Everybody loves a feel-good story, and the NFL is filled with players that have hurdled more adversity than Bo Jackson in the open field. The Oakland Raiders franchise has built its foundation on the backs of forgotten players. An undrafted player becoming the Silver and Black’s hidden gem is a story we’ve heard too often. Wide Receiver Keelan Doss looks to be the latest for Oakland, as he attempts to make his hometown team. In a crowded wide receiver group, Doss has the tools to etch a spot on the 53.
Growing up in Alameda, Doss could see the Oakland Coliseum from his home. During his senior year, that house would burn down, forcing the Doss family to live out of a hotel. When some would’ve let this halt their dreams, Doss thrived on the field at Alameda High, playing wide receiver and cornerback.
More adversity, as more than 50 schools passed on the tall, lanky wideout. UC Davis, a non Power-5 school showed the interest, and Doss jumped on the opportunity. After putting up 325 yards and 2 touchdowns in two starts as a freshman, Doss redshirted in 2015. In 2016, Doss exploded for 66 receptions, 911 yards and 10 touchdowns.
The same schools that ignored him just two years prior were now asking him to transfer, but he had unfinished business at UC. In his last two seasons, Doss went for a combined 233 receptions, 2833 yards, and 16 touchdowns. To cap it off, Doss led UC Davis to its first-ever playoff appearance in 2018.
Doss’ name rang bells within football circles, leading to a 2018 Senior Bowl invite, in which he excelled.
The television broadcast panned in on Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden slapping a Raiders decal on Doss’ helmet mid-game. It seemed destined, after all the adversity since those days of peering at the Raiders stadium from his home.
Adversity struck again in April, when Doss did not hear his name called during the 2019 NFL Draft in Nashville. Nevertheless, you can call it fate, as Gruden made the call that Doss would join the Raiders as an Undrafted Free Agent.
Now I’m not saying it’s a fairytale ending, or that Doss is meant to make this team. But I am saying that he has the tools necessary to do so.
At 6’3, 211 pounds, Doss is the ideal size to come off the bench as a rotational redzone threat for Oakland. When you take into consideration that he was targeted 165 times in 2018 and caught 72 percent of those targets, his hands aren’t meant to be questioned. But he does have stiff competition in 2017 seventh round selection Marcell Ateman. Oakland only needs one more big-bodied wideout, but Doss has the edge over Ateman in route-running and separation.
We are still a few weeks away from training camp and preseason, but the Raiders are a hot ticket in the NFL for many reasons. Oakland will be featured on HBO’s Hard Knocks series, chronicling their late offseason moves. Doss will surely be a feature story. You may not believe in fate, but this seems like another small test of adversity for Doss to overcome. The hometown kid will get a chance to make Alameda proud.