Just ahead of the trip out to the field for rookie minicamp, the Raiders announced the undrafted free agents they had signed. You can see those here. And on the way out the door, we found out what numbers the rookies would be wearing. You can find those here.
For these rookies, it was the first time they stepped on the field in a Raiders uniform. For many of them, it was that moment when it really hit home that they are part of an NFL team. That’s how it was for second round pick Obi Melifonwu.
“I got that question yesterday like when is it going to feel like I’m on an NFL team? I think it was when I stepped onto the green and put my helmet on, then it felt real. I am really doing this. I was just really excited about it.”
Melifonwu got his college number 20 and on the field his 6-4, 224-pound frame is apparent. Other than his size, much of which is from a considerably long neck, he didn’t stand out on the field on day one.
Melifonwu’s roommate is the team’s first round pick Gareon Conley. He was wearing number 2, though that will change, so don’t anyone place any orders for his jersey just yet.
He’s still dealing with the situation with regard to the sexual assault allegations against him. He spoke with police last Monday, which he described as “just another way to prove my innocence”, and now much try to focus on football. Which can’t be easy.
“It’s tough to think about it,” Conley said of the allegations against him, “but I try not to think about it and just worry about what I’m doing out here right now.”
Jack Del Rio added that he too is focused on the football team, leaving those matters for the GM.
“I’m not at the forefront of that,” said Del Rio. “I know Reggie [McKenzie] is monitoring that for sure. Things are going to take place. I’m going to focus on football.”
While it’s hard to deal with these issues while attempting to get his NFL career off the ground, being back on a football field helps keep him occupied and is a welcome distraction.
“Yeah, it makes it way easier. Football is like a stress reliever for me.”
As for Conley’s on-field play, he lined up both in the slot and outside. He said felt equally comfortable inside and outside, noting that at Ohio State he tended to just follow the speedy receiver wherever he lined up.
While the Raiders’ top two pick defensive backs get the press, there were a few others who made plays on the first day. Most notably was 6-0, 189-pound cornerback Breon Borders.
Borders went up high to pull down an interception on a deep slant and later would end practice by knocking down the final pass of the day, leading to the offensive doing pushups. A couple plays before that, 7th round safety Shalom Luani tracked the ball on a pass along the right sideline to knock it down.
The quarterbacks were both tryout players. They were Bart Houston out of Wisconsin and Seth Russell out of Baylor. The team doesn’t announce tryout players, so it’s hard to say which QB was which. They are gunning to be the team’s 4th strong ‘camp arm’ behind Derek Carr, Connor Cook, and EJ Manuel.
The first team offensive line was bookended most of the time by fourth round pick David Sharpe at left tackle and by seventh round pick Jylan Ware at right tackle. Without pads, it tough to judge how they look, talent wise.
Standing out on the offensive side was tight end Pharaoh Brown who made a couple nice catches, including an over-the-shoulder grab up the seam for long yardage. Though at one point linebacker Marquel Lee was able to knock a ball out of his hands after the catch, so he’s gotta get that fixed.
The catch of the day was to Jaydon Mickens on a deep ball up the middle of the field. Mickens was an undrafted free agent last year and spent last season on the practice squad. He figures to be a strong contender for a slot role with the team this year.
Related rookie minicamp stories:
Raiders officially announce 17 undrafted free agent signings
Undrafted free agent tryout reports
Raiders rookies get their numbers
Del Rio: Jalen Richard is example of “anything’s possible” with UDFA hopefuls