Jon Gruden was a big topic of conversation during the 2019 NFL Draft.
The Raiders had four first round picks, starting with the No. 4 selection, after Gruden rearranged the team’s roster last season with head-scratching trades of Amari Cooper and Khalil Mack. There was also a question of whether Gruden would try to trade up for an even higher pick.
While Kyler Murray was projected, and eventually chosen, as the No. 1 pick by the Cardinals, there was some buzz he could have dropped down the draft board.
Gruden also had the pieces to negotiate a trade with Arizona, but Murray was never a top prospect for the coach.
He discussed his decision not to go after the No. 1 pick during the draft in April. His comments were published Monday in NBC Sports’ Football Morning in America.
“We all loved Murray. That doesn’t mean we were gonna take him. How do you not love his performance, his playing style, what he accomplished? I had a blast with him (during a pre-draft workout),” Gruden said. “We didn’t think about going up to number one. We did look at (Nick) Bosa, (Quinnen) Williams, but not going to one. We did our homework on the quarterbacks. You gotta know who’s coming into the league at that position. There was a lot of speculation that we were gonna take a quarterback.
“I kept watching a guy on NFL Network saying we’re going up to get Murray. Then he says we’re going up to get (Dwayne) Haskins. Then he says we’re going up to get (Drew) Lock. We’re trading (Derek) Carr. I don’t understand it.”
Oakland ended up picking Clemson’s Clelin Ferrell (No. 4), Alabama’s Joshua Jacobs (No. 24) and Mississippi State’s Johnathan Abram (No. 27) in the first round.
The Raiders finished 2018 with a 4-12 record and missed the playoffs for the second consecutive year. Gruden is confident the rookie class and the addition of stars like Antonio Brown will help Oakland face what he calls a tough schedule. The Raiders will open the year with two home games against the Broncos and Chiefs.
“Last year was tough. It was gut-wrenching honestly. It was a necessary year,” he said. “People have their opinions but we added some draft picks. We feel like we added some free agents and got two more first-round picks next year. Hopefully we have a competitive, fun training camp and get a lot better before the season. Because we got a tough schedule, man.”