Coming out of high school, Anthony Cioffi got one offer. It was from Rutgers which was perfect for the Springfield New Jersey native. He would be able to stay close to home for his college years. After going undrafted last weekend, he would have more options open to him in order to make his decision on where he wanted to play.
There were at least three teams inquiring about his services – the 49ers, Texans, and Raiders. Which for Cioffi (pronounced Chaw-fee) made his decision an easy one. He would join longtime family friend Mike Tice in Oakland.
“This is going back at least 20-25 years with my uncles and cousins,” Cioffi told Silver & Black Pride of his family’s relationship with Tice. “Mike used to play in the NFL and he used to bring his buddies over because he’s from Long Island, he used to bring them down to my uncle’s restaurant and they became very good friends and met the families and he just stayed in contact throughout his coaching career. When he was the head coach of the Minnesota Vikings we’d cater food for them and the team when they would play the Jets or the Giants.”
Tice played 14 seasons in the NFL as a tight end, retiring in 1995 which means his relationship with the Cioffi family goes back to before Anthony was born. Cioffi may have been overlooked by most other teams, but he was on the Raiders radar even before the draft had completed and signed soon thereafter.
2016 -- 12 starts, 63 tkls, 2 int, 4 PD
2015 – 11 starts, 45 tkls, 3.5 TFL, 1.5 sks, 4 int, 4 PD
2014 – 5 starts, 29tkls, 2.0 TFL, 2 int, 2 PD, 1 FR, 1 FF
2013 – 5 starts, 31 tkls, 4.0 TFL, 1.0 sks, 0 int, 4 PD, 1 FR, 2 FF
His 63 tackles as a senior led all defensive backs on the team, his only season at strong safety. Prior to that he played free safety for a season after having played corner his first two years. He also has extensive special teams experience, all of which shows off his versatility.
A two-way player in high school, Cioffi also played quarterback which gives him unique perspective as a defensive back. He is adept at scanning the field and reading the quarterback. It’s how he was able to rack up 8 interceptions over the past three seasons.
“My ball skills,” Cioffis said of his strongest skill. “How I’m able to track and locate the ball and make plays on the ball and make plays for the defense.”
Though he was given a 4.55 time in the 40-yard dash at his pro day, he ran a 4.4 at the Eagles’ local pro day was clocked at a 4.37 while training at Chip Smith’s performance center in Georgia. And if you want to see his football speed, you can see several examples of his outstanding closing speed in this video:
While he is a fairly reliable tackler, he isn’t known for being a thumper. He will more often wrap up and keep the ball carrier from getting past him than lay a solid stick to stop a runner in his tracks and drive him back.
Was suspended for a game his junior season for missing a mandatory team meeting, causing the team to move running back Josh Hicks to safety to cover for him.
As a senior, Rutgers went 2-10, losing their final nine-straight games. Among those losses, they were shut out four times, including 78-0 to Michigan, 58-0 to Ohio State, and 49-0 to Michigan State. They finished with the 94th ranked defense in division one, allowing 451 yards per game.
His junior year, while Cioffi was playing free safety, Rutgers finished 4-8 with the defense finishing 113th in all of division one, giving up 462 yards per game and 118th in passing yards allowed (275.9 per game).
Those team stats obviously don’t fall on Cioffi alone. But they explain at least partially why he was overlooked by NFL teams in the draft. Being perhaps the best player on one of the worst defenses in college football doesn’t draw a lot of eyeballs.
What he brings to the Raiders
His connection with Tice wasn’t the only reason Cioffi chose to sign with the Raiders. He saw a team in need of depth at safety as well as on special teams which made Oakland the obvious choice as his best opportunity to carve out a career.
“The situation to make the team is great in my favor,” he said. “It’s very fitting team for me. They love speed, also they have a great scheme and they were kind of light at safety, so I had a feeling I could go in and solidify my role there and do what I could do for the organization.”
Cioffi emphasized his willingness to play special teams, saying “I’ve done it all four years and it’s something I really take pride in and I know it’s my ticket in the door off the bat. That’s something I want to make an impact right away.”
That’s good because not only is it a need for the Raiders, but reserve safeties tend to make their biggest contribution on special teams in blocking and coverage. It’s definitely a young player’s ticket in, especially an undrafted one.