From the beginning of the season, one of the most scrutinized areas of the Raiders team has been their linebacking corps. The Raiders sunk plenty of money into that group this offseason signing the likes of Emmanuel Lamur, Tahir Whitehead and Derrick Johnson. To say that linebacker, particularly middle linebacker, was a weakness last year would be a massive understatement.
But surprisingly, the player who has shined most brightly in the linebacker unit isn’t one of the new arrivals, it’s a guy who was already here- former fifth round pick Marquel Lee. The good folks at Pro Football Focus threw darts or tossed chicken entrails onto the ground or whatever it is they do to come up with their arcane formula that ranks each and every player in the NFL on each and every play, and the results show that Marquel Lee is officially the bee’s knees.
The highest graded #Raiders player against Detroit was LB Marquel Lee with a 91.2 overall grade. Known as a run defender, Lee also played well in seven snaps in coverage, allowing one reception for just three yards. ☠️— PFF OAK Raiders (@PFF_Raiders) August 16, 2018
Well that’s great, but it was Detroit. What about going against an actually good team, the Rams?
#Raiders linebacker Marquel Lee continued his strong preseason with an 82.0 grade against the Rams. Lee is the highest graded Raiders player this preseason with a 91.0 overall grade through two games. ☠️ #RaiderNation pic.twitter.com/2qhzWAHEyi— PFF OAK Raiders (@PFF_Raiders) August 20, 2018
Lee would keep up his torrid pace on Thursday against the Packers as well.
For the second time in three preseason games, the highest graded #Raiders player was LB Marquel Lee with a 91.2 grade against the Packers. Through games played on Friday, Lee's 92.5 overall grade this preseason ranks first among linebackers that have played 40 or more snaps ☠️— PFF OAK Raiders (@PFF_Raiders) August 25, 2018
So not only is Marquel Lee rated as the Raiders’ best player by PFF, he is in fact rated as the best linebacker in the NFL right now. Of course, we should all take this with a grain of salt because the more a player is on the field the highest his rating is able to go, so guys who are first-string locks and don’t get much preseason time won’t rack up the ratings the way Lee has.
But even Derrick Johnson, who was signed to be the Raiders’ middle linebacker, has been raving about Lee this preseason.
“He’s very athletic,” Johnson said. “We have plenty of talks about what he sees on the field. He’s a guy who is very smart and he’s got a bright future ahead of him. I’m excited to watch him every time we are out there.”
In a preseason full of standouts on the defensive end for the Raiders, Lee might be the case study for how good coaching affects a player. Lee was excellent at Wake Forest, a veritable tackling machine. But he only had 25 tackles last season under the previous regime. Under Paul Guenther, he’s playing at an elite level and seems like a candidate to lead the Raiders in tackles.