Brandon Parker was one of Oakland’s third round picks last year, a project out of North Carolina A&T and one of many small-school lottery tickets that Reggie McKenzie drafted during his tenure with the Raiders. While Parker was a dominant force in college, he faced a steep jump in competition level in the NFL, and was pressed into duty when Donald Penn went down with injury. The results went about as expected, with Parker struggling.
The Raiders went out and got mammoth 380-pound tackle Trent Brown in free agency and second-year tackle Kolton Miller looks to be healthy again and larger than he was last year. But injuries and unforeseen circumstances happen (as last year showed in spades) and Parker, too, is taking his preparation for the season seriously, according to Jon Gruden.
“Well there’s another guy that came back a lot stronger. I think we commented earlier that he spent most of the offseason living with Gabe [Jackson]. I don’t think they were just lifting weights, they might have been eating pretty good down there. Parker came back married, he came back stronger, he came back heavier. We’re going to give him an opportunity to get on the field. He may end up being the left guard. Who knows. He may end up starting somewhere down the road again. He does have a tough assign. Played left tackle in college. Played all right tackle last year, so he does some experience playing on both sides,” said Gruden on Tuesday afternoon.
It’s unknown how much bigger or heavier Parker actually is, as he’s still listed at 305 pounds on the team website, but considering he spent a large amount of time with the 340-pound Gabe Jackson eating whatever delicious Southern cooking Jackson is accustomed to, it’s a good bet Parker has added a good bit of heft to his 6’8” frame.
Even more interesting is the comment that Parker might switch to guard. It’s no secret that the team could use more talent at the left guard spot, which is currently projected to be manned by the slightly above adequate Denzelle Good. If Parker is as big and strong as Gruden seems to believe, he could surely make an impact there.
6’8” seems pretty tall for a guard, and that’s much taller than the 6’4” Jackson, but a little over a decade ago Tom Cable took a failed tackle, the 6’7” Robert Gallery, and turned him into a very good guard. It’s not a great look to make the second overall pick in the draft switch positions, but it’s far more palatable to make a third round small school player do so. Gruden clearly values Parker’s positional versatility, and where he actually ends up playing is a story that bears watching throughout training camp and preseason.