Oakland Raiders Training Camp preview: Five rookies to watch

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May 26, 2015; Alameda, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders cornerback Dexter McDonald (21) at organized team activities at the Raiders practice facility. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

4. Dexter McDonald, Rookie Cornerback

Reggie McKenzie loves the later rounds in drafts. It is in the 6th and 7th round he has been able to find quality players like TJ Carrie, Mychal Rivera, Latavius Murray and Brice Butler in years past. McKenzie used trades to add more picks late in the draft in 2015, including a trade with the Panthers that nabbed the 242nd overall pick, ultimately the final Raider pick of the 2015 Draft.

With that pick, the Raiders took Dexter McDonald, a cornerback out of Kansas, who joined his teammate linebacker Ben Heeney on the Raiders roster. McDonald joined a cornerback group that is deep with question marks – an average age of 25 years old, with no clear cut NFL starter on paper. The Raiders made no significant moves in the offseason to add any veteran experience to the group other than free agent and career backup corner James Dockery.

McDonald however fits in well with what Reggie McKenzie has tried to do with his cornerbacks since he took over. McDonald is 6’1″ and about 200 pounds, and very rangy and lanky and built perfectly for the type of “press-bail” coverage that is popular in the league today. He has great speed and athleticism and showed up well on tape as an aggressive cover man at Kansas.

But McDonald has only two seasons of big time college playing experience, though he has started all 24 Kansas games over the past two seasons. He also has the stiff hips common among larger corners, and struggles to change direction quickly to cover sudden stop/hook routes, something press-bail corners have to be able to do. He also needs to spend some more time in the weightroom, and perhaps bulk back up closer to the 220 pounds he once was as a college freshman and add some upper body strength.

Still, McDonald is as athletically talented a young cornerback as there is on the Raiders roster, and is probably a better prospect at this point than TJ Carrie was thought to be when he was drafted in 2014, and he may be a starter this season. He will almost assuredly make the Raiders roster as a cornerback along with Carrie, 2014 4th-round pick Keith McGill and 2013 1st-rounder DJ Hayden as well as the veteran James Dockery. Keep an eye on McDonald, who will likely see a lot of action in coverage in preseason.

Next: Rookie Watch: SaQwan Edwards, CB (New Mexico)