Today the Raiders rookies suited up for the first time and took the field. Those who stand out and make the most headlines are those players who were drafted high. Everyone wants to get their first looks at the young players in whom the Raiders have placed their future hopes. But rookie minicamp means most to the tryout players. Their NFL career could begin or end based on how they perform in these three days.
It’s those tryout guys who make for the best stories should they go on to do great things. As Drake would say; started from the bottom, now we’re here. But it doesn’t happen very often.
It did happen for one Raiders player this time last year. Jalen Richard was a tryout player. He stood out in rookie minicamp and the pocket rocket took his opportunity skyward. He made the team and finished as the team’s second leading rusher and top return man both on punts and kicks.
“Nobody saw that coming or we would’ve drafted him, you know?” Jack Del Rio said of Richard.
“Having Jalen make it from a tryout into camp and from camp into a big role on opening day down in New Orleans, anything’s possible with these young men. That’s what we talk about that once they get here, it doesn’t really matter how they got here, we’re gonna let these guys compete. We’re looking for men that are locked into doing the right things and guys that can help us win. Regardless of how you got here, you’ve got a shot.”
Among the players at today’s minicamp, it’s tough to tell how many tryout players there are. We do know there were 26 drafted and undrafted rookies out there along with another 5 first year players. Some tryout players are discovered following the draft, but they aren’t announced or listed by the team, so it’s nearly impossible to tell who you are watching.
Counting up the number of priority undrafted signings, the Raiders roster is currently at exactly 90 players. That means, if anyone is to be signed from the tryouts, the team will have to cut other players to make room for them. It’s a great deal of pressure to ask a player to show you enough potential to be worthy of being chosen over a player already inhouse.
“It takes time,” Del Rio said of realizing a tryout player’s talents. “Certainly when you have a higher opinion to start with, if you’re starting out, your first round pick and you see something flash the first day, that’s what you expected to see. When you have a tryout guy, you didn’t expect to see that. But if you do see it, you’re like ‘hm, that’s pretty good. Maybe we should bring him back’ and we bring him back and we’re like ‘That’s pretty good’ you know maybe we should see more of him in camp.
“We’re looking for these young men, they all get the opportunity to come in and just be themselves and compete and the thing that I talked to them all about is don’t let fear keep you from going for it. Just go for it. If it works out, great, and if it doesn’t, you gave it your best. There’s no regrets there. I think it’s been proven that we’ll keep these men if they earn their way.”
There have been some reported tryout players which came out. You can see those here. Two of them are quarterbacks Seth Russell out of Baylor and Bart Houston out of Wisconsin (via De LaSalle). They will be competing to take that fourth QB ‘camp arm’ spot.