It seems like only a year ago that the Las Vegas Raiders’ rookies were just getting started. Now, they have a full year of NFL experience under their belt. While several of the guys shined in their own way and learned from rookie mistakes, it’s all about growth in the second year, and a number of them will show that this season. Personally speaking, here are my predictions for their upcoming 2022 campaign.
What are some realistic expectations for the Raiders’ 2021 rookies?
The former first-round pick from last year’s draft had a difficult first season, drawing numerous penalties and allowing eight sacks. While it might be claimed that he was under-coached by Tom Cable, he will start fresh with this new coaching staff. Expect those blunders to be corrected this season. As far as a prediction goes, Leatherwood will limit his sacks and pressures to a bare minimum. Meanwhile, his blocking will improve, and he will be more disciplined.
Another draft pick from last year, Moehrig was an effective, skillful, and clever player who is an important part of the team’s defense. He was thrown into the fire during his rookie season. However, it was a learning experience for him as he frequently dropped interceptions and allowed targets. Working closely with Patrick Graham in his sophomore season, he’ll take another significant stride in his career. The former Horned Frog will have a better season in Year 2 with something like four interceptions, 13 pass deflections, and one forced fumble.
One of the most exciting rookies, who fans barely got a glimpse of last year, Koonce has a bright future ahead of him in Year 2. He was frequently a late scratch during the season. Nevertheless, when he was given snaps, he took advantage of the opportunity, recording two sacks. Expect him to be let loose this year, and with two of the top edge rushers mentoring him, his sophomore year will be incredible to watch. He will surprise a lot of fans this season if he gets close to six sacks, three forced fumbles, and eight QB hits.
The Raiders’ Devil: Divine Deablo
Divine Deablo, another member of a solid rookie class, started off a little slow in his rookie year. By the same token, as the season progressed, he pushed into another gear. It wasn’t until Week 13 against the then-Washington Football Team that he began to emerge as a tackling threat. From then on, it was all about dominance and hard work. Now that he’s comfortable playing pro football, he’s bringing his game to new heights. In Year 2, he might have a defensive stat line that includes 47 tackles, five sacks, and one interception.
Gillespie had a quiet rookie year as he played in 11 games and made eight combined tackles. His sophomore year will be remembered as a steady rise that eventually shocked fans and the league. He was known on the field at Missouri for his strong hitting, and it’s highly conceivable that the same enthusiasm will be showcased this season. I could see him getting one forced fumble, one interception, three pass deflections, and six solo tackles this season.
The Raiders have a special talent in Nate Hobbs
Nate Hobbs was the highest graded CB in the entire NFL last season (100+ snaps in the slot), based on PFF.pic.twitter.com/3cYKfhbLea
— Raider Nation Boston (@RaiderNationBOS) May 4, 2022
Hobbs was selected in the fifth round of the draft, but he did not play like it. He emerged quickly as one of the best slot corners in the league. In fact, he shut down some of the league’s top slot wide receivers. His debut season was quite impressive, with one interception, two pass deflections, and fifty-one solo tackles. In Year 2, Hobbs will not only show progress and discipline in his game, but he will also put the league on notice. This season, he might have five interceptions, 67 solo tackles, and two sacks on his stat line. This shows that not only he has a bright future, but so does the whole draft class.
*Top Photo: Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal