One of the Raiders’ most glaring needs going into the draft was at inside linebacker, yet Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie was content to address other areas – particularly in the secondary – with his two top picks.
McKenzie didn’t address the need at linebacker until the fifth round, when he selected Wake Forest’s Marquel Lee with the 168th choice in the draft.
The question is, can Lee be the player to address those needs?
Lee, at 6 feet 3 inches tall and 240 pounds, has the size and attitude to play linebacker in the NFL, and Lance Zierlein of NFL.com noted Lee was “one of the more aggressive players in the ACC over the past three seasons.”
In 2016, Lee was a second-team all-conference selection after being in on a team-leading 105 tackles and having 7½ sacks. And he again showed some major pluses as a leader and as a run-stopper, ranging sideline to sideline, according to Zierlein.
But, some have questioned whether Lee can be a starter, much less a high-impact starter, in the NFL. One NFL scout told Zierlein, “I like his size but I question his speed and instincts.” The same scout believes Lee isn’t quick enough. Longtime NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr., too, has questions about Lee, and wrote that he believes the Raiders’ fifth-round selection was “a bit of a reach.”
Yet Ted Nguyen, who writes for the Raiders fan site Just Blog Baby, cited reports that the Raiders showed strong interest in Lee as far back as the NFL Combine in February, so his selection was calculated.
“McKenzie got a linebacker he targeted in the fifth round – that’s good value,” wrote Nguyen.
Lee, in fact, is perceived by some as being tougher than Zach Cunningham, a highly touted linebacker from Vanderbilt. And Chad Reuter of NFL.com wrote he believes Lee meets the Raiders’ inside linebacker need.
Lee is confident he has the talent and makeup to be a playmaker for the Raiders.
“I’m a physical player at the line of scrimmage,” he told Jimmy Durkin of the Bay Area News Group. “I shed blocks really well, so I feel like I can go sideline to sideline as well. Just being a motor-type guy. My motor, I don’t see it ever stopping in games. Just being put where I’m best seen fit. Anything I’m asked, I’ll do to help contribute to the team. That’s the type person I am. You can ask anybody that’s been around me for my whole life. I’m just trying to learn.”