It can be tough for a seventh-round draft pick to work his way up the depth chart, but so far wide receiver Marcell Ateman is making believers out of the Raiders.
The 6-foot-4 wide receiver has been a consistent playmaker in drills during the first week of training camp in Napa. He came in behind such players as Amari Cooper, Jordy Nelson, Martavis Bryant, Seth Roberts, Johnny Holton and Ryan Switzer, but Ateman has been terrific.
On Tuesday, Ateman made a nice grab in an 11-on-11 situation, adjusting to quarterback Derek Carr’s call at the line of scrimmage and then making a catch over veteran cornerback Dexter McDonald.
That play and others over the past week have caught the attention of head coach Jon Gruden.
“I like Ateman,” Gruden told reporters. “Do you like Ateman? Ateman makes plays every day. What was most impressive about that play is Carr saw him. It was man-to-man (coverage), we had a different play call, he saw Marcell in press coverage and he changed the play and he went to him. … That’s rare, where a veteran quarterback calls a rookie’s number with the media here.”
Added Gruden: “The kid makes the play. Three days in a row he’s gotten behind people and adjusted on the back shoulder.”
Ateman, a 6-foot-4, 216-pounder, was a prolific receiver at Oklahoma State, catching 59 passes last season for 1,156 yards and eight touchdowns.
His pre-draft profile by Lance Zierlein of NFL.com noted he could be an asset as a red-zone receiver, because of his size, and that – if given the chance – he could become an NFL starter.
Wrote Zierlein: “Ateman should be an early backup with a chance to climb the ladder on the depth chart.”
Starting in 2018 would be a long shot, with the likes of Copper, Nelson and Bryant on the roster. But it appears possible he could move ahead of players such as Roberts, Holton and Switzer.
The Raiders are scheduled to open their exhibition season on Aug. 10 vs. the Detroit Lions.