It was an up and down season for the Oakland Raiders. By week 11, the team was 6-4 and looked poised to sneak into the playoffs for the first time since 2016. That didn’t end up coming to fruition as the Raiders would lose five of their last six games to end the season 7-9.
However, as is the case every season, a few players on Oakland’s roster defied expectations and broke out in 2019.
If I were to tell you before the season that a former sixth-round pick would lead the Raiders in receiving, the obvious guess would’ve been 2010 No. 195 pick, Antonio Brown.
Instead, fourth-year tight end Darren Waller developed into not only the Raiders biggest breakout star but, one of the biggest surprises of the entire season.
Waller hadn’t totaled over 85 yards in any of his previous three seasons but, that didn’t stop the athletic, 6-foot-6 tight end from becoming the Raiders’ first 1,000-yard receiver since Amari Cooper in 2016.
In total, the former Georgia Tech product grabbed 90 passes for a team-high 1,145 yards and three touchdowns. Not only was Waller the team’s top target for all of 2019, but the 27-year-old also had nearly 500 more receiving yards than anyone else on the roster.
When the Raiders traded away star pass rusher Khalil Mack in 2018, it became clear that Oakland was in desperate need of a replacement.
The Raiders would end up picking Clemson defensive end Clelin Ferrell with the fourth overall pick in the 2019 draft but, it was a player picked three rounds later that would serve as the team’s top pass rusher.
Eastern Michigan product Maxx Crosby broke onto the scene as a rookie and was undoubtedly one of Oakland’s best defensive players this season.
In 16 games (and only 10 starts), the 6-foot-5, 255-pound defensive end would record 46 tackles, 16 tackles for a loss and a team-leading 10 sacks.
It was tempting to put rookie running back Josh Jacobs in this spot but, as a highly touted first-round pick, expectations for him were fairly high. The same can’t be said about 5-foot-10 wideout Hunter Renfrow.
Despite a stellar career at Clemson, Renfrow’s size allowed him to fall onto Oakland’s laps in the fifth round this past draft.
In his rookie season, Renfrow was the Raiders’ third-leading receiver with 605 yards and three touchdowns. The late-round pick has shown NFL-level speed, quickness, and route-running and was a pleasant surprise in 2019 for the franchise.