2020 Raiders Draft Prospect Profile
Name: Marcel Spears, Jr.
Weight: 222 pounds
School: Iowa State University
At first blush, Spears makes the safe play. He wraps and drives the target without waste of motion. He prefers to rely on the textbook approach. While not necessarily a knock against him, he will need to use his burst and avoid the repetitive catch tackling.
In Ames, Spears displayed a knack and innate feel for coverage. While some linebackers looked like they’d drown in space, he attacks the route with timing and vision. Spears will anticipate the route, capitalizing on sloppy breaks and tells. At the next level, teams will feel at ease, tasking him with shadow tight ends, receivers, and backs.
In football, there’s timed speed and game speed. For Spears, his game speed will mirror whatever time at the Combine. When shadowing receivers, he drives on and through the ball, beating the pass to the intended target. Meanwhile, in pursuit, he chases down backside plays and shoots gaps with equal acumen. As a result, Sprars could see reps as a three-down linebacker.
Run stoppers. The entire roster of linebackers are merely in the box run stoppers. The Raiders linebackers cannot play sideline-to-sideline. Even Nicholas Morrow, considered an athletic linebacker, struggles to take precise pursuit angles and make sound plays. Paul Guenther needs better linebackers. Can’t rely on Burfict. Additionally, Whitehead can’t cover.
Value.Athleticism.Timing. Purpose. As of this writing, Spears projects as a Day 3 prospect. The Raiders don’t need to reach for a quality linebacker. Granted, they will probably attack the position in the free-agent market and in the first two days of the draft. Yet, linebacker remains a position of attrition. Moreover, Spears brings something that the current and previous group of ‘backers lacked: coverage skills. In a sport of video game passing numbers and offensive change, the Raiders need players like Spears to provide the opposition. If you look deeper than Kelce and Fant, the 2020 list of opposing tight ends should be a cause for concern. Knox, Gesicki, Brate, and Njoku may not ring any familiar bells, but they will pose serious threats to the Las Vegas Raiders.