Safety Johnathan Abram was part of a vaunted Raiders 2019 draft class that featured three first-round picks.
Through two seasons, only one has consistently performed at a level expected from his draft status. Running back Josh Jacobs has reached 1,300 yards from scrimmage in each of his first two seasons and has scored 19 total touchdowns. He was the 24th overall pick.
The story is a bit different for Abram and defensive lineman Clelin Ferrell. The latter made only 2.0 sacks, three tackles for loss, and 10 quarterback hits in 11 games last season — not exactly the numbers a team would prefer from a No. 4 overall pick.
Abram, however, suffered a torn rotator cuff and torn labrum in Week One of his rookie season and was out for the remainder of the year. He missed three games last year, one while on the COVID-19 list. He finished with two interceptions, six passes defensed, three tackles for loss, and four quarterback hits in 2020.
The Raiders will have to make a decision on the former 27th overall pick’s fifth-year option in the spring. But Abram said this week his main concern right now is learning the scheme under new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley.
“Just learning a day at a time, learning the system, helping the defense get better,” Abram said, via Ed Graney of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, who also noted Abram’s tone with the media was more subdued than it’s been in the past. “I don’t think about things like the [fifth-year option]. Things like that don’t really matter to me. The only thing I’m worried about is learning the defense and getting better every day.”
The Raiders also have some potential competition for Abram at safety, having re-signed 2016 first-round pick Karl Joseph who spent last season with the Browns. Las Vegas also drafted Tyree Gillespie in the fourth round.
“I’m looking to do whatever they ask of me,” Abram said. “If they ask me to play deep, I’ll do it. If they ask me to play near the line of scrimmage, I’ll do it. I’ll do everything to the best of my ability.”
As the Raiders look to significantly improve their defense, Abram should be a big piece of the puzzle. But Las Vegas appears to have solid options behind the young safety if things don’t out early in the season.