The Oakland Raiders draft selections were in full attendance as the doors opened for the first time this season for 2017 Rookie minicamp at the team’s Alameda facility Friday.
Head Coach Jack Del Rio was excited to see the rookies and eligible first-year players get out there and compete for a roster spot, saying he wanted to ease the young guys in on the first day and focus on learning:
“For these guys to come in, first let’s really understand how we do things here, I mean like how do we line up and stretch? Let’s start there, and then you go from there.”
Del Rio made sure to stress to the young group that anything is possible even if you are here for a tryout. He’s leaving the door open like he did last offseason when undrafted rookie Jalen Richard surprised the coaching staff, not only making the roster but earning an even larger role:
“Anything is possible with these young men, that’s what we talk about. Once they get here, it doesn’t really matter how they got here. We are going to let these guys compete. We’re looking for guys that can help us win.”
All nine of the Raiders draft selections were present and participated in on-field drills. Del Rio was happy with what he saw from the team’s first- and second-round picks Gareon Conley, and Obi Melifonwu:
“(Obi) is very gifted. He has a good head on his shoulders. He comes in, and he’s just trying to soak up our system right now. Athletically, he’s very blessed. He has highway speed that you look for. Athleticism, changing direction and then he’ll come up and hit you. We like the tape. We think he’s a good football player and we’re happy to start working with him.”
Del Rio was asked where he thinks Conley will fit on the defense:
“We’re going to learn all that we can about him. Gareon is, we think, a talent. I think he can play inside and outside. We’ll see what the best combination for us is. Just let him come in and compete.”
But trying to figure out where to slot himself on defense isn’t the only thing Conley has to concern himself with. After being accused of rape less than one month ago Conley was back in Cleveland, Monday, providing Cleveland PD with a statement.
Conley said he does not know where things stand at the moment regarding the investigation, but feels the meeting went well and provides another step toward proving his innocence.
But football is his “stress reliever” helping him keep his mind off of the allegations:
“It’s tough to think about it, and all, but I try not to think about, just try to worry about what I’m doing out here right now. Football is like a stress reliever for me.”
Practice got chippy as the day went on.
Conley was wearing the number 2 on his back, a jersey number worn by Raiders legend Charles Woodson. Woodson wore the deuce during his time in college at the University of Michigan, and in his second stint with the Raiders before going back to the recognizable No. 24 jersey.
Safety Obi Melifonwu looked good during drills. He is a big athletic safety that should immediately be able to come in and match up with tight ends outside.
Defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes arrived in great shape. He weighed in at 301 LBS and said feels great after focusing on slimming down and dieting this offseason.
Fifth-round selection linebacker Marquel Lee has a lot of pressure on him heading into OTA’s. He is expected to come in and immediately contribute to a struggling linebacking corp.
The play of the day came from undrafted free agent wide receiver Keon Hatcher. The 6-foot-1 former Arkansas Razorback went airborne, with his arms fully extended, to catch a pass in between two defenders.