Prove-it season lurking for Raiders third-year defensive linemen

Maurice Hurst, P.J. Hall, and Arden Key were all selected in the 2018 NFL Draft, and all three enter a prove-it year with the Raiders in 2020.

The then-Oakland Raiders made it a point to get better along the defensive line during the 2018 NFL Draft, selecting P.J. Hall in the second round, Arden Key in the third, and then Maurice Hurst in the fifth. Key had first round talent coming out of LSU, but had some issues off the field, and was considered a steal in round three.

Hall was a bit of an unknown, but was a guy who had tremendous physical attributes for a man his size. Like Key, Hurst was widely considered a first round guy as well, but a heart condition found at the NFL Combine made him fall all the way to the fifth round, and some felt he should not have been drafted at all.

Huge third season coming up for the trio

Entering Year 3, the trio is going to have to fight to prove they belong, especially with the team getting better at both defensive tackle and end since they have been drafted. Guys like Maliek Collins and Johnathan Hankins were brought in via free agency the past two years to improve the tackle spot, while Clelin Ferrell and Maxx Crosby were selected in the 2019 NFL Draft at end.

In addition to Ferrell and Crosby, Carl Nassib was a big free agent signing for the Raiders this offseason, and is expected to spell both of them in the pass rush. That could leave Key as a guy fighting for reps, so he better bring his “A” game this summer.

Anthony Galaviz of the Fresno Bee tweeted this out on Thursday.

Of course, Hall and Key come into this season on a bit of a hot seat, as they have not lived up to their pre-draft billing through their first two seasons in the NFL. Key has yet to prove he can stay healthy, and Hall has been inconsistent, so both of them will be under the microscope under new defensive line coach Rod Marinelli.

Hurst is another story, as there has been times where he has shown that he can certainly play, and play big-time football at the NFL level. He is a guy who is going to be expected to start alongside Maliek Collins this season, and the addition of Collins is only going to help the third-year defensive tackle.

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In my opinion, Hurst is a safe bet to not only make the roster, but be a big part of what the Raiders do defensively this season. I have just not seen enough out of Hall or Key to guarantee they make the Week 1 roster, and if they don’t, it will be another blemish on the team’s 2018 draft class.