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These days Raiders fans seem to be searching for positives with regard to the past three years under head coach Jon Gruden. The most frequent potential positive I’ve seen is that the Raiders have improved the past couple of seasons — first going 4-12, then jumping to 7-9 in 2019, and to 8-8 in 2020.

Many fans see that as a trend that will only continue. But not many football analysts seem to share that optimism.

The latest to cast doubt on the Raiders’ improvement is Peter King. The longtime, highly respected NFL reporter put together his power rankings for the 2021 season and the Raiders were buried in the bottom ten at 23rd.

“I hate dogging Jon Gruden, because he’s really good for football. But it’s time for him to produce. Jack Del Rio coached the Raiders to 25 wins in his three seasons as coach; Gruden’s coached the team to 19 in his three years. He’s not in danger because of his 10-year contract. The Raiders are still on their Vegas honeymoon, with multiple Elvi in the building this season for the first time the franchise can host fans in the new Allegiant Stadium. So I don’t see the Raiders being given the back of the hand by the locals this year. But the schedule for Vegas is not friendly. The first five: Ravens, at Steelers, Dolphins, at Chargers, Bears. The Raiders will be good enough on offense. Question is, with the collective underwhelming performance of their high draft picks by the Gruden/Mike Mayock team on defense (Clelin Ferrell, Trayvon Mullen, Damon Arnette, Johnathan Abram), can Gus Bradley turn the switch to get good players to play better?”

This year’s top pick also brought a good deal of side-eye. The Raiders chose Alabama tackle Alex Leatherwood at No. 17 overall while many had him as a day two prospect.

If not for the teams’ failed and underperforming first-round picks in the previous couple drafts, Gruden and Mayock may have been given the benefit of the doubt with Leatherwood. It’s those failed picks, and thus the shaky foundation of the team, that have the likes of King and others putting them in the back of the pack in their 2021 NFL power rankings.

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