Every year, there are players on the roster who may not be the biggest name, but they are going to play a huge role in what the team does. We call those players a “darkhorse,” a person you did not see coming, but when the season is all wrapped up, you can look at and say they had an incredible season.
Here are a few darkhorse candidates for the Raiders in 2018.
Jose Sanchez: Obi Melifonwu
The darkhorse of the team is safety Obi Melifonwu. Obi has literally been in the dark in Jon Gruden’s eyes. Melifonwu’s injury plagued him for practically the entire offseason, so Gruden isn’t able to make a real judgement on him. Training camp will be crucial for Melifonwu because he’s already 10 steps behind. As it stands, Erik Harris and Reggie Nelson are ahead of him. It’s going to be a real grind for Melifonwu this season, but if he succeeds he can call himself a Gruden Grinder.
Thomas Wheaton: Doug Martin
Based on early returns, Martin has looked like a rejuvenated player during OTA’s and other offseason workouts. If true, Martin could combine with Lynch to create one of the best rushing tandems in the league. The Raiders would be able to simply grind out opponents on the ground. If Martin looking good again is true, it could be huge for the team.
Jordan Alexis: Ryan Switzer
The Raiders didn’t have a shifty receiver who could win underneath last season, so Switzer is primed to take that role. He also isn’t Seth Roberts which gives him a significant bump up for me.
Brad Weiss: Justin Ellis
Ellis signed a new three-year extension this offseason, and will be expected to plug the middle of this defensive line in 2018. The Raiders brought in a bunch of talent to put around him this offseason, and if he takes another step forward in 2018, he could be a guy who makes his first Pro Bowl.