After Oakland Raiders fans waited rather impatiently through four rounds, they were finally given the linebacker many of them were pining for in round five with Marquel Lee.
Heading into the NFL Draft, linebacker was easily one of the biggest needs for the Raiders. They added Jelani Jenkins in free agency and made an addition through subtraction when they allowed Malcolm Smith to walk. But neither of those moves were enough to make Raider Nation happy about a linebacking group that includes Ben Heeney as a serious competitor for a starting job.
Though many fans would have preferred a linebacker earlier in the draft, with Marquel Lee, the Raiders landed a backer with potential who the team believes can compete to start from day one. Of course, competing to start in a rather weak linebacker group doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to be a great player.
Lee has the physical talents to be a starting linebacker in the NFL but he will still need to put in work to make that dream become a reality. He’s got good size and athleticism but if he wants to find success at the next level, he’s going to have to add some bulk to his frame. Especially if the Raiders really plan on using him as a middle linebacker. Luckily for him and the Raiders, his frame looks like it can handle some extra weight.
A gifted athlete and an intellectual player, Lee’s ability to read and react to an offense in a split second is a major reason why the Raiders drafted him. But those talents often led Lee astray in college as he tried to freelance far too often. He admitted himself that it was a problem and has been working to improve on it.
Lee also needs to improve his tackling form and learn how to get off of blocks more efficiently, but overall he’s a very promising prospect. He might be able to challenge for a starting role right away and even if he doesn’t win it, you can expect him to see playing time as a rookie. Hopefully, his athleticism will help the Raiders in pass coverage, something that was a huge issue with their linebackers last season.