaks.

He displays very good play strength which he utilizes effectively at the top of routes. He has enough speed to threaten corner backs on vertical routes. This speed combined with his strength make him a difficult cover at the intermediate level.

Edwards has a knack for making the spectacular catch.

He shows good ability to adjust to passes above his shoulders. He also shows good, late hand action on deep routes to prevent defenders from raking at the ball. With solid hands and good competitive toughness he is a reliable option in critical moments.

Solid run after catch ability. He shows good vision with the ball in his hands to read blocks and run to daylight. His long strides make him look slow on tape, yet SEC defenders struggle to close the gap on him when he gets to full speed.

Weaknesses

To reach his full potential, Bryan Edwards must grow as a route runner. He telegraphs breaks with body lean and needs to show more suddenness at the top of routes. His strength advantage will be less prominent in the NFL, thus he won’t be able to rely solely on power to get open.

He shows lapses in focus on early downs and will struggle to reel in easy passes. He also struggles adjusting to passes at or below waist level.

Edwards is a capable blocker but fails to consistently show the effort and desire necessary on run plays, wide receiver screens or downfield on long gains.

Due to all of the weaknesses mentioned above, he is not an ideal slot receiver. While Hunter Renfrow is already in that position, the Raiders do not really have true backup for him. This was evident last season when Renfrow missed three games and the offense struggled. Do not expect Edwards to be that guy, at least early on in his career.

Being an X/Z receiver exclusively, may have also contributed to him falling into the third round.

What Bryan Edwards brings to the Raiders offense

Depth is Bryan Edwards’ biggest value add. The Raiders’ offense struggled mightily the final seven games of the regular season, averaging just 15 points per game over that span.

The reason? With Tyrell Williams and Hunter Renfrow banged up the Raiders had absolutely no speed, or quite frankly talent, on the outside. Edwards does have a minor injury history, but simply having a capable option within the depth chart is a huge upgrade for the position group and offense as a whole.

That said, he is not going to be a backup, special team player. Bryan Edwards will have a role in the Raiders offense. He may be fourth on the depth chart, but he will see his fair share of snaps as a backup to Ruggs and Williams. The more he performs, the more snaps he’ll get.

Based on his skill set and production at South Carolina, expect Edwards to be one of the Raiders biggest surprises this season.

Final thoughts on Bryan Edwards

Initially this selection was extremely odd, considering the Raiders drafted Lynn Bowden Jr literally one pick before. However, now that we know what the plan is for Bowden, this pick is one that Raider Nation should support.

His presence should push Tyrell Williams to continue to get better. Williams had a good season in 2019 and he deserves to be the starter. For now.

That said, competition makes everyone better and this pick hopefully will light a fire under Williams to continue improving. If he does, he will remain the starter, and play out the remainder of the 4yr/$44 million contract he signed last off-season.

If not, his contract had all $22 million in guaranteed money front-loaded to the first two years. Thus, the Raiders could cut him after the 2020 season and save $11.5 million in each of the next two seasons.

Lastly this was the fourth and final selection the Raiders received from the Khalil Mack trade. Short-term, obviously the Bears won the trade in a landslide. Long-term, if Josh Jacobs, Damon Arnette and Bryan Edwards pan out the way Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden expect them to, the Raiders will look back on this trade as a huge win.

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