Across the league, the NFL’s cutdown day always brings surprises and the Las Vegas Raiders are traditionally good for a few. This year was no different as there were several eyebrow-raising moves that a lot of people didn't see coming from the Raiders.
1) Kristian Wilkerson over Phillip Dorsett
While Wilkerson did out-pace Dorsett in the preseason with 17 catches for 188 yards and one touchdown to eight, 103 and zero for Dorsett, the former also had nearly twice as many snaps (152 to 88) and the latter was more sure-handed. Also, Dorsett has a much better track record of success in the regular season.
But, Wilkerson’s bigger body (6’1” and 201 pounds) proved to be valuable when it comes to run-blocking and that’s something Las Vegas’ receiving corps was lacking, while they had plenty of deep threats to replace what Dorsett brings to the table.
2) Amik Robertson over Tyler Hall and Duke Shelley
Shelley was a free agent signing that a lot of people—myself included—were excited about given that he played very well in a limited role with the Minnesota Vikings last year. Also, he was the team’s highest-graded corner in coverage (72.9), per Pro Football Focus, in August.
Hall was in a similar situation as he made several impact plays while primarily coming off the bench a year ago in Las Vegas, and he showed some versatility in the preseason by taking reps at safety.
Meanwhile, Robertson has been solid at best during his NFL career and allowed more receiving yards (99) than any other corner over the last three weeks. However, the coaching staff must feel he’s a more valuable backup given his ability to lineup outside or over the slot.
3) Brandon Facyson makes the team despite barely practicing
During the team’s first full-padded practice, Facyson went down with an injury and was wearing a red, no-contact jersey the only time he stepped foot on the field after that. And this came while he was expected to be part of a competitive battle to make the roster.
However, the free-agent signing inked a two-year deal in the offseason and is Las Vegas’ biggest cap hit this season among their cornerbacks, per Over the Cap. Plus, he has starting experience and good ball skills as the latter was a point of emphasis for the organization’s decision-makers this offseason.
4) Neil Farrell Jr. traded to the Kansas City Chiefs
Don’t get me wrong, Farrell Jr. wasn’t a lock to make the team after barely playing as a rookie and he wasn’t lighting it up in August. But trading a fourth-round pick for a sixth-rounder a year later is eye-popping on its own, let alone to a team within the division that’s also the Raiders’ biggest historical rival. That doesn’t happen very often in all professional sports, let alone the NFL. Las Vegas has to hope the second-year pro won’t pan out, otherwise, they’ll have to face him twice a year for the next three seasons.
5) Amari Burney over Drake Thomas
There’s no argument as to who played better during the preseason with Thomas racking up more tackles (20 to 10), fewer misses (two to three) and graded higher in PFF’s system defensively (77.5 to 45.8). Thomas played so well that the Raiders didn’t even get a chance to add him to the practice squad as the Seattle Seahawks claimed him off of waivers.
However, the undrafted free agent was fighting an uphill battle as the team had invested a draft pick in Burney and the latter has more physical tools that can be developed, especially in coverage. It didn’t help the NC State product that the former Florida Gator out-graded him on special teams (73.1 to 67.9) either.