Needing at boost on the interior defensive line, rookie defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes is making his move up the Raiders depth chart right away at camp.
Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie went with a defensive player with his first three picks in the 2017 NFL Draft. The Raiders selected Ohio State Buckeyes cornerback Gareon Conley at No. 24 and UConn Huskies safety Obi Melifonwu at No. 56. Both will play big snaps as rookies in the secondary, but what are we to make of third-round pick in defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes?
McKenzie used his third-round pick at No. 88 out of the high-energy, albeit bulky defensive tackle Vanderdoes out of UCLA. Vanderdoes hails from just outside of Sacramento and was a former five-star recruit to Westwood. He has built a reputation in his young football career as a guy with quick, strong hands and an ability to collapse the integrity of the pocket as a pass rusher.
Vanderdoes emerged as a star at UCLA for head coach Jim Mora by his sophomore year in 2014. Had he not torn his ACL in the first game of 2015 as a junior against Virginia, there was a chance that Vanderdoes could have been a first-round pick.
It’s like watching a bull in a china shop, pursuing the quarterback with reckless abandon in the middle of the defensive line. While it doesn’t always work, he is a fearless competitor. Head coach Jack Del Rio will put him to work in Ken Norton Jr.’s defense in year one.
What dropped Vanderdoes down to third-round status after 2016 is two-fold.
- The knee injury is concerning. If you watched him at Senior Bowl practice in Mobile this winter, you could see that he spent half the time on the ground in pass rushing drills. It’s not Jonathan Cooper bad, but you can tell that his knee isn’t quite where it was as a sophomore in 2014.
- Though tremendously athletic, Vanderdoes had a bit too much pudding on his frame coming out of UCLA. He has apparently trimmed down heading into his first year as a professional. If he can play around 300 pounds, Vanderdoes could be a special player on the defensive line.
Vanderdoes will play defensive tackle in a 4-3 or maybe even some 5-technique in a 3-4 base. His hand placement and strong upper body has him taking snaps with the first teamers already in Raiders camp.
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Oakland will have to overcome a blatant lack of experience at middle linebacker. Marquel Lee has shown promise as a fifth-round pick out of Wake Forest, but inside linebacker will be the Achilles’ heel of this defense for sure.
Frankly, the best way to counterbalance inefficiencies at inside linebacker is to have strong play from the defensive tackle and safety positions.
The idea is that Melifonwu can play up in the box in somewhat of a Cover 3 look as a safety/linebacker hybrid. That puts a ton of pressure on second-year safety Karl Joseph, but he’s a former first-round pick out of WVU.
If Vanderdoes can take care of his body, then the rest of the Raiders defense has his back. The Raiders have had a rich history at just about every position on the gridiron, but defensive tackle.
There is obvious boom or bust potential with this kid, most of it hinging on past injuries and caloric intake. With the right nutrition and recovery program, the Raiders could have found yet another solid starter from their 2017 rookie class. It’ll be interesting to see what he does his first year in the league.