Rookies reported to Napa today for the start of the 2018 Oakland Raiders training camp. Our Sr. NFL writer Hayden Nadolny sets realistic expectations on this class as they enter camp.
The current NFL Draft class for the Oakland Raiders has been analyzed and poured over since April. Then there were mini-camps and what little we all could glean from those non-contact, pad-less run-through over a month ago. Now, as the real thing is set to begin, we take a look at the expectations of the 2018 Raiders draft class as they all check in for their first full training camp in Napa, Calif., today.
Realistic Expectation: Second-String Left Tackle
I say this only because Donald Penn is hell-bent on being back for game one of the season. Miller has really impressed Tom Cable and the offensive coaches on his ability to pick the scheme up mentally. So far the Raiders appear set on giving Miller exclusive reps at left tackle, so a shift to the right side to compete at right tackle would seem unlikely. If Penn is not 100% during camp, Miller will have ample opportunity to stake his claim to start at left tackle.
Realistic Expectation: Limited Rotational Interior Pass-rusher
Hall is a very raw product who is going to need time to adapt from the small school of Sam Houston State to the pros. His best asset is as a pass rusher and it would be a surprise if he featured in games on anything more than obvious passing downs.
Realistic expectation: Starter at Right Tackle
If Brandon Parker isn’t starting on the right side, it means that he has severely underwhelmed, as it’s not like anyone is expecting veteran Breno Giacomini to set the world on fire. Parker has been a quick study mentally and the coaches are impressed with his work ethic. The only way I don’t see Parker at right tackle is if Penn really dominates at left tackle, and they shift Miller over to the right side. That being said, the coaches are reluctant at this point to shift Miller over from side to side given he is a relatively raw product.
Realistic expectation: Third Pass Rushing Defensive End (behind Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin)
Key would have been a 1stround pick had his off-field issues been non-existent. That being said, the Raiders feel that he has put those in the rear-view mirror, and expect him to play a strong supporting role early in his career. Given that Khalil Mack is unlikely to be at the early stages of training camp as he holds out for a new long-term contract, Key should get plenty of opportunities during training camp and the pre-season games to make an impact.
Realistic expectation: Backup at Best
Nelson hasn’t been on the field in a healthy capacity this off-season, due to recovering from a minor tear to the meniscus in his knee. Prior to his injury, Nelson was projected as a day 2 selection at the draft. It is not expected that Nelson’s injury will hinder his NFL career, but given the lack of time coaches have to work with players, Nelson is already coming back from a long way behind. If his recovery hasn’t gone to plan, Nelson will be a candidate for the PUP list.
Realistic expectation: Starting Defensive Tackle
Like Key, Hurst would have been a first-round selection based solely on his on-field production. However, the concerns surrounding his heart led to him slipping all the way to the fifth round. Though the pads haven’t come on yet this off-season, Hurst has been incredibly impressive, “wow”-ing the coaches on multiple occasions. During the last three-day mandatory mini-camp, Hurst was starting at defensive tackle with Justin Ellis. If all goes to plan, Hurst is going to give the Raiders a push up the middle that they haven’t seen from a defensive tackle since Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly almost a full decade ago.
Realistic expectation: Starting Punter
The only way Townsend doesn’t get this job is through injury.
Realistic expectation: Practice Squad
Victor is viewed as an odd selection on Day 3 of the draft, and his play to date in the off-season has left coaches somewhat underwhelmed. He will compete with a litany of players at linebacker including Marquel Lee and Nicholas Morrow, for rotational spots. He faces an uphill battle to make the 53-man roster, but they don’t want to give up on a sixth-round pick so early, so the practice squad looks likely.
Realistic expectation: Last Roster Spot at WR
Ateman was talked up early in the 2017 season as a possible Day 2 pick, but his underwhelming speed, in particular, sent him falling down draft boards all the way to the seventh round. He has immense size and decent hands and will contribute in some red zone packages early in his career. The Raiders actually have solid depth at wide receiver, so he is going to have be solid special teams contributor in order to cement his place on the 53-man roster.