Depending on who you talk to, they’ll tell you that Malcolm Koonce could end up being the Las Vegas Raiders’ most underrated move.
“With the 79th Pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Las Vegas Raiders select Malcolm Koonce, Linebacker from the University of Buffalo.”
Following the pick’s announcement, the national media made their usual rounds labeling yet another Raiders’ draft pick as a reach. However, Koonce was ranked as Pro Football Focus’s 167th overall prospect and Bleacher Report scout Justis Mosqueda’s 248th overall prospect.
The pick was prime real estate for draft analysts everywhere to blast Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock. This was mostly due to them ignoring value and making selections based on need and character. Yet, the “experts” may have prematurely judged the Raiders’ 79th pick. We will break down how Koonce can make a name for himself in Las Vegas out of the gate. Also, how Koonce can make an immediate impact on a pass rush group that desperately needs a spark.
Coming out of Buffalo, Koonce put on display his fast array of pass rush moves and ability to be disruptive behind the line of scrimmage. Koonce’s resume was never an issue; he was a two-time All-MAC selection and led the conference in sacks back in 2019. The Buffalo product totaled 34 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, nine sacks, and three forced fumbles in 13 games that year.
It was apparent during Koonce’s collegiate tenure that his toolbox of pass rush moves not only improved but evolved. Using his smaller stature to his advantage, Koonce put on display his ability to dip and bend around slow-footed tackles. Koonce will bank on his quickness to create immediate and flashy disruption to offenses at the NFL level.
Overall, Koonce’s ceiling is very high. If he can improve his strength and work on his run defense, he’ll reach his potential. Under the tutelage of defensive line coach Rod Marinelli, the Raiders’ defense will hopefully bring the most out of the rookie edge defender.
An immediate impact for the Raiders?
As it currently stands, the Raiders made it a priority to address their pass rush this offseason. With Yannick Ngakoue’s addition, the Raiders are slowly fielding a respectable defensive line. That being said, the depth among edge rushers leaves much to be desired. Koonce will be given an opportunity to make an early impact as a rotational pass rusher due to said depth. Whether that be spelling Ngakoue later in games, or being a part of a smaller “Nascar” speed rush set, Koonce should find himself with ample opportunity to prove his worth.
In what seems to be an annual occurrence, it will be up to Koonce and the coaching staff to put their new rookie pass rusher in the right spots to shine and prove himself as the Raiders’ most underrated move of the 2021 NFL draft.
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*Top Photo: AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski