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Raiders Draft 2022: The heat is on up front

Dylan Parham is going to make a strong push to start meaning a shuffle on Las Vegas offensive line

Syndication: The Commercial Appeal
Memphis offensive linemen Dylan Parham (right), seen here during a drill at the school’s pro day, was drafted by the Las Vegas Raiders in the third round (90th overall pick) during Friday’s NFL Draft.
Joe Rondone/The Commercial Appeal / USA TODAY NETWORK

“No one-trick ponies” on the offensive line wasn’t just poppycock — it’s the hard truth for the Las Vegas Raiders. When Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels dropped that statement during his media engagements over the last months, he wasn’t fibbing.

“When you’re putting that group together, you can’t just put a bunch of one-trick ponies together. So, (Brandon) Parker, can he swing? Yes. Jermaine (Eluemunor) has guard, tackle flexibility,” McDaniels said at the NFL owners meeting in March. “You never know in this day and age, what you’re going need, and you certainly can’t go in there with a bunch of one position players.”

The start of the Dave Ziegler-McDaniels era epitomizes that notion — emphatically so — as the Raiders general manager and head coach made Memphis guard Dylan Parham the 90th overall pick in the NFL Draft — the first draft pick by the duo. A stout presence with impressive movement skills, Parham lined up on the interior of the offensive line at both left and right guard and got snaps at right tackle. He’s a prospect that is viewed as versatile and intelligent enough to play all five positions and got work at center not only at Memphis, but during the Senior Bowl.

Parham’s arrival ensures the heat is on as he’ll make a strong push to start on the Raiders offensive line in year one and likely cause an offensive line shuffle. The 6-foot-3, 311-pounder is a robust presence on the interior line and has the ability to man the both guard spots or pivot.

Don’t dismiss Parham hitting the ground running and making a strong push in organized team activities and training camp. He’s a highly experienced and durable four-year starter (all 51 games he played) that has double-digit starts at left guard (28), right guard (12) and right tackle (11).

The two areas of Parham’s game that standout most are: Explosive off the ball and leverage. He’s quick and has the mobility to get out in space and combines that with the low-man-wins leverage mentality that’s a prerequisite to becoming a domineering offensive linemen. He gets to defenders early to latch on and hook with impressive core strength. Combine all that with good footwork and it’s a recipe for a stout lineman. The athleticism Parham showcased at Memphis drew the eye of Ziegler and crew and the Raiders GM noted Friday night Parham will get to compete at both guard and center.

If Parham can jump into the fray and compete right away at the aforementioned positions, the rookie has the chance to dislodge incumbent starters.

Taking a guard spot — either left or right — would impact the trajectory of Alex Leatherwood. The Alabama product was originally drafted in the first round of the 2021 draft to man the right tackle position. Just four games later, Leatherwood found a new home at right guard where he started the rest of last season.

Leatherwood has dedicated himself this offseason by transforming his body and getting into prime shape while refining his craft with offensive line guru Duke Manyweather. If Parham is as advertised by competing and winning a starting guard spot, the Raiders have the ability to shuffle linemen that could plant Leatherwood back at the right tackle position.

Then there’s the matter of pivot. Andre James did well to go from undrafted right tackle to center — and improved over the course of the 2021 season — and a fierce competition from Parham will only push him to get even better.

But how does a prospect who played primarily at guard and dabbled at tackle fit at center?

Parham’s quickness at the snap and nimbleness and ability to latch and seal off defenders bodes well for a pivot. He also developed a mean streak over the course of his Memphis career and if that translates to the Raiders and NFL, Parham would give the Silver & Black something James does not in the aggression department. Also, Parham is viewed as “undersized” and lacking “ideal length” at his 6-foot-3, 311-pound frame. Yet, he does move very well similar to former Raiders center Rodney Hudson (6-2, 299 pounds) and if he can match the same cerebral nature, Parham could snatch the spot from James.

But with any prospect, it’s not all sunshine and roses. While Parham can mirror defenders, handle stunts and twists, and absorb bull rushes, against power-based defenders, he can lose his anchor. And with the NFL a game of inches, getting pushed back — even minimally — can wreck best laid plans. Parham is more technician than a squatty strength player and while his technique can win the day, he lacks the pure power base to truly stonewall bull rushers. He did gain 80-plus pounds since arriving at Memphis to get where he is today but is light in the britches and doesn’t possess the tree-trunk like legs other beefy linemen have.

Parham tends to play way too fast and that gets him off point and looking for a block, wiping him out of the cation. His exemplary initial explosion also has the drawback of penalties, namely false starts.

But with his technique, experience and versatility, Parham was a strong value selection by the Raiders. His ability to play all five positions and strong resume of availability in college means if he doesn’t win a starting spot early, he should be an active game-day presence due to the ability to backup multiple spots.