Oakland Raiders: Five players under pressure in 2015

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May 8, 2015; Alameda, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. (97) at rookie minicamp at the Raiders practice facility. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Mario Edwards

Why he is under pressure: Edwards is under pressure because of the shock that came when he was drafted early in the second round, vaulting over names like Preston Smith when general manager Reggie McKenzie was believed to have reached to take the Florida State Seminoles defensive end. That in itself will create pressure on Edwards to live up to expectations as fans as well as the local media will be judging McKenzie’s decision through the play of the rookie as he will be expected to live up to an early second round level that many felt he wasn’t worth based on predraft rankings and his stock around the league.

As DJ Hayden has experienced, players who are perceived as a reach are forever compared to the players who they were drafted above. Luckily for Edwards, the risk of any of the players who were drafted after him becoming Pro Bowlers is lower than in the first round even if the former National Championship winner who enjoyed plenty of success at FSU is going to have to prove the doubters who judged him as a late second to early third rounder wrong during his rookie season.

A player that has a body more suited to fill space as a run stopper than to get after the quarterback on the edge, Edwards has a game comparable to Lamarr Houston and a winning pedigree that put him on the Raiders scouts radar, but after passing up on the more highly touted early second rounders he is going to have to prove himself before fans feel that the front office didn’t make a mistake in reaching for him back during the draft.

Can he break the pressure: It remains to be seen if Edwards can translate his time as a big part of the defensive front on a Florida State team that lost just one game during his final two seasons, but his aforementioned similarities to Houston in being a space eater who plays on the edge is very intriguing. While he won’t get to the quarterback, which was Houston’s biggest problem in Oakland, he will be stout on run defense and help free up space for guys like Khalil Mack, Sio Moore, etc. to make plays. That alone should get him into the rotation on the defensive line, which in itself will make the pick worth it if the Raiders can get a somewhat productive defensive end that makes the team better with their second round pick.

How Edwards handles the pressure and lives up to expectations will all depend on what fans or analysts have in mind when it comes to him. As a second round pick it should be easy for him to make enough plays to show his upside during his rookie season to the point in which people see the potential that the Raiders scouts see in the player.

Edwards made several key plays during FSU’s National Championship Game win against Auburn, shutting down the read option while winning a handful of personal battles against highly drafted OL Greg Robinson before having a strong Senior season that earned him the surprisingly high second round selection in Oakland. There will be pressure to perform because some vocal people felt it was a misguided pick, but Edwards is more than capable of proving the doubters wrong.

Next: Under Pressure: Rod Streater