One of the Raiders’ biggest needs coming into this offseason was at wide receiver. The team had few genuine weapons last year beyond Amari Cooper, and Michael Crabtree was let go by the team leaving the cupboard fairly bare. So the Raiders brought in Jordy Nelson and then made some big moves on draft weekend, acquiring Martavis Bryant and Ryan Switzer. But their final move might be one of the most intriguing, as with their seventh round pick the Raiders chose Oklahoma State wideout Marcell Ateman.
6’5”, 214 pounds
4.62 40-yard dash
13 reps on bench press
34” vertical jump
121” broad jump
2015: 767 yards receiving, 5 TD
2016: Did not play due to foot injury and surgery
2017: 1156 yards, 8 TD
The first thing one notices about Marcell Ateman is his massive size. He’s on the bigger end of the NFL receiver spectrum at 6’5” and 216 pounds, which means he has a major advantage over each and every defensive back trying to cover him. He uses his hands well to high-point the ball and has excellent body control to get turned in the direction he wants to go and keep his feet in bounds to complete the catch. Here are a few examples of what Ateman does well, taken from a game against TCU:
Oklahoma State had a prolific passing game led by Steelers draftees Mason Rudolph and James Washington, but Ateman was crucial to their success as well. The Cowboys ran a sophisticated offense with a varied route tree, so Ateman should be able to master Greg Olson’s Tecmo Bowl playbook with relative ease.
Ateman has reliable hands and good ball skills, and should be counted on to not have the sort of frustrating drops we are used to from Raiders receivers.
As you can see from the 4.62 40 time, Ateman does not have elite top-end speed even though he is a very good athlete. He’s just a little bit plodding, and that did limit him as the #2 option for Oklahoma State. Blocking is also an issue for him, as even though he is a very large human being he doesn’t use his frame well enough in the running game to overpower would-be tacklers. He will need to get stronger and learn to use his body to punish defenders on running plays. Jon Gruden wants to build a running juggernaut, and if Ateman does not help out by blocking effectively, he could see his playing time diminished.
Bottom Line- How does he fit in?
Ateman was considered by most to be a fifth-round prospect, and for the Raiders to get him in the seventh round is an absolute steal. He’s one of, if not the tallest receiver in the draft and can be a massive factor in the red zone. He runs comeback routes and go routes exceptionally well and will be the fourth or fifth option on the Raiders, giving him an opportunity to match up with linebackers and strong safeties. He will demolish coverage like that, he’s far too big and has too much natural talent.
Ateman missed the entire 2016 season with a foot injury and required surgery, but he redshirted and came back in 2017 better than ever. Ateman should not be considered an injury risk, and his success last year is a testament to his determination and work ethic. This was an outstanding late-round find by Gruden and McKenzie and he should be able to make the team, which employed a similar player in Andre Holmes some years ago. He should become one of Derek Carr’s favorite targets on third down and in the red zone, where he has a Rob Gronkowski-like advantage over defenders with his size and hands.
His listed pro comps are Quincy Enunwa and Brandon Coleman, both of whom have made good careers for themselves in the last couple of years based on their dependability and tenacious play. Expect the same from Ateman, who may get slower as he ages but is unlikely to ever get shorter.