Last season, the Las Vegas Raiders finished 29th in the league in sacks with 21. To put that in perspective, the Pittsburgh Steelers had 56. The Raiders’ pass-rush has been downright awful since the Khalil Mack trade. It was clear once new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley walked through the door he wanted to change that and the addition of Buffalo EDGE defender Malcolm Koonce is 2021’s draft is the most recent step towards improving their rushing efficiency.
It started with the addition of Yannick Ngakoue. Now, the Raiders have added Koonce with the 79th overall pick. They hope the New York native can bring even more to a pass-rush rotation that has been lacking for years. Here is a breakdown of what he brings to the table for the Raiders.
Height: 6’2 1/4”
Weight: 249 Lbs
Scouting Report on Malcolm Koonce
Koonce is a bendy, athletic defender who rushes the edge with speed. He plays faster and heavier than indicated by his athletic testing, and flashes on tape. He offers an array of pass-rush moves off the edge for a player that has only played two full seasons.Â On film, he has shown the ability to beat a double team. On the other hand, he may need to get stronger to compete consistently there at the NFL level. The Buffalo product will also need to work on his run defending skills at the next level to become a full-time player. Currently, he projects as a passing down only player in a rotation.
In 2019, Koonce made a run for the MAC Defensive Player of the Year award. He finished the season with 33 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles, and eight sacks. This combined with a steady 2020 campaign propelled Koonce onto draft boards league-wide. His explosiveness and length make up for what he is lacking in size and other athletic categories. What doesn’t show up on testing, shows up on tape.
Where does Malcolm Koonce fit on the Raiders?
Even with the addition of Ngakoue on the edge, the Raiders still lack athleticism at the position. Maxx Crosby and Clelin Ferrell are both productive NFL players, but lack explosiveness and burst off the edge. Koonce who in theory is replacing Arden Key, adds depth and another dimension to a pass-rush. Koonce will likely start the season as edge four with limited reps, but has the athletic abilities and explosiveness to make the most of those reps.
Ideally, Koonce will replicate another slightly undersized teammates career, in Ngakoue and eventually be able to become a full-time contributor for the team. If the Raiders can get a handful of meaningful snaps from the rookie early on in third-down situations, they are already upgrading their edge spot. Bradley needs a solid pass-rush to have a successful defense, so keeping these players fresh throughout a game is key, adding Koonce to the mix does just that.
The Bottom Line
Although this pick might’ve looked like a slight reach, Koonce is the type of prospect the Raiders should be taking risks on. A player at a position of need, with immense upside. He has some flaws in his game. Nevertheless, he will have a chance to work on those things as a rotational player. The Raiders made it clear that they want to add athletes all over the defense and depth at positions that have struggled in recent years.Â If Koonce can step in right away and contribute and that’s really all you can ask for from 2021’s 79th overall pick.
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Top Photo: Kamil Krzaczynski/Associated Press