Undervalued Raiders rookie may surprise everybody

Linebacker Tommy Eichenberg has all the qualities that Raiders head coach Antonio Pierce looks for in a player.
Nov 26, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA;  Ohio State Buckeyes linebacker Tommy Eichenberg (35) celebrates a tackle during the
Nov 26, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes linebacker Tommy Eichenberg (35) celebrates a tackle during the / Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA

There are a few main components that make him a strong candidate for a lengthy and prosperous career with the Las Vegas Raiders. Tommy Eichenberg, the fifth-round draft selection from Ohio State, appears to have those components.

There is a growing trend in the NFL of former players becoming head coaches. Two examples of these coaches who have had some early success are Dan Campbell (Lions) and Demeco Ryans (Texans). This offseason, the Raiders elected to continue the trend by appointing former player Antonio Pierce as their permanent head coach.

The Raiders' new head coach is not just any former player, he was a nine-year linebacker and defensive captain for the New York Giants, who won Super Bowl XLII. Therefore, Pierce is fully aware of what it takes not only to succeed at the linebacker position, but to lead as well.

This could go a very long way in the development of Eichenberg, the only linebacker taken in Pierce's first draft as head coach. Regarding Eichenberg, the head coach of the Raiders has had nothing but high praise for the former Ohio State standout.

“But more important is presence. When you walk around, you feel a linebacker. He feels and looks like a linebacker," Pierce said. "And he creates more size for us and depth. I mean, you look at guys like Robert Spillane, you look at [Divine] Diablo, look at Luke Masterson and what they've been able to do, get this young guy in here with those guys and let him grow and learn from them, the future is bright."

Familiar with Raiders defense

The primary defensive scheme used by the Raiders is 4-2-5, which is also the same formation in which Eichenberg excelled greatly while attending Ohio State. Eichenberg was the 2023 Big Ten Linebacker of the Year and a two-time First-Team All-Big Ten selection while playing for Ohio State, all while being captain of this defense. Therefore, Eichenberg may find his transition into the NFL easier because he is very comfortable playing the 4-2-5 defensive scheme.

Fits the 'Raider Way'

Since the beginning of the offseason, one recurring topic that has been discussed about this Raiders team is the need and desire to find players who embody the "Raider Way," as head coach Pierce puts it. Pierce's admiration for Eichenberg is understandable given that he appears to embody everything that it means to be a Raider. Bleacher Report praised Eichenberg as an old-school linebacker in their scouting report.

“Tommy Eichenberg is about as old-school of a linebacker as they come nowadays," Matt Holder wrote. "He's a good run defender with impressive instincts who clearly loves contact, as he's physical at the point of attack and comes downhill with a flurry. He also has a relentless motor and is tough as nails, which he proved by playing with two broken hands at the end of the 2022 season.”

If this isn't an example of the "Raider Way," I'm not sure what is. The Raiders rookie linebacker will likely fit right in with the rest of the defense.

All-Rookie Team

If this isn't reason enough to have confidence in Eichenberg's abilities, consider this: according to NFL Network's recent projections, he was the lowest draft choice to make this year's All-Rookie Team. The fifth-round selection out of Ohio State could turn out to be the steal of the 2024.