3 Raiders players who could be nice surprises in 2024

These are the names to keep an eye on next year.

Denver Broncos v Las Vegas Raiders
Denver Broncos v Las Vegas Raiders / Candice Ward/GettyImages

Even now, it's hard to predict exactly what the Raiders will look like next season.

Through the first couple of months of the Tom Telesco-Antonio Pierce era, Las Vegas has made some major signings, brought back some key free agents from last year's team, and is apparently setting up a training camp quarterback battle. The team has a young, ascending defense with an offensive line that flashed plenty of potential, but the AFC West is brutal and they still have a ways to go before anyone in Kansas City or Los Angeles (sorry Denver) starts taking them seriously.

If the Raiders do find a way to make a jump towards contention, don't be surprised to see big years from these three guys.

3 Raiders players who could be nice surprises in 2024

EDGE Malcolm Koonce

Going into 2023, Koonce had never started a game in his two-year career.

He got his opportunity last year – starting 11 of the 17 games he appeared in – and made the most of it, setting career bests across the board. After only having two sacks over his first two years with the Raiders, Koonce had eight last year – he also had three forced fumbles, 43 tackles, and 17 QB hits. Maxx Crosby was the only Raiders player who had a higher overall defensive grade (Pro Football Focus) and Koonce ended the year ranked 22nd out of 112.

With teams focusing more on Crosby and new defensive tackle Christian Wilkins, Koonce is going to have plenty of opportunities to make some noise on that talented Raiders front. He's also played close to 60% of special teams snaps over the last two seasons, something that'll be interesting to watch in 2024, given his growing role on defense.

LB Robert Spillane

Speaking of talented but underrated players on the Raiders' defensive front, Spillane is another guy who had a sneaky good season last year.

He's been around the league longer than Koonce – he played his rookie year in Tennessee before spending four seasons with the Steelers – but is only 28, and coming off the best year of his career. He started 17 games for the first time in 2023, and his 96 solo tackles were the 12th most of any linebacker in football. Pro Football Focus graded him as an elite run defender (6th overall), and even with the uptick in playing time, his missed tackle percentage stayed relatively similar.

He won't get the attention that Crosby, Wilkins, Tyree Wilson will, but if the Raiders' defense takes another step next year, Spillane will be a big reason why.

T Thayer Munford Jr.

Munford proved how versatile he could be last year, with his 521 snaps last season split almost evenly between right and left tackle.

After finishing his rookie season as Pro Football Focus' 52nd best tackle, Munford ended 2023 in much better standing (25th). The Raiders' offensive line was pretty average last year, ranking 15th in pass-block win rate and 18th in run-block win rate, but with guys like Munford, Kolton Miller, and Andre James, there's reason to be optimistic about the ceiling of this group. Being able to play him at both spots is nice, but in a perfect world Munford stays at right tackle for all 17 games next year.

Especially considering new offensive coordinator Luky Getsy's track record with establishing good running games, Munford – who was the highest-graded run blocker on the Raiders' line last year – could be in for a big year.