Thayer Munford Jr. is providing quality return on investment (ROI) for the Las Vegas Raiders. A seventh-round pick (238th overall) in the 2022 NFL Draft, the Ohio State product has slotted into the Silver & Black offensive line and produced as both an extra lineman and starter since coming into the league.
Munford, an offensive tackle by trade, began his Raiders career over on the right side of the line playing in all 17 games as a rookie in 2022 with four starts. But when attrition set in over the course of the 2023 season with injuries forcing Las Vegas to shuffle around linemen to compensate. Munford was one of the better moving parts as he saw snaps at both right tackle and eventually left, replacing injured anchor blindside protector Kolton Miller.
And the 6-foot-6 315-pounder didn’t flounder. Munford flourished.
That’s the kind of ROI NFL teams relish from late-round picks.
The 24-year-old’s impressive 2023 campaign gives the Raiders options when it comes to the offensive line for Luke Getsy’s offense. It’s a group that will be at the heart of the offensive coordinator’s scheme — games in the NFL are won and lost in the trenches, after all — and has three starters from the 2023 unit set to hit unrestricted free agency: Center Andre James, right tackle Jermaine Eluemunor, and right guard Greg Van Roten. There’s ample time for head coach Antonio Pierce and general manager Tom Telesco to make decisions on the in-house free agents as free agency doesn’t kick off until mid-March.
Fortunately for the Raiders brain trust of Pierce and Telesco — both will work in unison while the GM will have final say over the roster — the developmental progress Munford made from Year 1 and 2 is an encouraging sign for Year 3. Munford gives Las Vegas a developing young option at right tackle that can compete for the starting role once more. But also offers the versatility to kick out to the blindside at left, too. And, if Munford doesn’t rise to the occasion and win the starting gig at right tackle, he can be a very valuable swing option that not only backs up both tackle spots, but can be the extra lineman or jumbo tight end in heavy packages.
Fortunately for the Raiders, Munford is a player that has natural drive. Being picked in the final round of the draft only added fuel to the fire within the Ohio native. And he didn’t drown himself in misery when his rookie season consisted of being the sixth lineman in jumbo packages, despite the four games he started.
“As a player your whole life, the coaches kept all the business sides away from you,” Munford told the Akron Beacon Journal this past offseason. “But when you’re in the big league and you’re a grown adult now, it’s like, all right, now I have to worry about this and now I have to worry about that. And with me coming from Ohio State to the Raiders, not having a good season of course, that was kind of hard for me. I saw more of the business side of football than I ever did in my life.”
The business side of football, that Munford mentioned, will proliferate throughout the Raiders offensive line from players and coach. Previous offensive line boss Carmen Bricillo is now the New York Giants trench coach. And the remnant of an offensive line coach currently under Raiders employ is Cameron Clemmons, who served as the assistant to Bricillo. Thus, the person who will teach and orchestrate the big uglies up front hasn’t been decided yet. The coaching staff as a whole is likely influx as Pierce finalizes the crew. Getsy as the new offensive coordinator was a big domino and the person in charge of the offensive line is another one.
That person will play the vital role of determining a starting five from left to right tackle and see who fits in the roles. Miller is a stalwart left tackle when healthy, but the unclear status of James, Eluemunor, and Van Roten opens spots up. Perhaps guard Dylan Parham slots over to pivot — a position he manned in college?
Perhaps it’ll be competition to earn spots since the new offensive line coach may not have a history with players who were Raiders this past season? Either way, having a mindset like Munford can pay dividends.
“From high school to college, you’re just all on a high horse,” Munford said. “Wow, I’m about to start; oh, I’m going to do this or I’m going to do that. But it really hits you in reality when you get into NFL. It’s like, wow, I’m really going against Maxx Crosby, I’m really going against (pass rushers) J.J. Watt, T.J. (Watt), all these great athletes. Now it’s like, all right, now I really got to lock in and keep my head down, but also keep my head up at the same time.”