The Raiders turned heads when they selected offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood in the first round of the 2021 draft. His play as a rookie didn’t ease concerns that he represented a reach being taken that high, but other rookies provided cause for optimism in 2022 and beyond.
In a breakdown of the entire class’ roster standing and outlook for the upcoming campaign, Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal writes that a number of players the Raiders drafted after Leatherwood impressed in their inaugural seasons, and are in line for larger workloads in 2022. One of those is linebacker Divine Deablo, whom the Raiders chose at N0. 80 last year.
The Virginia Tech alum spent his rookie season converting from safety, which he played in college. He finished the season strong, though, starting five games and making 45 tackles. His pass coverage was a sore spot, leading to a PFF grade of only 53.7 in that department. Still, the departure of veteran Cory Littleton should open up a permanent starting role for Deablo, making him a player the Raiders “can comfortably count on.”
Here are some other AFC notes, including one more from that same Raiders piece:
- Bonsignore identifies Malcolm Koonce as another young player who could see significantly more playing time in his second NFL campaign. The 24-year-old was on the field for only 48 defensive snaps as a rookie, but he managed to record a pair of sacks with that limited opportunity. With Carl Nassib no longer on the roster, the No. 79 pick has been practicing as a backup to defensive end Maxx Crosby, Bonsignore notes. At six-foot-two, 250 pounds, however, he could also see time rotating in for Chandler Jones as a stand-up rusher. In all, Koonce could project as somewhat of a breakout candidate for the team’s defense.
- On a different note, the Patriots will use training camp to establish the pecking order at QB behind Mac Jones. The team has veteran Brian Hoyer in the No. 2 spot for now, but fourth round rookie Bailey Zappe will be competing with him for the role. ESPN’s Mike Reiss reports that at this point, it “seems like a long shot” that the latter will win the backup job. The team preferring the veteran would come as little surprise; Zappe threw for 62 touchdowns last season at Western Kentucky, but is widely regarded as a raw prospect in need of significant developmental time. As Reiss recalls, though, Hoyer himself has experienced unexpectedly winning the backup role as a rookie before, and this could be a key positional battle to watch when training camp begins later this month.