After the Raiders drafted UCLA defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes in the third round, a few in the media voiced their doubts about the former Bruins standout.
Longtime ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. called the selection a “puzzler.” And some pointed to Vanderdoes playing 30 or more pounds above his preferred weight last season.
But others, such as Chris Burke of Sports Illustrated, saw value in the Raiders’ pick.
Wrote Burke: “Here’s the thing about Vanderdoes: If the Raiders get the healthy, 2014 version of him, he’s a guy they can pencil in as a potential starter up front. Oakland did not have a lot of meaningful depth inside on defense, so Vanderdoes restocks the pile.”
As Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com noted, the 6-foot-3 Vanderdoes in 2016 played at about 340 pounds in a season full of assorted injuries. That was just a year after tearing his ACL in the previous season opener. Yet in his freshman and sophomore seasons, when he was fit, Vanderdoes was a much better player.
Now, he seems motivated to be that kind of player again. Gutierrez reported he showed up for the Raiders rookie minicamp this past weekend at 301 pounds.
“I’m in good shape and where I want to be,” Vanderdoes told the media. “Now it’s just learning the playbook, learning the technique and taking it to the next level.”
Vanderdoes told the media that he started paying extra attention to his eating habits and nutrition – as well as his workout program -- in November in preparation for the draft and a fresh start as a pro.
Now, Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio believes Vanderdoes will eclipse what he’s done the past two seasons at UCLA when injuries and weight were an issue.
“He’s got awareness,” Del Rio told Gutierrez. “He’s not a guy that just pushes blocks and has no idea where the ball is. His film is inconsistent, honestly. There’s some that’s better than others. I just talked to him a little while ago and said, ‘We’re looking for the high-energy guy, the motivated guy.’
“We think his best football is in front of him. … come in here and add depth to our defensive line and give us a little interior push.”