Raiders Camp: Top 3 rookies likely to be starters this season

After an influx of rookie talent has infused the Oakland Raiders, there’s three of them likely to be starters at the start of the season.

There’s a possibility when we look back at this year’s draft for the Raiders that it might go down as one of the best in recent memory. The simple fact was that last year’s defense wasn’t on par with the offense, which is why these three rookies will be starters when the team opens up against the Tennessee Titans.

Raiders Camp: Top 3 rookies likely to be starters this season

Gareon Conley

This year’s draft was dominated by defensive picks so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that these three rookies will be coming from the defensive side, with that said, first round pick Gareon Conley is a shoe-in at this point.

While David Amerson was solid, on the opposite side Sean Smith struggled despite being one of general manager Reggie McKenzie’s flashiest signings last year. After getting burned on deep routes and getting embarrassed to the point of landing on the bench, it’s safe to say the Raiders needed something big to happen. Despite being one of the best corners in the nation, legal drama caused Conley to fall onto the Silver and Black’s lap.

Conley will be an instant starter right from the outset, what remains to be seen is exactly how the roles of Smith and Amerson will be affected.’s own Micah breaks down Conley and what he brings to the Raiders:

Obi Melifonwu

Even with a Pro Bowl appearance for the Raiders under his belt, safety Reggie Nelson won’t be starting this year. Melifonwu who was a steal in the second round for the Raiders is a physical specimen with all the intangibles from speed to an imposing presence in the backfield.

The possibility of having Melifonwu and Karl Joseph roam the backfield is just too much to pass up for what was one of the worst pass defenses last year. One of the knocks on Melifonwu is that some observers believe he’s “raw” and while that may be true if he’s indeed the long-term answer then why not let him go out there and learn on the job?’s own Micah breaks down Melifonwu and what he brings to the Raiders:

Marquel Lee

Besides the poor play of the defensive backs, the other glaring weakness in the Raiders’ defensive campaign was inside linebacker. Lee might just be the solution after getting picked up late in the fifth round.

Lee’s numbers at Wake Forest which were 291 total career tackles, 14.5 sacks, and four forced fumbles while playing in the ACC suggest he might be the fix for what ails the linebacker corps.

With Perry Riley Jr. not signed currently and Malcolm Smith getting a ridiculous payday across town with the San Francisco 49ers, all signs point to maybe Lee getting the nod.

“The NFL Hall of Fame hasn’t been too kind with the Raiders of old, but take a look at’s own Bobby Davis as he makes the case for Cliff Branch”


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