A broken leg late in the 2016 altered Azeem Victor’s path to the NFL. Poor senior year at Washington combined with equally bad combine numbers (4.72 40-yard dash time, 7.2 cone drill), the Compton, Calif. looks fortunate the Oakland Raiders plucked him from the hopefuls in the sixth round (216th overall) of the draft.
“He just got too big this year and outplayed by the guys behind him”, an NFC West Coast scout told NFL analyst Lance Zierlein. “Started the season with a suspension and ended it with a suspension. Two years ago I would have told you he was a second day pick, now I wouldn’t touch him.”
After exhibiting aggression and tone-setting play at middle linebacker in 2016, the 6-foot-2, 240-pounder’s 2017 campaign felt the sting of suspensions. In between the dual hiatus was a position switch to defensive end. Hampered by an untimely weight gain, Victor’s final season as a Husky was forgettable, at best. The highlights were a pair of sacks.
Raiders head coach Jon Gruden is clearly relying on getting the earlier version of Victor. As a junior, he tallied 67 tackles in 10 games and earned first-team All-Pac 12 honors. As a sophomore, Victor accounted for 95 tackles, 1.5 sacks and a pick six. Once a physical and aggressive linebacker who chased all plays and attacked with reckless abandon, Oakland is dialed in on getting Victor to that level.
“We’ve been signing all these young defensive linemen and I gotta find a young middle linebacker who can line them up,” Gruden told Victor over the phone as he was being selected. “Can you do that? Come in here learn our defense and communicate it to everybody, right? I am going to make you an Oakland Raider and we are excited to have you brother.
By and large, the Raiders needed linebacker depth. With Bruce Irvin shifting to end and NaVorro Bowman unsigned, Victor becomes a necessary add. In that case, he will need to prove he belongs with the Raiders. Eventually, Reggie McKenzie will draft a great middle linebacker. While Victor’s chance to grab that title remains slim, hope exists.