How did the Raiders fare in PFF’s linebacker room rankings?

It may surprise some fans to see where the Silver and Black landed on this list.
Los Angeles Chargers v Las Vegas Raiders
Los Angeles Chargers v Las Vegas Raiders / Ethan Miller/GettyImages

Pro Football Focus continued their series of positional group rankings this offseason and made some important delineations as it pertains to their linebacker rankings. Outside linebackers who serve as edge rushers, like T.J. Watt or Khalil Mack, do not factor into these rankings.

Instead, PFF focuses on middle linebackers like Bobby Wagner or a true OLB like Fred Warner. Shockingly, the Raiders ended up near the middle of the pack. 

Raiders rank 15th

In Gordon McGuinness' team-by-team linebacker rankings, the Raiders came in at No. 15.

"Robert Spillane thrived for the Raiders in his first full season as a starter, earning a 77.1 PFF grade on 1,100 snaps to rank tied for 17th in the league," McGuinness wrote. "Divine Deablo is a good tackler, having missed just 6.0% of his career attempts. Rookie Tommy Eichenberg could prove to be a steal. The fifth-round draft pick earned an 86.8 PFF grade at Ohio State in 2022 before having a down year in his final season in college in 2023."

Not much is made about the Raiders’ linebacker unit, so I figured they would be further down this list. Not to mention, last month, PFF released their individual linebacker rankings, and not a single member of the Silver and Black was represented. Yet, somehow, they have the 15th-best unit in the league according to the same publication. I am not complaining; I think that this group should get far more hype than they do, so let’s break it down.

Robert Spillane proved to be a very good middle linebacker last year for Las Vegas. As they mentioned, Spillane was one of the best coverage linebackers in the NFL last year, and he recorded nearly 150 tackles as well. Divine Deablo is also starting to come into his own as a player too, growing as a tackler after being drafted to play a hybrid LB/S role. 

What inspires me most about this ranking is the positivity surrounding the Tommy Eichenberg draft pick. Much attention has been paid to Brock Bowers and some of the other early-round picks, but Eichenberg could easily make a huge impact this year.

His 86.8 PFF grade at Ohio State in 2022 is astounding and he may compete with guys like Luke Masterson or Amari Burney for reps. Spillane and Deablo project to be the starters, but if he can earn his way into the rotation, then he is an absolute gem in the fifth round. 

How they compare

Even though the unit ranks in the top half of the NFL, they are still 10th in the AFC. Thankfully, they are slotted just behind the Chiefs (12th) and both the Broncos (28th) and Chargers (31st)  are towards the bottom of the league.

There are a plethora of elite linebacker tandems in the AFC that deservingly rank ahead of the Raiders, but the one that confounds reason is the Cincinnati Bengals, slotted just ahead at 14, per PFF.

“Germaine Pratt and Logan Wilson were disappointing in 2023 by their standards, earning 63.3 and 62.6 PFF grades, respectively," McGuinness wrote. "Both were better in 2022, though, with Pratt earning a 78.4 PFF grade and Wilson a 74.6, so if they can get back to that level, then the Bengals will move into the top 10 here.”

It is fine to make projections about rookies because they do not have a pool of NFL experience to pull from. However, ranking the Bengals ahead of the Raiders simply because their linebackers performed well two years ago seems a bit careless.

Spillane and Deablo were a formidable duo in 2023, not 2022, and they are punished for this. I think that both Pratt and Wilson are good players but if PFF is not putting a ton of stock into their own rankings from a year ago, it is hard to see why anyone else should. By this measure, Spillane was better last year than Wilson has been in each of the last two seasons, so these two units should at least flip-flop.

Once again, it is time for the Raiders to prove people wrong. PFF ratings and rankings do not win games; the game is played on turf, and head coach Antonio Pierce will have this LB unit ready to go.