AP Images/Todd Rosenberg
You can never have too much depth, and the Oakland Raiders weren’t shy about addressing depth during the 2018 NFL Draft.
The Silver and Black were eager to fortify the offensive line early in the draft, as we know General Manager Reggie McKenzie loves a stout offensive line – and I mean, who doesn’t? While giving quarterback Derek Carr more security in the pocket is a priority, McKenzie and Head Coach Jon Gruden were adamant about providing former Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack with some assistance as well.
In the second and third round, the Raiders added more depth to Defensive Coordinator Paul Guenther’s group, drafting defensive tackle P.J. Hall and defensive end Arden Key. Hall has certainly garnered some attention after flying under the radar, and boasting some freakish skills, but I believe Key is the key – forgive my bad pun – to unlocking the Raiders pass rush.
A potential top-10 pick at one point, the former LSU Tiger saw a decrease in production during his final season, but still managed to produce some impressive numbers. Overall, Key totaled 129 tackles, 24.5 tackles for loss, 20 sacks, four passes defensed, three forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries during his three-year tenure with the Tigers.
“I know I’m not a third-round pick,” Key said during a conference call with the media. “I’m a first-round talent, top five.”
Key intrigues me, and while he won’t supplant All-Pro defensive end Khalil Mack, he can undoubtedly bring some tenacity to the edge while Mack needs a breather, and hopefully grow into a starter at some point, which is exactly what Gruden and McKenzie expect him to do.
“Arden Key can do the one thing that very few people can do in this draft and that’s rush the passer,” Gruden said last Friday. “We’re happy to get him in the third round.”
Getting after the passer is something Key thrived at in college, just ask former Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson. In 2016, Key and Jackson met on the gridiron and the advantage went to the now-Raider.
When watching Key’s tape, one thing is clear, his pursuit of the quarterback is relentless. His speed off the edge is impressive, and with some pointers from Mack, the 21 year old’s technique can take a step to the next level.
“I feel the Oakland Raiders is the right place for me,” Key said. “That was the best visit I went on out of all eight of my visits. Being on the other side of Khalil Mack, learning things from him and that sort. Him taking me under his wing, if he wants to do that.”
Gruden has stated that when the fourth quarter comes around, and the Raiders need to provide an aggressive pass rush, giving Mack and fellow pass rusher Bruce Irvin time to rest throughout the game will prove to be beneficial, and Key is the man to help make this possible. Key has a lot of upside, and watching his game mature in the Silver and Black will be worth watching in 2018.