When we finally got to see Oakland’s initial 53-man roster for 2018, one of the pleasant surprises on the list of names was that of wide receiver Keon Hatcher. As an undrafted free agent a year ago out of Arkansas, Hatcher was a longshot to make the roster this year, but his inclusion on the list was sort of like Jalen Richard two seasons ago- an undrafted player working hard and earning the trust of the coaching staff.
Hatcher’s final preseason game was his best and one of the best in the NFL this preseason from any player. He caught 8 passes for 128 yards and three touchdowns. His performance was so good, in fact, Jon Gruden stated that as part of what made Martavis Bryant expendable.
“[Bryant] did not make the team because Keon Hatcher came on,” Gruden said, noting Bryant’s lack of versatility as a primary factor as well.
“You saw Hatcher the other night. He’s done it on our practice field. He did it in a game. He can play multiple positions and he can play on special teams. We tried to keep the five or six best receivers, and that’s what we did,” Gruden said on Sunday night.
Hatcher’s performance against the Seahawks was the lynchpin that earned him that roster spot, according to Gruden.
“I probably would’ve got thrown out of the airplane if we did not keep Keon after that game.,” said Gruden. “But he kept our eye. He had a great offseason. He’s under the radar. He’s undrafted. Practice squad a year ago. Caught a lot of touchdown passes at Arkansas. But when you put him in a game, he converts third downs. He can make big plays. We’re happy to have him aboard.”
Hatcher absolutely deserved to make the team, and from the sounds of this it seems like Gruden is keen on using him in important situations and in a key role. But it’s funny to imagine that of all the players who have been jettisoned during Gruden’s tenure- a list that includes Bryant, Mario Edwards Jr., Antonio Hamilton, Breno Giacomini and of course Khalil Mack- it’s Keon Hatcher who would put Gruden’s life in danger if he wasn’t on the team. Perhaps this would have happened: