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Graney: Raiders should look at local lineman with 13th overall pick

The talk has been of quarterbacks. Of who the Raiders might trade up to draft at football’s most important position.

But it would be smart to help whoever stands under center if the team stays at the 13th overall pick.

It would also be smart to look at Troy Fautanu.

He’s an offensive tackle out of the University of Washington who learned his trade at Liberty High. He plays a position of need for the Raiders. And he’s talented and athletic enough to earn such interest.

First, the athletic part: Fautanu might be 6-foot-4 and 317 pounds now, but he was a running back and fullback growing up. He also played volleyball, which tells you why his footwork is so good.

He rarely finds himself on the ground. That’s again a product of his feet. Of jumping and spiking a ball over a net. Of developing one skill as a kid by practicing another.

The Raiders are lacking on the right side of their line right now. They need to fill holes. Fautanu could do so right away.

He’s versatile

“For me, tackle is where I’m most comfortable at but at the same time I’m capable of bumping inside and playing whatever position is asked of me,” Fautanu said. “I feel like I’m the most versatile offensive lineman in this draft class. That adds value to any organization.”

Fautanu is nasty on the field, which is a good thing for the position he plays. Funny. Fautanu and his father weren’t big on the idea of him playing offensive line at Liberty. They preferred he discover his future on defense.

But the Patriots are annually one of the more skilled defensive fronts in the city. It was no different when Fautanu reached his sophomore season.

He sat much of the first several games until things became clear: If he was to see the field, he’d do so blocking for others.

Things changed forever after that.

He got a look at offensive line and never looked back. His athleticism aided him in space and does to this day. Fautanu is more than capable of pulling on counter plays and getting out on screens.

Liberty coach Rich Muraco isn’t surprised by any of it.

“He loved the process of being a football player,” Muraco said. “A lot of kids love to play but they don’t like the grind. Football is one of those games where you practice and work out for like 340 days a year just to play nine or 10 games.

“The kids who love to put in the work are the ones who become successful. Troy loved that part of it. He loved to grind. As a coach, you love that. Guys who play with that chip on their shoulders. That was him.”

It’s expected Joe Alt of Notre Dame will be the first tackle off the board. JC Latham of Alabama has also been mentioned as a Raiders target in several mock drafts.

Bottom line: They need help up front. A player like Fautanu can offer it. He likely won’t last past the Seahawks at No. 16.

Fautanu said he loves being in the trenches. Loves how you can take out your anger and frustrations. Loves to seize every opportunity each time the ball is snapped.

Dominate each snap

“There’s only one way to play offensive line and that’s being violent, either with your hands or just being explosive off the ball,” Fautanu said. “You have to dominate the other guy. That’s always my mindset. Every single play. More times than not, I’m doing my best to just finish guys.”

He should be there when the Raiders select at 13, assuming they haven’t moved off that spot. If you’re not going to draft a quarterback, take someone who can help protect one. Troy Fautanu can.

Ed Graney, a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing, can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com. He can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on X.

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