Prior to reading the headline of this article, if I were to ask you who the best looking Raiders rookie is, who would you guess? Jihad Ward? DeAndre Washington? James Cowser? Well, according to grades put out by Pro Football Focus, the best looking Raiders rookie is undrafted defensive lineman Darius Latham.
Not only does PFF think he’s the best looking Raiders rookie, they think the former Indiana Hoosier is the best rookie defensive tackle in the NFL over the first two weeks of the preseason.
Top graded rookies through two weeks of the preseason— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) August 21, 2016
DT/NT: Darius Latham, OAK
4-3 OLB: Jeremy Cash, CAR
Edge Def: Romeo Okwara, NYG
It’s important to keep in mind that small sample sizes don’t always allow for the whole picture when it comes to PFF grades. For instance some rookies are seeing more time with the first team and are therefore facing an overall greater level of competition than Latham in the first two preseason games. But Latham has clearly done well with his snaps and against the competition he’s faced.
The Raiders like what they’ve seen from Latham as well. This is not some recent revelation form them either. Latham was a sought after priority free agent who was impressing the team in OTA’s.
He lived up to the team's expectations with an outstanding game in the preseason opener against the Cardinals that had him named Honorable Mention among my Ballers & Busters. In one drive in the third quarter of that game he had a pressure to force an incompletion, a run stuff for a 2-yard gain, and put a hit on the quarterback to force an incompletion on third down. He played a total of 20 snaps in that game.
In last week’s game against the Packers, Latham led the team with 37 snaps. He entered the game with the first team for their second defensive series.
His performance in the game even inspired a fan post analysis from reader @Mdchris24 which is worth a look.
Latham played a total of five snaps in the first half. On the Packers’ second drive, he played two of the three snaps in a three-and-out. His next snap was the final play of the next drive with the Packers going for it -- and failing -- on fourth and one. The next drive, he was in for the first two snaps of another three-and-out.
While he didn’t make a great impact on those plays in the firsts half, he wasn’t a liability either. Most of the big run plays occurred on the first drive when he had yet to enter the game. The biggest run of the game after that was a 24-yarder from James Starks and again Latham was not on the field.
On the second play of the second half, Latham and Denico Autry teamed up for a run stuff for no gain. On that same drive he and the rest of the Raiders’ defensive line couldn’t contain quarterback Joe Callahan who escaped the pocket and ran for 12 yards. At the end of that drive, Latham couldn’t quite get to the ball carrier to stop him from going 10 yards up the middle for a touchdown.
Latham’s biggest play came late in the fourth quarter on third and 15 when he and Drew Iddings stuffed a run for a loss of one. It would keep the Packers backed against their own goal line and on the ensuing punt, Brynden Trawick would block it, and Nate Allen recovered it in the end zone for a touchdown.
"He rotated in early." Jack Del Rio said of Latham after the game. "He was the fourth guy in, I think, at that position [defensive tackle]. Bottom line, I think the young man has done a nice job in camp. He played well last week and I look forward to watching the game tape and seeing how we did this week."
It will be interesting to see how much time Latham gets in the team’s third preseason game. The first team should play up to three quarters in that game, and we will see if he is still rotating in or perhaps earns more snaps.