The draft-day project with hopes of becoming a bookend right tackle is getting another shot in Silver & Black. That says a lot of how the Las Vegas Raiders personnel crew feels about Brandon Parker.
Taken in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft (No. 65 overall) out of North Carolina A&T — the same year the Raiders took left tackle Kolton Miller No. 15 overall — Parker was pegged as a long-term developmental project with upside to man the right side along with Miller. While Miller struggled in his rookie season, the blindside protector out of UCLA has become an anchor and one of the better players at the position.
Parker, meanwhile, struggled year one too — thrust into action as a developmental rookie. He hasn’t stabilized his career like his more highly drafted counterpart. There are flashes of solid play along with whiffs that still plague him in heading into year five. And it looked like after Parker’s four-year rookie contract was up, his time as a Raider was done.
But new Raiders general manager Dave Ziegler had other plans. Based on money and comments by Las Vegas top personnel man, Parker is a legit option to start at right tackle.
The Silver & Black’s new roster decision maker inked Parker to a one-year $3.5 million deal ($2.662 million guaranteed at signing). Before I dive into Parker’s return, get this: The coin he’s slated to make is nifty especially when compared to his rookie contract — four years, $4.095 million, $1.058 guaranteed.
Ziegler, head coach Josh McDaniels and offensive line boss Carmen Bricillo are apt to see if they can get more out of the Raiders linemen than the previous regime and coaching staff. Ziegler certainly views the 6-foot-8, 320-pound Parker as an “ascending player”. He said as much during the NFL owner’s meeting las month.
“He has very good size, very good length, which are two important attributes at the offensive tackle position,” Ziegler said of Parker, who by the way, started the last 13 games at right tackle. “He’s an athletic guy for his size and he’s a guy that I think can continue to, again, Brandon is not a finished product. ... He can continue to get better. He had a good experience of playing a lot of snaps last year ... there’s a lot of learning that comes from that. All those things were exciting.”
Pro Football Focus charted Parker as tied for sixth in most sacks allowed (eight) and tied seventh for penalties committed (nine). His return brings the “Run it back” vibes no? The group last season consisted of (from left tackle to right): Miller, Johnson Simpson, Andre James, Alex Leatherwood and Parker for the bulk of the 2021. It’s within reason to believe that group could be once again the starting five with the current ensemble. While the Raiders new regime speaks of “clean slates” and players given an opportunity to compete for starter roles, based on the all-important cohesion, experience and snaps as a group, the five from last year appear best equipped to assume their respective spots on the offensive line.
As Ziegler alluded to, Parker mirrors Miller in the size, length, and movement categories as both are similar heights and build. But whereas Miller is a stout pass and run blocker due to functional strength, Parker isn’t quite as stonewall in nature. Further competition, development and a new position coach should address the problem areas in Parker’s game, however. Add into the fact that Parker was given a one-year prove-it-type contract, he should be motivated to prove his worth and earn more coin, if not more job security, next offseason.
That clean slate mentality plays big into the right tackle position. Leatherwood was originally drafted out of Alabama (No. 17 overall in the 2021 draft) to man the position and his initial season was marred with mental lapses and issues with fundamentals. His outing as the Raiders right tackle lasted all of four games before he shuffled inside to right guard.
Pro Football Focus charted the 6-foot-6, 312-pound Leatherwood with the second-most sacks allowed (eight) and third-most penalties (14) at his position. But like with Parker, you don’t need a heavy background in football analytics and metrics to see where both struggled. The age-old eye test can do that for you.
Leatherwood did play in 97 percent of the Raiders offensive snaps (1,105). Plus side: All those snaps meant plenty of reps and teach tape, so it’s way too early to write off Leatherwood. But, it would appear he’s much more destined to be an interior offensive linemen due to his power vs. his pass protection on the wing.
Veteran Denzelle Good is returning from injury and is able to play both tackle and guard. Ditto for Jermaine Eluemunor, a player that manned the right tackle spot for McDaniels’ New England Patriots offense back in 2020.
Then there’s the upcoming draft this weekend that could add another name to the right tackle fray in the desert.
That’ll push depth but that’s not a bad thing for the Raiders. In fact, Vegas’ new regime hopes to have plenty of depth giving the team the opportunity to develop them — for multiple spots.
“They’re not just going to play one spot,” McDaniels noted at the owners meeting. “When I talk about relative versatility and flexibility, you better be able to play more than one spot or it’s just hard to create extra value for yourself, and for the team, if we have too many players who are just one-position players.”
Feeling A Draft
With the Raiders not picking until the No. 86 overall selection in the third round, prospects will be flying off the board. Unless Ziegler and Co. make a move up in the draft, the high-profile right tackle prospects are likely to be long gone. Even the likes of Kentucky’s Darian Kinnard, Minnesota’s Daniel Faalele — who are second- and third-round types — potentially won’t be on the board. But, if Washington’s Abraham Lucas is sitting there in the third, Vegas should make him the pick.
Of that trio, Faalele is the gargantuan at 6-foot-8 and 390 pounds, which immediately brings visions of Trent Brown (a player the Raiders and McDaniels are familiar with). He’s still a raw prospect but has all the alluring traits (size, strength, footwork, agility) that coaches salivate over.