When the Las Vegas Raiders chose safety-linebacker hybrid Tanner Muse with the 100th pick, they missed out on potential star EDGE Alex Highsmith.
Raiders general manager Mike Mayock and head coach Jon Gruden are taking a huge gamble with Muse. They’re banking on him making the transition to linebacker. If he’s not successful, the possibility exists the pick was a waste, a valuable third-rounder no less. Highsmith, on the other hand, would’ve been a much better prospect when you factor in several things.
Muse, for his part, might not be of much use if the linebacker transition doesn’t pan out. Matt Miller of Bleacher Report pointed out shortly after Muse’s selection that he’s “more of a hitter than a tackler.” Also he mentioned Muse will be “limited to a specific need for most teams; doesn’t play much slot or deep safety.” No one’s saying Muse can’t be successful in the NFL. However, there should be a concern if defensive coordinator Paul Guenther can’t put him in a position to succeed.
With the Raiders, Highsmith would’ve been in a good spot to thrive. There are two big reasons for that assumption. First, the addition of veteran coach Rod Marinelli. The former Cowboys defensive coordinator would’ve maximized Highsmith’s talent while having him come along slowly. The luxury of bringing Highsmith along slowly would’ve been afforded by the sudden depth at defensive end for the Raiders. Behind Clelin Ferrell, Maxx Crosby, Carl Nassib, and Arden Key, Highsmith would’ve had time to bulk up. Miller pointed out that Highsmith’s frame was one of his biggest weaknesses, stating “thin frame at 248 pounds projects to a stand-up role only.”
Miller highlighted back in April all of Highsmith’s strengths, which, could’ve benefited the Silver and Black tremendously. He’s an “instinctive athlete” that’s a “former linebacker who knows how to move in space.” Regarding Muse, Miller talked about some speed concerns, “tape looked slow, but his 4.41-second 40-yard dash did not.” While it’s entirely possible Highsmith would’ve had to become accustomed to a hybrid role with the Raiders, at least the potential was there. However, Miller did suggest Highsmith would’ve needed his rookie year to be a “redshirt season” despite the “high ceiling.”
If your defense can get to the opposing quarterback often, and consistently, it will usually translate into wins. Playing in the AFC West against the likes of Patrick Mahomes means pass rush should be near the top of the Raider’s priorities. Unfortunately, there’s a chance that the Raiders missed out on Highsmith as Miller elaborated in conclusion, “His new team is getting a lot of speed and a savvy, instinctive football player.”
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