A rumor that isn’t totally surprising given the situation, after not making a selection in the 2022 NFL Draft until near the end of Day 2, Las Vegas does not expect any of their rookies to man starting roles this season, reports Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
This marks a departure from the recent trend for the Raiders, when desperate needs on the depth chart forced players like Josh Jacobs, Henry Ruggs, Kolton Miller, Clelin Ferrell, and others onto the field as rookies. The lack of Day 1 and 2 picks combined with a more well-staffed roster puts Las Vegas in a situation wherein they don’t have to rush the development of their rookie class.
The Raiders spent two picks on running backs in April. The team selected Georgia running back Zamir White in the fourth round and UCLA running back Brittain Brown in the seventh. White is a talented back once considered the top recruit in the country at his position in high school. A couple of ACL injuries and a logjammed running backs room in Georgia led to a less impactful career with the Bulldogs than expected, but White still led the team in rushing yards the past two seasons with 779 yards in 2020 and 856 yards in 2021 while scoring 11 touchdowns in each season. Brown had his best season as a freshman at Duke but transferred to UCLA after Deon Jackson took over in Durham. He was the No. 2 running back in a two-back system in Los Angeles both years with Demetric Felton in 2020 and Zach Charbonnet in 2021.
The Raiders’ starting running back job is not up for competition. Even after a down year in 2021, incumbent Josh Jacobs will return as the lead-back in Las Vegas. Kenyan Drake returns as the primary backup, as well. White will likely have a talent edge over Brandon Bolden, but Brown will need to work hard to displace Bolden for a spot on the 53-man roster.
Also on offense, the Raiders spent their first pick of the draft on Memphis offensive lineman Dylan Parham in the third round and added Ohio State offensive tackle Thayer Munford in the seventh. Parham is an athletic lineman, moving from tight end to the offensive line while redshirting for the Tigers. He started all four seasons after redshirting and worked at left guard, center, right guard, and right tackle during his tenure, starting games at every position except center. Munford was a four-year starter (utilizing his extra year of eligibility granted due to COVID-19) after spending his freshman year as a reserve lineman. He started his sophomore through senior seasons as a tackle, but moved to left guard for his super-senior season.
Parham has the best chance of any of the Vegas rookies to start next year, but certainly won’t be forced to, as the Raiders have some position battles going on within the offensive line. Andre James and Kolton Miller should return to their respective starting positions of center and left tackle. Some combination of John Simpson, Denzelle Good, and Alex Leatherwood are expected to fill out the right tackle and guards positions. Parham could potentially find his way into one of the starting guard spots, depending on how the dominos fall, but more likely will find himself as the sixth-man of the offensive line who can fill in at any position, similar to Patrick Mekari‘s role in Baltimore. Munford on the other hand is cemented a bit further down the depth chart as a reserve tackle. Munford has a lot of the physical tools to become a contributor in the NFL and his situation in Las Vegas will allow him to develop his ability to use those tools over time.
The other two draft picks the Raiders used in 2022 were spent on defensive tackles. The team selected LSU’s Neil Farrell Jr. in the fourth round and Tennessee’s Matthew Butler in the fifth. Farrell won a national championship with the 2019 Tigers and went on to use his extra year of eligibility in 2021. Butler played in 52 games for the Volunteers and earned 9.5 sacks during his tenure.
Neither Butler nor Farrell are expected to have much of an impact on the Raiders defensive line this year. Entrenched behind Johnathan Hankins, Bilal Nichols, Kyle Peko, and Vernon Butler on the depth chart, the rookie Butler and Farrell are depth pieces in the middle. If the rookies develop quickly and prove to be more impactful than Peko and the older Butler, they can really get some substantial playing time. As it is, though, the two rookies will find their playing time as reserves for a position that rotates often.
After running through the picks, the initial comment makes a lot of sense. It’s not necessarily that the rookie picks aren’t talented enough to be starters in the NFL, but, with the Raiders’ current roster, there’s no need to force any of their first-year players into a starting role for which they aren’t yet ready.