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The Raiders received the pick from the Dallas Cowboys in an October 2018 trade for wideout Amari Cooper.
Abram amassed 99 tackles (nine for a loss), three sacks and two interceptions during the 2018 season. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller ranked him 27th overall and second among safeties on his final big board.
Lance Zierlein of NFL.com offered the following pre-draft scouting report, giving him an "instant starter" grade as well as a second-round projection:
Blunt force-striker with the measurables and play demeanor teams look for from a down safety with nickel linebacker qualities. Abrams did an admirable job in coverage in Mississippi State's scheme but might not have the anticipation and ball skills to hold up in extended coverage duties. Abrams shines as a physical run defender with pursuit speed and energy to play sideline to sideline. He grades out as one of the better options for teams looking to deploy an effective "big nickel" defender near the box.
Raiders general manager Mike Mayock was clearly enamored with Abram before the draft, per Vic Tafur of The Athletic:
Reaction to the pick was mixed.
On the positive end, Sirius XM Radio NFL insider Adam Caplan said Abram is "arguably the best safety for this draft."
Mike Jones of USA Today called Abram a "real physical, rangey big-hitting safety."
However, Evan Silva of Rotoworld criticized the move in addition to the other two Raider first-round selections:
Marcus Mosher of Raiders Wire offered similar sentiments:
Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports posited that Raiders head coach Jon Gruden—and not Mayock—was calling the shots Thursday.
Perhaps there's debate on the Abram selection, but there is no doubting the prospect's high character.
Ian Rapoport of NFL Network called Abram "a very high character player who teams loved," and Jane Slater of NFL Network offered one example symbolizing that notion:
Jane Slater @SlaterNFL
What makes Mississippi State S Johnathan Abram special based on some of my calls? He showed up to his meeting in a sports coat because I’m told he approached the visit like a job interview. Married with a child at 21, he was inquiring about school system for daughter while here.
Abram figures to start at strong safety right away alongside new Raiders free safety Lamarcus Joyner in the defensive backfield.