Before cutdown day, we didn’t know if certain players were going to end up on the Las Vegas Raiders roster 53-man roster. One of those players was third-year wide receiver Rico Gafford.
Rico Gafford’s move from cornerback to wide receiver paid off
There were some Raiders receivers that had a roster spot pretty much guaranteed. Hunter Renfrow, Henry Ruggs III, Bryan Edwards, and maybe Nelson Agholor had a clear path to make the team. Tyrell Williams would’ve been part of that group had the team not placed him on the Injury Reserve list. Then again, his absence opened an extra roster spot in the wide receiver corps.
It was less certain whether other receivers, such as Zay Jones, Marcell Ateman, and Gafford, were going to make the cut. It’s true there was an extra roster spot because of Williams’ injury, but the numbers just didn’t add up. Once cutdown day came and went, we knew Ateman was the one left out, and Jones and Gafford stayed.
We weren’t sure if Gafford was going to make it due to something that was against him. He just started playing wide receiver in 2018, and had played corner in college. He made the switch to wideout only when he got to the NFL. Playing in the pros is difficult, changing positions is even more challenging. It was uncertain if Gafford was going to pull off the move, or at least show progress. Based on the fact the Raiders kept him on their 53-man roster, we’re assuming the change went or is going pretty well.
Gafford’s position switch benefited both the Raiders and him
At the end of the day, Gafford focused on what he could control. He worked hard, and did what the Raiders coaching staff asked him to do. The corner-turned-wideout says his willingness to be receptive helped throughout the process. In his latest press conference, he talked about the switch and how he felt on roster cutdown day. He says he’s grateful and eager to fill whatever role the organization gives him.
“I’m very happy and thankful to the coaches for believing in me and give me the opportunity for making the 53-man roster. Whatever we do from here is up to them. Whatever role they want me to play, I’m willing to do that.”
Gafford also pointed out the difference between his rookie year and this one. He says he feels like he now has an identity.
“My rookie year, when we made that [ESPN] article, I was just a gadget guy and did whatever coaches told me to do, gave him the look and gave it as best as I could. Going from my rookie year to now, I definitely want to be a guy that can step on the field at all times and play 24/7 and be up every Sunday.”
The article Gafford is referring to was one Paul Gutierrez of ESPN wrote about him. In it, the insider described Gafford as a ‘man of a thousand masks’ because he didn’t have a defined role back then. Looking back at the piece, the Wyoming standout showed the traits that helped him convert.
The Raiders 2020 wide receiver corps is arguably the best they have had in years. Although Gafford will not play a feature role this upcoming season, he will be in a position to succeed if the Silver and Black calls his name.
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Top Photo: Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal