Raiders

Boom Or Bust? What Nelson Agholor Brings to the Las Vegas Raiders in 2020

While there is plenty of buzz around the Las Vegas Raiders heading into 2020, one new addition to the team isn’t generating the same decibel of noise. Former Philadelphia Eagle wide receiver Nelson Agholor was one of the team’s late free agent signings. The former USC Trojan is looking to get his NFL career on the right track in Sin City this upcoming season.

Early beginnings for the newest member of the Raiders

Agholor’s family moved to the United States when he was only five years old. His family relocated from Lagos, Nigeria to Tampa, Florida. There, Nelson became a premier football player at Berkley Preparatory School.

Upon graduation in 2012, Agholor was the third best high school wide receiver prospect in the country. He was only behind Dorial-Green Beckham and Stefon Diggs in Rivals.com rankings.

Nelson received 25 offers to play at various Division I football programs. He narrowed his choices to Florida, Florida State, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, and USC. Trojans football head coach Lane Kiffin was able to steal one of the most explosive athletes entering the collegiate level when Agholor committed to his program.

Trojan Excellence

As a freshman in 2012, Agholor saw the majority of his football snaps on special teams. As a kickoff returner, he averaged a lofty 24.2 yards per return. Outside of special teams, he only had 13 receptions in his first year with the Trojans. The following season, he caught 56 passes for 918 yards. Furthermore, he became one of the nation’s most feared returners as he amassed 393 punt return yards and two touchdowns with just 18 returns on the season. His return prowess assisted the USC football program in achieving a new collegiate football record.

Despite an impressive sophomore campaign, Agholor’s football talent was put on full display in 2014 as a junior.

During his final collegiate season as a Trojan in 2014, he generated the following stats:

  • 104 receptions (7th most in NCAA)
  • 12 receiving touchdowns (7th most in NCAA)
  • 1,313 receiving yards (9th most in NCAA)
  • 2 punt return touchdowns (4th most in NCAA)

The Nigerian native performed at a high level that made him an elite prospect entering the 2015 NFL draft.

Tenure With Philadelphia Eagles

chip kelly nelson agholor 2015 rookie
Philadelphia Eagles head coach/head of football operations Chip Kelly and first round draft pick Nelson Agholor in 2015. Photo by Philadelphia Eagles.com

The Philadelphia Eagles ceded Chip Kelly full control of their football operations in 2015. Prior to the draft in late April, the head coach made two controversial trades. He sent Pro Bowl quarterback Nick Foles and All-Pro running back LeSean McCoy to other organizations in return for Sam Bradford and Kiko Alonso. Both Bradford and Alonso had seen their best football days at the college level rather than the NFL. Clearly, the former Oregon Duck head coach wanted a team that replicated his explosive collegiate teams of the past.

In that year’s draft, the Eagles selected Agholor with their 20th overall pick. Since then, Nelson has not seen the same explosiveness that he generated in both high school and college. In his first five seasons in Philadelphia, his inability to catch passes in pivotal moments made him infamous.

According to Pro Football Focus, Agholor has 23 total dropped passes in his career. As a new Las Vegas Raiders receiver in 2020, he may have to reignite his niche as a returner for his best chance to be a member of the Silver and Black in the first weekend of September.

Raiders 2020 Season Projection

Inside? Outside? Eagles receiver Nelson Agholor is confident he can thrive wherever he lines up
Photo by Dave Maialetti

Agholor’s potential has been overshadowed by untimely drops in critical situations throughout his career. With the Raiders, he will have to have surer hands and provide as a special teamer. Also, he will be fighting for a spot in a crowded wide receiver room that contains plenty of talent and some roster ‘locks’:

  • Marcell Ateman
  • Keelan Doss
  • Bryan Edwards*
  • Rico Gafford
  • Zay Jones
  • Hunter Renfrow*
  • Henry Ruggs III*
  • Tyrell Williams*

*Probable member of the 2020 Raiders wide receiver corps

Head coach Jon Gruden has placed a heavy emphasis on 12 personnel and 13 personnel (1 running back with 2 or 3 tight ends in formation) offensive sets moving into the 2020 season. Furthermore, the team’s aggressiveness in free agency to acquire a total of six tight ends may be a sign that they may opt to have four on the final 53-man roster instead of the traditional three.

Ultimately, it indirectly means that the receiver position has the potential to be affected in terms of quantity. Versatile rookie Lynn Bowden Jr. joins the teams as a dynamic returner but will be technically listed as a running back, which makes former USC Trojan’s path to a roster spot even more steep. However, if he does find his way onto the Raiders opening day roster, look for him to make his biggest impact as a returner rather than a receiver. In receiving situations, his biggest asset is his ability to generate yards after the catch as he averaged 4.5 YAC in his career. Quarterback Derek Carr may be the spark Agholor needs to rejuvenate his career based on the signal-caller´s tendency for short throws to the flats.

https://twitter.com/Gaydos_/status/1175851131022581760

The Outcomes Are Uncertain, but There’s a Chance

Overall, his impact on the Silver in Black in 2020 ranges from not making the team, to becoming the team’s kick and punt returner that fills in as a wide receiver sporadically. The talent is there, but he must work diligently if he wants to prove that he can be a difference maker for the organization this upcoming season. Ironically, he has been actively showing that he is more than willing to put in the work in a convoluted NFL offseason due to Covid-19.

A change of scenery to Las Vegas may prove to be the spark that Nelson Agholor needed to revitalize his NFL career in 2020.

Top Photo by Yong Kim of the Philadelphia Inquirer

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