Predicting Raiders' Key Stat Leaders for 2021 NFL SeasonMay 17, 2021
Predicting Raiders' Key Stat Leaders for 2021 NFL Season
Over the past 18 seasons, the Las Vegas Raiders have made one playoff appearance. And that ended up being only one game at the end of the 2016 season as they lost in the AFC Wild Card Round.
In three seasons since Jon Gruden returned as head coach, the Raiders have yet to get back to the postseason, although they've increased their win total each year, improving to 8-8 in 2020. Now, they'll be looking to continue that upward trajectory in the 2021 season.
Las Vegas is returning a lot of its core, but it has improved several areas on its roster that had holes at the start of the offseason. So if the Raiders can get better in those areas, perhaps this will be the year they finally make a playoff run. But they'll need some big showings from some important players for that to happen.
Here are some early predictions for three key stats leaders for Las Vegas in 2021.
WR Henry Ruggs III
At times during the 2020 season, Ruggs showcased his big-play potential. But the 2020 first-round pick didn't have a consistent rookie year, and because of that, he didn't put up huge numbers, hauling in 26 passes for 452 yards and two touchdowns in 13 games.
This offseason, the Raiders lost their leading wide receiver from last season (Nelson Agholor), so they're going to need some of their young receivers to step up in 2021. And while playmakers such as Bryan Edwards and Hunter Renfrow could help fill the void, Ruggs is the most likely to have a breakout season.
Last month, Las Vegas general manager Mike Mayock said that he believes "the sky is the limit" for Ruggs.
"We knew exactly what he was and that's who he is. We had no surprises last year on Ruggs," Mayock said, per Myles Simmons of Pro Football Talk. "Now, he needs to take it to the next level too, the next level up. Stronger, better route runner, finish, get both feet down—all those things—and we think he will."
Ruggs should take a big step forward and become a top target for quarterback Derek Carr. And that could mean big things for the Raiders' offense.
Prediction: 51 receptions for 838 yards and seven touchdowns
DE Yannick Ngakoue
How badly did the Raiders need to add a top pass rusher this offseason? Well, they ranked 29th in the NFL with 21 sacks last season. So it was one of their biggest needs heading into 2021.
Ngakoue should greatly help improve Las Vegas' defensive front. The 26-year-old defensive end has recorded at least eight sacks in each of his first five NFL seasons. In 2020, he had eight sacks and four forced fumbles in 15 games split between the Minnesota Vikings and Baltimore Ravens.
Not only have Ngakoue's sack totals been consistent throughout his NFL career, but he's played in at least 15 games every season. That reliability will be important for a Raiders defense that should do a better job of putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks and making big-time plays on that side of the ball.
While Ngakoue's presence should create opportunities for others on the pass rush as well, he'll likely put up some strong numbers in his first season in Las Vegas. Expect more of the same from the defensive end as he'll quickly adjust to his new surroundings.
Prediction: 31 tackles, 9.5 sacks and two forced fumbles
FS Trevon Moehrig
After the Raiders took Alabama tackle Alex Leatherwood in the first round of the 2021 NFL draft, it became less likely they'd be adding Moehrig. However, he was still available 11 picks into the second round, so Las Vegas traded up in order to select the former TCU safety.
Las Vegas needed a boost at the back of its secondary, and Moehrig should provide an immediate one. He could potentially become the starting free safety before the start of the season, moving Jeff Heath to a reserve role. But even if he doesn't start immediately, Moehrig should get plenty of time on the field and ample opportunities to make an impact.
Over his three-year college career with the Horned Frogs, Moehrig had 124 tackles and seven interceptions in 33 games. His impressive all-around skill set should transition well to the NFL, and he could be poised to put up impressive numbers in his rookie season.
Moehrig could be a key part of Las Vegas' defense for many years to come. And he'll start that off by establishing his role early in his career.
Prediction: 52 tackles, three interceptions and 12 pass deflections