The Las Vegas Raiders selected Tanner Muse out of Clemson University with the 100th pick of the 2020 NFL Draft. Originally a safety for the Tigers, the team expects him to make the transition to linebacker.
The Raiders fortified their linebacker corps back in free agency when they signed Nick Kwiatkoski and Cory Littleton, so it wasn’t an area of serious need going into the draft. Eventually though, they took Muse in the third round.
Already, Vic Tafur of the Athletic sees Muse having a hard time transitioning from one position to the other:
“General manager Mike Mayock said having three picks in the third round was like “stealing” because he would pick up three starters. Muse was a safety in college but is too big and tight-hipped to be one in the NFL and will have to grow into a linebacker who might be able to compete for a starting job in a year or two. Until then, he is a very good special teams player. That’s not what teams are looking for in the third round.”
What Does Muse Have Going For Him?
Tbeing said, Muse has some things going in his favor such as the lack of depth at linebacker and the instability at the safety position.
First, Kwiatkoski and Littleton will take two starting spots right away, but there’s little talent after them at linebacker. Nicholas Morrow, who switched from safety himself coming out of Greenville, is a spot starter and hasn’t shown he can keep the job in the long run. Marquel Lee is coming back after a year on IR but it’s uncertain whether he’s healthy or can take the field without any setbacks. He dropped the designation for a couple of weeks last December but eventually had to be placed back.
Four Linebackers in 2019…
The Raiders carried four linebackers throughout the 2019 season, and at this moment they have precisely the same amount (without counting Lee). Gone are Tahir Whitehead and Will Compton, whom the team should consider re-signing. If Lee is back, he might compete for the third linebacker spot, and Morrow could make a stand before the coaching staff gives him the boot.
Furthermore, teams nowadays employ nickel packages as frequently as base defenses, meaning that when the Raiders put three corners on the field, one linebacker will need to come out. Littleton is one of best coverage linebackers, so he will hardly leave the field. Kwiatkoski isn’t a slouch either so he will likely stay as well. If Muse shows he can hold his ground, defensive coordinator Paul Guenther will have a hard time taking him out.
If Muse wants to have a meaningful role with the Raiders, he will have to vanquish a few roadblocks that will be in his way. On the other hand, the hill isn’t as steep as one would assume.
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Top Photo: Richard Shiro/Associated Press