Raiders Remain In ‘Wait And See’ Mode At Linebacker
It’s not often that a fifth-round pick enters the NFL with such lofty expectations, but thanks to the Raiders undeniable need at inside linebacker, all eyes will be on former Wake Forest LB Marquel Lee when the 2017 season begins – after all, it’s been more than a decade since the Raiders had any stability at the position.
The team’s decision to wait to draft a linebacker is consistent with general manager Reggie McKenzie’s history in Oakland. In six drafts with the Raiders, the reigning NFL Executive of the Year has never drafted an inside linebacker earlier than the fifth round.
On Thursday, McKenzie went on 95.7 The Game and discussed the Raiders plans for Lee.
“We definitely think he has the potential to start,” McKenzie told JT the Brick, but cautioned that the 21 year-old is still “a long ways away from that.”
McKenzie’s words were optimistic, but they come on the heels of head coach Jack Del Rio sounding slightly less enthusiastic about the Raiders overall options at inside linebacker.
“I don’t know that we’ve adequately addressed our middle linebacker position, to be honest,” Del Rio told NFL Network earlier in the month. “I think we have some work to do there. The rest of our roster is pretty well situated, but we’ll be looking for a linebacker and we’ll continue to look, whether it’s the waiver wire, trades or available guys out there, veterans on the street. We’ll continue to look.”
From an organizational standpoint, the Raiders simply don’t value the position and as a result, they’ve struggled to find production at the position through the draft.
In his segment on 95.7 The Game, McKenzie acknowledged that “linebackers were disappearing” early in this year’s draft, adding that he wasn’t going out of his way to draft a linebacker. “At the time, as far as a linebacker at that point, [Lee] was the best guy on the board, and we jumped all over that.”
Was Lee the best linebacker on the Raiders draft board in the fifth round or best player on the Raiders board? McKenzie seems to indicate Lee was the best linebacker still available and there were probably higher rated players at other positions still on the team’s draft board.
Whatever the case, the Raiders remain in ‘wait and see’ mode at inside linebacker and for matters of depth alone it’s hard to imagine a veteran presence not joining the mix in the coming weeks. Which makes you wonder…
Who else do they have their eye on?