Over 30 games and four seasons at Florida, wide receiver Andre Debose didn’t make much of an impact on the Gators’ offense.
He caught just 30 passes for 540 yards and four touchdowns. He also wasn't invited to the NFL Combine earlier this year.
Yet in the seventh round of the NFL draft on Saturday, Debose was taken by the Oakland Raiders. It’s likely, too, that he may catch very few passes while wearing silver and black.
Yet Debose has the potential to be one of the most impactful Raiders rookies in 2015 because of his special teams skills. Oakland was mediocre in 2014 returning kickoffs and punts, and field position suffered. They were 14th in kick returns and 18th in punt returns last season, according to ESPN.com, and Debose – one of the best college returners in the nation – stands a very good chance of earning both jobs.
At Florida last season, Debose returned 21 kickoffs an average of 24.7 yards and ran back 23 punts for an average of 14.0 yards – including one touchdown. Over his college career he tied a Southeastern Conference record by returning four kickoffs for TDs.
At Florida, Debose was a difference-maker.
“Andre’s a huge weapon,” said Florida offensive coordinator Kurt Roper in 2014. “He’s a guy who can flip the field in a hurry, or he’s a guy that can just go ahead and score.”
Debose is 6 feet and 195 pounds with superior speed. At one point leading up to the draft, he was timed in 4.35 for the 40-yard dash.
In speaking via conference call to Bay Area media after his selection, Debose said he had a private workout with the Raiders and “talked to the special teams coach a lot throughout the process.”
He said he likes returning both kicks and punts and, “I think I can make my impact a lot on the return game.”
Though TJ Carrie did a nice job on punt returns as a rookie last season, the Raiders like Carrie’s potential as a cornerback. If Debose can prove he’s a capable returner, that will allow Carrie to focus entirely on his defensive duties.