Las Vegas Raiders: 3 Biggest Surprises That Will Emerge At Training Camp: TE Michael Mayer Becomes Fixture In Passing Game, Plus Marcus Peters

Predicting 3 Surprises That Will Emerge From Training Camp

Las Vegas Raiders general manager Dave Ziegler has had a polarizing offseason—to put things mildly. Things began with the release of franchise stalwart Derek Carr. He followed this move up with the signing of Jimmy Garoppolo, reuniting the former Patriot with his former offensive coordinator, Josh McDaniels.

The Patriots theme continued throughout the offseason, as the Raiders signed wide receivers Jakobi Meyers and Phillip Dorsett to new contracts. To put a bow on things, Ziegler also brought in Brian Hoyer to serve as the primary backup behind Garoppolo.

The front office passed up the opportunity to draft a signal-caller early in the 2023 NFL Draft. It is hard to blame them, as Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud, and Anthony Richardson were all off the board by the time Vegas came to the podium.

Rather than forcing the issue, the Raiders wisely pivoted by selecting Tyree Wilson out of Texas Tech. The powerful pass rusher is raw but possesses the frame and core strength to be a difference-maker on the line.

The rest of the additions were mostly inconsequential in the grand scheme. Guys like Robert Spillane and Marcus Epps should log a chunk of snaps in 2023, but neither player figures to be in the long-term plans for Vegas.

Predicting 3 Surprises That Will Emerge From Raiders Training Camp

Predicting Maxx Crosby to lead the league in sacks or Davante Adams to set franchise records are popular takes. The objective of this article is to be a bit bolder with my predictions as I attempt to guess three surprising storylines from training camp.

Breakout No. 1: McClendon Curtis Earns Starting Role At Guard

McClendon Curtis garnered a strong Day 3 grade on my 2023 NFL Draft Big Board. Surprisingly, the UT-Chattanooga brawler did not hear his name called at the event. The Raiders quickly signed Curtis to a deal following the draft, and given the way things stand on the interior, there is a realistic path to earning a roster spot and starting reps as a rookie.

The FCS All-American began his collegiate career as a guard before moving outside to tackle in 2022. Curtis flexed positional versatility and a ferocity that few of his peers can match. His fiery mentality and impeccable work ethic are exactly what the unit needs. Watch out Dylan Parham and Alex Bars… the undrafted rookie is hungry!

Breakout No. 2: Michael Mayer Becomes No. 2 Option In Passing Game For Vegas

Michael Mayer is another player that held a much higher grade than his actual draft position. The Notre Dame captain was an easy first-rounder and the top tight end on my Big Board entering the 2023 NFL Draft. He fell in the Raiders’ lap early on Day 2 and has the chops to be a key contributor as a rookie.

Tight ends typically take a while to get adjusted to the speed of the NFL. However, Mayer’s proficiency as a blocker and pass catcher should keep him on the field for a majority of snaps. The wide receiver room is impressive, but Mayer projects as the No. 2 option behind Davante Adams. The consensus All-American will make fans forget about Darren Waller in no time.

Breakout No. 3: Multiple Rookie Defenders Snatch Starting Jobs For The Raiders

Third-round pick Byron Young owns the most potential on the interior of the defensive line. The former Alabama standout is a better player than Jerry Tillery and Bilal Nichols, and it shouldn’t take many reps in training camp to prove it.

Jakorian Bennett graded as a slot-only prospect on my Big Board, but with uncertainty on the boundaries for Vegas, the Maryland defender will force his way into the lineup one way or another. With 4.3 speed and a tenacious approach to the game, Bennett could prove to be a diamond in the rough.

Wrapping things up, safety Christopher Smith II boasts remarkable versatility in the secondary. He is best suited as a deep safety where he can flex his otherworldly range and ball skills downfield. Smith lacks the frame and length of a prototypical box safety, but his high IQ (mostly) covers up these deficiencies.

All three rookies have a chance at cracking the starting lineup early in the season. If they impress in training camp, look for the trio to usher in a new era of Raiders’ football in Week 1. This time, featuring a defense capable of holding its own.

*Top Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Raiders: What Would A Hunter Renfrow Trade Package Look Like?

Join The Ramble Email List

error: Nice Try!
Subscribe to RaiderRamble

Get updates from RaiderRamble via email:

Join 6,247 other subscribers