Draft-day slides pushed a few Raiders to stardom
Looking back on footage from when he was picked in the 2014 NFL Draft, Davante Adams may appear destined to one day become a Raider.
Adams and his family were dressed in all black during a draft day party at his childhood home in Palo Alto, Calif. The attire didn’t end up matching with the Green Bay Packers, which took Adams 56th overall in the second round.
But it was so conspicuous that ESPN analyst Todd McShay pointed it out as a “theme” after cameras cut from Adams back to the live set at Radio City Music Hall in New York.
“That was the funeral for everybody that didn’t pick me,” Adams explained last month. “I’d like to think I made a decent impact and made a couple of teams pay that didn’t pick me.”
Adams, who signed a five-year, $140 million deal with the Raiders after being traded from the Packers this offseason, isn’t alone in the ranks of current NFL stars who took motivation from their draft experience.
Another group of top football prospects is set to realize their lifelong dream and develop a professional origin story with the 2022 NFL Draft beginning at 5 p.m. Thursday and running through Saturday in Las Vegas.
This year’s draft, which will be staged outside Caesars Forum, is expected to break records as the most attended in history with as many as 300,000 visitors coming to town for a spectacle only Las Vegas could provide. Included in the draft’s event footprint is a red-carpet stage constructed over the lagoon in front of the Bellagio fountains.
The grandeur of modern drafts tends to overshadow the granular nature of the 262 players who will hear their names called to start their NFL careers. The 32 players taken in a draft’s first round will typically be ecstatic, but almost everyone else will feel like they have something to prove.
The faces of the Las Vegas Raiders fall in the latter category. After starring with Adams at Fresno State, quarterback Derek Carr also expected to go in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft but the first day concluded without any team taking him.
Carr slipped to the fourth pick of the second round, 36th overall, before the Raiders selected him. Even after signing a threeyear, $121 million extension to stay with the team two weeks ago, Carr couldn’t shake the bad memories when asked for his draft recollections.
“I got passed over a whole bunch of times,” Carr said. “I won’t forget, there was a little TV crew in there for the first round because teams were like, ‘If you’re there at 20, we’re taking you,’ and that kind of stuff. And then it doesn’t happen.”
Like Adams, Carr had a small gathering to watch the draft. Friends and family gathered at the home of his older brother, David Carr, in Bakersfield, Calif., instead of traveling to New York to be there in person.
Turning down the invitation might have ended up as saving grace for Carr. Drops down the draft board tend to become more magnified when shots of a player waiting in the green room fill the broadcast.
Twenty-two players will be on hand this year in Las Vegas — including potential overall No. 1 pick Aidan Hutchinson from Michigan ?— hoping to avoid that fate. Then again, not being there and falling from afar provided little solace to Adams.
“I remember having all my people there just chilling and waiting on the call on Day One because we kind of expected that,” he said. “I mean it was cocky a little bit, I guess you could say, but (ESPN) wouldn’t have sent cameras there if they didn’t believe it too. But we were all chilling at the house, and it was one of the weirdest, worst feelings I’ve had and most embarrassed feelings I’ve had.”
That embarrassment drove Adams through the first several years of his career, but he said it’s eventually faded as he’s turned into one of the game’s top receivers. Carr expressed slightly less long-term disappointment for falling into the second round but said that largely had to do with winding up on the Raiders.
Going into the second day of the draft, he got a comforting text from then-Raiders veteran receiver James Jones.
“He says, ‘Why don’t you come on out to Oakland,’?” Carr said. “I was just like, ‘Oh my gosh, wouldn’t that be something?’ And when that phone started ringing, I was just so happy because I don’t know why but I just wanted to go there. I was like, ‘I want to be part of fixing that.’?”
Carr knows there’s still work to be done on the final part. He’s led the Raiders to a pair of playoff appearances in his eight seasons behind center, but he has yet to deliver the franchise to its first postseason win since 2002.
This season could be his best chance yet, and a big reason why is the mentality many of the Raiders developed in part because of the draft. Carr and Adams are the team’s two highest-paid players, with edge rusher Maxx Crosby a close third after signing a four-year, $99 million extension this offseason.
Crosby went in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft and said last season that being overlooked both out of high school and college at Eastern Michigan had fueled his ascent in the NFL. It’s a feeling many of the Raiders, and NFL players as a whole, share in common.
“I look back at those moments and I’m thankful because I have another opportunity to go out and prove it again,” Carr said.