Keisean Nixon went undrafted out of South Carolina, but from the moment he signed with the Raiders he felt as if he belonged in the NFL.
Now the cornerback is on the 53-man roster, heading into Oakland’s regular-season opener Monday night against the Denver Broncos. He’s one of three undrafted rookies on the team, along with punter A.J. Cole, fullback Alec Ingold and offensive tackle Andre James.
Nixon, who played well in spring drills, training camp and the exhibition games, told Adam Hill of the Las Vegas Review-Journal this week it wasn’t a shock to him that he made the roster.
“I kind of figured I had made it,” said Nixon. “It wasn’t a big deal or a surprise. It was just another day to go to work. It was just a matter of understanding, ‘OK, now you have your opportunity. Go ball.’ ”
Nixon was named to the Preseason All-Rookie Team by the analytic website Pro Football Focus for his play this summer. Over four games, he allowed just five catches in 15 pass attempts to receivers for whom he was responsible, allowing just a 42.4 passer rating.
Head coach Jon Gruden said last month that Nixon had been one of the team’s top playmakers on defense and had made more good plays than any other cornerback on the team.
General manager Mike Mayock said he believed Nixon had talent and potential at South Carolina, but has exceeded expectations.
“Nixon was a guy that we identified early as a below-the-radar, core special teams guy,” Mayock told the Fresno Bee. “He was playing safety at South Carolina. We thought he was a corner.”
Gareon Conley and Daryl Worley will be the starting corners, with Nixon backing up Conley and second-round pick Trayvon Mullen backing up Worley. Lamarcus Joyner will play slot corner in passing situations and free safety in the base defense, backed up by Johnathan Abram at safety. Karl Joseph will start at strong safety.
Monday night’s game against the visiting Broncos is set for a 7:20 kickoff.