A look at who this year’s star UDFA might be for the Raiders

The offseason is a long one for the NFL and while it has been busy for the Oakland Raiders, it’s nice to get back to football. The team is in their first week of training camp and has a lot to be excited about. Coming off their first playoff berth since 2002 and finishing 12-4 has a lot of eyes on the young team.

With that, training camp is a time where the initial depth chart and 53-man roster will be determined. We are closer to the regular season and players performance is as important as ever towards earning a spot. And although the Raiders are back to winning, there are plenty of battles to watch for and players to be excited about.

In April’s 2017 NFL Draft, the Raiders selected nine players to come in and make this team better. But, we can’t forget about the undrafted guys. Immediately after the draft takes place, teams scramble to get what’s left. It’s up to the players on which team they sign with dependent if a team has made an offer.

In 2017, the Raiders signed 17 UDFA’s to give them a chance to make an impact. The road for undrafted free agents is no easy one but they typically hold a chip on their shoulder and get extra motivation for not getting their named called come draft night. This should add a little fuel to their fire.

In reality, not many undrafted free agents make the roster at the end of camp and instead will often will be placed on practice squads to develop and hone their skills more. But, it’s also good to point out that undrafted free agents can have a big impact.

Here are some recent UDFA’s that have made significant contributions for the Raiders:

RB Jalen Richard – 2016
DE James Cowser – 2016
WR Johnny Holton - 2016
DT Darius Latham – 2016
OT Denver Kirkland - 2016
WR Seth Roberts – 2014
P Marquette King – 2012

Now let’s take a look at the batch of UDFAs the Raiders brought in this season. Bleacher Report’s featured columnist, Sean Tomlinson, recently wrote an article that broke down each team’s best-undrafted free agent in 2017. For the Raiders, it was wide receiver, Ishmael Zamora, out of Baylor. Here is a small bit of what he had to say about him:

If that’s the case then Zamora has an opportunity to climb up a thin depth chart beyond starters Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. He has a drool-worthy combination of size and speed, as the high school hurdles champion stands 6’4″ and weighs 215 pounds.

That frame and downfield quickness make Zamora a multi-purpose receiver who’s able to both separate deep and grapple for jump balls up the middle. He snatched 63 receptions for 809 yards and eight touchdowns during his final year at Baylor.

But he’s still raw with limited game experience. Patience might be required, which is why the Raiders are a great fit. They have a stacked offense already and the luxury of waiting on a talent like Zamora.

Zamora will be a name to watch throughout training camp. Although I agree with plenty of the points that Tomlinson makes, I don’t believe the wide receiver position to be thin behind Crabtree and Cooper. The Raiders will have to be patient with Zamora if he proves worthy in training camp.

Let’s take a look at another undrafted free agent on the other side of the ball. Raiders beat writer, Vic Tafur, of the San Francisco Chronicle has been covering the team all of camp and has had his eyes on some prospects. Tafur recently hosted one of his Raiders chat’s on twitter and gave some really great insight.

Vic was asked whom his sleeper was to make the 53-man roster and he gave two answers back in this tweet. “Durden. CB. Super sleeper is Borders.” Tafur said.

Cornerback Kenneth Durden was actually an undrafted free agent in 2016 and landed on the practice squad for most of the year. He was unable to contribute in regular season games but ended up signing a futures contract in January of 2017.

The cornerback initially went to the University of South Florida to play football but was arrested for possession of marijuana. This ultimately forced him to transfer colleges to Youngstown State.

Durden stands at 6 foot 1 and weighs 180 pounds, which is fairly good, size for an NFL cornerback. He played in 11 games his senior season and recorded one interception along with five passes defended. He also has the ability to return kicks.

Tafur tabbed cornerback, Breon Borders, as his “Super Sleeper”. Borders signed as an undrafted free agent after the 2017 NFL draft in which he wasn’t selected. Borders played his four-year career at Duke University before joining the Raiders.

He stands at 6 feet tall and weighs 180 pounds, which again, is ideal size for an NFL cornerback. Borders was very productive his four years at Duke. In his collegiate career, he racked up 149.0 total tackles, eight tackles for loss, one sack, 12 interceptions and 34 pass deflections. Borders is a name to watch throughout the Raiders training camp.

Training camp will last the month of August and the first Raiders preseason game will be August 12th against the Arizona Cardinals. After the preseason, the Raiders will then cut their roster down to 53 players. That deadline is set for September 2nd as the Raiders head into the regular season.

Right now, players are fighting for the chance to make their dreams come true of making an NFL team. Regardless of draft status, it’s a competition. These are just a few names that have stood out and whom you should be following throughout training camp.

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