The NFL draft is a crapshoot. It’s absolutely impossible to figure out which players will become stars and which ones will not. Some get injured, some play in the wrong scheme, and some players just don’t have the heart. That said, here are a few Oakland Raider rookies to watch this season.
Oakland Raider Rookies to Watch
It would be easy to put Gareon Conley on this list. He was Oakland’s first round pick, and will likely see the field before anyone else. But there are 32 first round picks, and they’re all worth watching. That’s not what this article is about.
Unlike Conley, safety Obi Melifonwu isn’t a sure thing. On paper, he’s the perfect defensive back prospect. He’s huge, he’s amazingly athletic, is a solid tackler with soft hands. However, he needs a lot of work. His instincts need a little help, and he’s inconsistent.
However, with aging safety Reggie Nelson failing to get the job done, and Oakland’s secondary being one of the worst in the league last year, he might see playing time earlier than expected. It’ll be interesting to see how Melifonwu adjusts to the pro game.
Defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes is a peculiar player. When healthy and in shape, Vanderdoes is a surprisingly athletic big man, capable of devouring blocks and destroying an opposing run game. If he pans out, he could really help Khalil Mack get after the quarterback.
However, Vanderdoes has a history with injuries and alleged laziness. The Raiders just cut Dan Williams, they don’t need another lazy defensive tackle. Vanderdoes should get on the field early and often this year, it’ll be interesting to see how long he stays there.
Going into the draft, Oakland’s biggest need was inside linebacker. However, they didn’t address the position until the fifth round when they took Marquel Lee. There’s no question that Lee is a thumper. He’s not fantastic in coverage, but one on one, he’s going to trash opposing running backs.
At the moment, Ben Heeney and Cory James are starting at inside linebacker. Both men have shown flashes in the past, but neither were able to sustain it. Lee could conceivably become a starter if he has a good preseason. It’ll be interesting to see how that pans out, and if he can secure the starting job.