There was a time when Eddie Vanderdoes was considered a first round caliber player. So, how was he available for the Raiders at the 88th pick in the third round? Let’s see...
Vanderdoes (pronounced Vander-doze) bears some striking similarities to Raiders second round pick in 2015, Mario Edwards Jr. Both players were 5-star recruits out of high school, both saw their weight fluctuate throughout their college career, ultimately leading to poor numbers and motivation questions.
Now they will line up alongside each other on the Raiders defensive line.
For Vanderdoes’s part, he was playing at a first round level after his sophomore season. That year he had 50 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, and 1.5 sacks. That season he If he were allowed to come out at that time, that’s no doubt where he would have gone. Then in his junior season, he suffered an ACL tear that cost him his season.
His senior season the Bruins didn’t see the player they saw as a sophomore. He started to gain weight, ballooning up to over 340 pounds and his numbers and performance reflected that.
“His weight has been up and down,” said Jack Del Rio. “We expect him to come in here and be a real professional and work hard with [head strength and conditioning coach] Joe Gomes and the strength staff and get himself ready to roll.”
“We’ve got dieticians and trainers and conditioners. All the things that we need to do to get him to be at his best. Ultimately, Joe will lead us through that. We’ll scan him, get a real exact reading on what his body comp looks like and how it stacks up and what he needs to do to be his best. We’ll help educate him that way. Then it will be up to him to embrace the things that we talk about and do with our guys.”
One assumption for that major weight gain could be that he was still suffering from lingering ACL issues. Another could be that he just wasn’t motivated. He said it was neither.
“I’ve never had a problem with motivation,” said Vanderdoes. “I’ve always been a motivated kid. This season, my weight just got out of hand. That’s the way it was. I played on a high ankle sprain this season that I got rolled up on and I fought through with my team. I never once thought about quitting or anything like that, so I kept going and kept playing and doing what’s best because I love football. I missed a whole year of football in 2015 and that made me really realize how much I love this game.”
It’s unclear whether the weight issue contributed to the ankle sprains or if it was the other way around. Perhaps a bit of both. A vicious cycle, if you will.
The result was the worst numbers of his entire four-year career with the Bruins. And just when he most needed to prove his NFL worthiness. He had just 27 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks.
Once the season was over, and he was headed for the draft, he had four months to prove to NFL scouts that it was his sophomore season that was indicative of the player he is, not his senior season.
“That’s going to be the player that I’m going to be – the one that I was earlier in my career,” said Vanderdoes. “I had a bad season. That wasn’t me. That’s not the person that I am. That’s not the character that I hold. I’m definitely going to bring that to the Raiders’ defensive line.”
While he wasn’t able to convince any team to take him in the first two rounds, his performance at the combine and the senior bowl convinced at least the Raiders that he was committed to being the player who once was performing at that level.
“He’s a good, active defensive lineman that we think his best football is in front of him,” said Del Rio.
“His film is inconsistent, honestly. There’s some that’s better than others. I just talked to him a little while ago and said, ‘We’re looking for the high energy guy, the motivated guy.’ He’s a really good athlete.”
By the senior bowl, Vanderdoes had already taken some weight off and had a chance to heal up from his ankle sprain(s). He showed the explosiveness scouts hoped to see from him from the interior line. By the combine he was down to 305.
As of now he said he’s sitting at 302, which is where he thinks the Raiders want him to be, hence why they drafted him.
Del Rio sees him as the kind of interior guy who can “bounce around” like the departed Stacy McGee did, which would have him playing most any interior defensive line spot in different alignments.
“Really, he can go from a six-technique and in,” said Del Rio.
Venderdoes insists the Raiders got the steal of the draft by taking him. Adding to his motivation is he is a Northern California native (Auburn).
“Most of my family is Raiders fans,” said Vanderdoes. “Some Niners fans, but I think those Niners fans are Raiders fans today, a lot of people that I know in my hometown. I’d say Auburn is a little Raider Nation bubble now, for sure. They’ve always had my back and they’ve always supported my dream and what I’ve done. I’m definitely excited to share that experience with them.”