Every year there are guys who are sitting on the waiver wire post drafts that can compete right away. With the Raiders under new management and roster control, I will tell you why Nicholas Morrow can be a sleeper this year.
Nicholas Morrow signed as an undrafted free agent out of Division III school Greenville University. During his time there he totaled 222 tackles (151 solo), 38 tackles for a loss, five sacks, 11 passes defensed, three interceptions, four forced fumbles, and four fumble recoveries. He was a Division III 2nd Team All-American and UMAC Defensive Player of the Year. The Raiders decided to take a chance on the small school prospect and after seeing playing time both his rookie and sophomore seasons in the NFL, it may have finally paid off.
Nicholas Morrow signed with the Raiders after the draft in 2017. During his rookie season, he made appearances in all 16 games including five starts. He was on the field for 53.3% of the Raiders defensive snaps. During this time he produced 57 tackles (37 solo), five tackles for a loss and four passes defensed. The Raiders boasted one of the weakest linebacker corps in the NFL last year, putting out Cory James, Marquel Lee and Bruce Irvin on a regular basis. This was good news for Morrow as it allowed him to see the field more often. Morrow showed his ability to shoot gaps and make plays in run defense in his rookie season with plays like this:
Injuries have played a big role in it, but an undrafted Nicholas Morrow has been the best rookie we had this year. pic.twitter.com/lGEdRFwtrD
— Chris Reed (@ChrisReed_NFL) December 19, 2017
For Morrow’s sophomore NFL season, the Raiders signed Tahir Whitehead in free agency finally adding some higher-level talent to the group. This forced Morrow’s snap count to drop down to 40.5% as Whitehead ended up playing 99.7% of the defensive snaps at the same position as Morrow. Though he played less, Morrow still produced at a solid rate putting up 43 tackles (30 solo), five tackles for a loss, one sack, three passes defensed and a forced fumble. Watch his lone sack here that he had on Lamar Jackson:
Last year, Lamar Jackson (@Lj_era8) broke 22 tackles, which ranked 29th amongst all running backs. However he wasnt able to break #Raiders Nicholas Morrow.#RaiderNation #oaklandraiders pic.twitter.com/sKpFskgjL7
— Sanjit T. (@Sanjit__T) May 24, 2019
Lamar Jackson registered 22 broken tackles last season, which would have ranked 29th among all running backs. Here Morrow made a great read on a scramble, took an excellent angle and was able to come up with a sack. Defensive Coordinator Paul Guenther saw great potential in Morrow during the 2018 season:
— Las Vegas Raiders (@Raiders) June 9, 2018
The Raiders made some more additions this past offseason by signing veterans Vontaze Burfict and Brandon Marshall. The latter was released last week opening up the weakside position for the Raiders. Morrow looks to have made quite an impression as that job is now his to lose. The team’s official depth chart has Whitehead as SLB, Burfict as MLB and Morrow as the WLB. Morrow suited up as a starter for the third preseason game, the official regular season warm-up putting up five tackles, two tackles for a loss and a sack:
Put another sack on the board! 💰
— Las Vegas Raiders (@Raiders) August 25, 2018
Morrow has always shown a great ability to blitz the quarterback and play in run defense but also showed improvement in pass coverage. Tahir Whitehead will most likely see a large chunk of snaps and Burfict is the decorated veteran having made the Pro Bowl. Burfict is also decorated with suspensions and injuries, including concussions. I expect Burfict to either re-injure himself or do something stupid that takes him off of the field. Morrow is seeming more like the linebacker to own in Oakland based on his age and already winning over the coaching staff.
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