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Raiders draft: Getting the most out of Tre Tucker

A jack of all trades role for the third-round pick is a must for Las Vegas

NCAA Football: Indiana at Cincinnati
Third-round pick Tre Tucker has speed to burn and the Las Vegas Raiders must get creative to harness and maximize that home-run threat.
Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

While Tre Tucker may be listed as a wide receiver by trade, that should only be a mere part of what the third-round pick contributes to the Las Vegas Raiders.

Because in order to maximize the return on investment the Raiders made in Tucker, they must make him a jack of all trades type player.

Pass catcher, deep clear-out option, bubble screens, jet sweep/reverse specialist, kick and punt returner, gunner on coverage units — you name it, Las Vegas must load up Tucker’s plate and see how much he can handle. The “reach” label has been squarely placed on the 5-foot-9, 182-pound product after being taken with the 100th overall pick this past NFL Draft. Depending on which big board and ranking you view, Tucker was taken either 75 or 100 picks too early.

But it matters little where a prospect is taken if a team can develop them into a contributor. And if the Raiders can maximize his contributions in Year 1 and beyond, the label will disappear as quickly as it arrived.

Without a doubt, speed is Tucker’s calling card and the Silver & Black must exploit that in a variety of ways. Running a 4.40-flat 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine and besting that time with a 4.37 dash at the Cincinnati Pro Day, Tucker’s long speed matches well with his short-area quickness (1.48 second 10-yard split).

Josh McDaniels’ Raiders offense relies heavily on run after catch (RAC) and yards after catch (YAC) and Tucker is adept at doing just that during his collegiate career. Cincinnati creatively got the ball into the speedsters hands and let him work. New quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo excels at getting the ball out of his hands quickly and Tucker’s skillset meshes well with that.

Syndication: The Enquirer
Las Vegas Raiders third-round pick Tre Tucker (1) has the speed to burn even NFL defenders.
Sam Greene/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

Tucker primarily operated from the slot producing career-high numbers as a receiver in 2022 with 52 catches, 672 yards, and three touchdowns in 12 games. For his four-year career at Cincinnati, he hauled in 111 catches for 1,426 yards and eight scores.

Tucker provides Las Vegas a different dimension of slot receiver based on his pure speed alone. But he shouldn’t be relegated to inside duties. McDaniels would be wise to put him outside to run deep clear-out routes, bubble screens, jets sweeps, and reverses. Perhaps even in the backfield running routes to take advantage of defensive alignments that may see a linebacker covering Tucker.

For his part, Tucker is open to what ever the Raiders throw at him.

“The people that they have out there are great receivers, but as far as me, I think I’m just an all-around, well-rounded receiver,” he said. “I don’t know my role yet, but I’m just open to doing whatever the team needs me to, whether that’s running down and covering kicks, could be anything. I’m just happy to be a Raider.”

Running down and covering kicks must be big part of Tucker’s workload as Raiders special teams coordinator Tom McMahon should have equal parts involvement in the rookie’s pro development.

While he may be on the smaller side, Tucker displayed his ability to be a gunner on special teams coverage units in college and with the Raiders allowing special team ace Mack Hollins to leave via free agency, there’s a noticeable absence of someone who can run down AJ Cole’s punts and down them deep in the opposition’s territory.

While he was an impact kick returner at Cincinnati (67 returns for 1,670 yards, and two touchdowns), Tucker’s ability to become an NFL weapon in that regard may have been dampened earlier this week. Despite unanimous opposition from special teams coordinators across the league, the NFL owners approved the resolution putting the ball on the 25-yard line following a fair catch on kickoff. The resolution is only for 2023 and made in regards to player safety.

But that shouldn’t completely negate Tucker rejuvenating the Raiders return game — one that’s lacking electricity since fellow speedsters Jacoby Ford (kickoffs) and Johnnie Lee Higgins (punts) were impact Raiders return men.

Las Vegas should also see if Tucker’s open-field ability translates in punt return duties, too. Fellow slot receiver Hunter Renfrow has been the Raiders primary punt returner with Keelan Cole pitching in when Renfrow was hurt this past season. Tucker’s punt return experience in college wasn’t as vast as his kickoff duties (five total punt returns for 43 yards), but Las Vegas needs to get the former Bearcat on the field as much as possible.