The Oakland Raiders first-round safety has considerable shoes to fill, but he is prepared for the challenge.
Thursday night, coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock used the 27th overall pick to select Mississippi State safety Johnathan Abram. He is a hard-hitting enforcer that is known for his big tackles, and he will be expected to play a major role in the defensive turnaround in 2019.
To that point, Abram now knows his jersey number. He will enter the 2019 season wearing number 24. While the number may be better known over the past two seasons due to Marshawn Lynch wearing it while rushing for 10 touchdowns, 24 actually carries far more weight due to it being made iconic in the 90s and 00s by Charles Woodson.
“For me, for that number,” Abram said on Friday, “that number carries a lot of weight. Seeing the message that Charles Woodson put out about the shoes and the role I have to fill of the greats that played before me…He didn’t want to include himself, but he’s a Hall of Famer. He’s going to go down as one of the greatest Raiders to ever play. So for Coach Gruden to give me that number, those are some big shoes I have to fill. There’s a lot I have to do. There’s a lot of work that has to be put in. Countless hours.”
There is no denying that the former fourth overall pick in 1998 (Woodson) is one of the greatest cornerbacks/safeties in Silver and Black history, so his opinion carries a lot of weight. His video to Abram shows that he has faith in the Mississippi State safety’s ability to contribute to victories with huge defensive plays, much like he did.
Of course, in order to match the history made by Woodson, Abram will simply have to win Defensive Rookie of the Year and be named to nine Pro Bowls. Woodson finished his storied career tied for fifth on the league’s all-time interceptions list (65), tied for most career defensive touchdowns (13), and second all-time in interceptions returned for touchdowns (11).
Throughout his tenure with the Raiders and Packers, he compiled 1,003 career tackles, 20 sacks, and 28 forced fumbles while playing in 254 regular-season games. Woodson also led the NFL in interceptions twice, bringing in nine during the 2009 season and seven in 2011.
While it’s difficult to project similar numbers for Abram, especially mere days after he was selected in the NFL Draft, having this number assigned to him is a show of faith by the Raiders coaching staff. If he can make a difference for the Silver and Black even remotely similar to Woodson, he will be set up for long-term success, both in the Bay Area and in Las Vegas.