In a bit of a departure and a strong signal that the Raiders roster is considerably better than in years past, their five-player 2022 draft class is under no real pressure to deliver immediate starters.
That is a marked difference from 2018 to 2021. when gaping roster holes meant first-year players like Kolton Miller, Cle Ferrell, Johnathan Abram, Henry Ruggs, Josh Jacobs, Damon Arnette, Bryan Edwards and Tre’von Moehrig had to man starting positions whether they were ready or not.
Those days appear to be over, which means whatever roles this year’s group assumes will have been earned rather than simply handed over out of need.
That said, every member of the Raiders’ rookie class will be given an opportunity to grab a role, be it as a starter, rotational player or on special teams.
That process begins on Monday when rookies report to training camp at the Raiders’ practice facility in Henderson. Here is a player-by-player breakdown on expectations and possibilities.
Round 3 Pick 90
Parham has the distinction of being the first draft pick under the Dave Ziegler/Josh McDaniels regime. By investing such a premium pick on an interior offensive lineman, the Raiders likely think Parham can assume a starting role sooner rather than later.
John Simpson, the incumbent at left guard, will have a say in all that. As will the situations of Denzelle Good and Alex Leatherwood. And perhaps Lester Cotton, who might be ready to make a move into a bigger role.
Parham can play both guard and center, although Andre James played well enough as a first-year starter at center last year to go into 2022 as the solidified starter.
Assuming Good, who is coming off season-ending knee surgery, is healthy, Parham’s fastest track to a starting job is on the left side, where he will compete with Simpson at guard. Even if he doesn’t push for a starting role out of the gate, his versatility as a guard, center and even tackle make him an ideal backup.
Round 4, Pick 122
RB Zamir White, Georgia.
The Raiders traded up in the fourth round to snag White, a talented running back from Georgia. But a crowd at running back leaves in question his first-year role.
With incumbents Josh Jacobs and Kenyan Drake both entering the last year of their contracts, White is clearly part of the progression plan. That could mean taking the NFL equivalent of a redshirt season this year in which he is developed with an eye on 2023.
In that scenario, White would be available in case of injury. But with Jacobs, Drake, Brandon Bolden and Jacob Johnson all occupying game-day roster spots, there may be games when White doesn’t dress out.
Two other scenarios could change that. First, the Raiders could use their running back surplus to make a trade to bolster a weaker positional group. Second, White could perform so well in camp that he pushes for a prominent role — and maybe pushes a veteran off the roster.
Round 4, Pick 126
DT Neil Farrell, LSU
Farrell is an interesting prospect. He is coming off a breakthrough season with the Tigers and can play multiple defensive line positions. Just as importantly, the Raiders need to build depth along the defensive line, so an opportunity for playing time certainly exists.
Farrell initially opted to sit out the 2020 season because of COVID-19 concerns, then made a hasty comeback in September and played in seven games. The decision affected his play and likely his standing among NFL evaluators.
He rebounded last year by notching 45 tackles and a career-high 9.5 tackles for loss, including two sacks. The strong showing improved his draft status.
Farrell does not profile as a first-year starter, but there is an absolute path to a rotational role.
Round 5, Pick 175
DT Matthew Butler, Tennessee
Much like Farrell, there is a path available for Butler to earn playing time in the defensive line rotation. And much like Farrell, he is coming off a breakthrough college season in which he notched 47 tackles, including 8.5 for loss and five sacks.
His ability to defend one to two gaps and play multiple positions could be a valuable asset to the Raiders, who are looking for some young players to step up along the defensive line.
Round 7, Pick 238
OT Thayer Munford Jr., Ohio State
Munford has played tackle and guard, which fits well with the Raiders’ objective of populating their offensive line with as many multi-positional players as possible.
That said, barring any major injuries this is shaping up as a development year for the former Ohio State standout. Munford is a strong candidate to make the team, but he may not see the field or the game-day roster outside of emergency situations.
Round 7, Pick 250
RB Brittain Brown, UCLA
Much like White, the selection of Brown looks like a move to fortify the running back position down the road. Barring injuries, he has a fight on his hands to make the 53-man roster but could be a practice squad candidate.