Pro Football Focus is doing a series of pieces on a player for every team who could unexpectedly become superstars. For the Oakland Raiders, PFF chose defensive tackle Pat Sims.
In the recent past the Oakland Raiders have struggled to find talent to fill out their roster while trying to rid themselves of overpaid veterans the last two seasons. They have found themselves gathering veterans to sign on short term deals and last season they found a player who easily produced his best season to date: 2014 Secret Superstar Pat Sims.
Sims was drafted out of Auburn in the third round of the 2008 draft by the Cincinnati Bengals. His playing time was limited due to the emergence of Geno Atkins and the Bengals’ desire to keep playing Domata Peko, but Sims never helped himself out with any great display when he was on the field.
However, in 2013 the Oakland Raiders signed him to a one-year deal to be a stop-gap and found themselves with a player who was a bright spot in a difficult season.
Sims’ inclusion on this list is not entirely surprising, considering he scored highest among all Raiders defensive players in 2013 according to PFF’s grading system.
But as the guys at PFF point out, his high season grade is a little bit deceiving. Sims was not much more than above average in the first half of the season for the Raiders. It was not until the bye week that Sims really turned it on. Plus, he finished on a tear, putting up very good performances against the Denver Broncos and San Diego Chargers. Those two very good games skewed the numbers slightly.
Before coming to the Raiders, Sims was a rotational defensive tackle in Cincinnati. After being a starter in 2013, Sims will have the opportunity to start again this season alongside newcomer Antonio Smith. But hot on the heels of Sims will be second-year player Stacy McGee and rookie Justin Ellis. Even if Sims manages to fend off his competition, he will see far fewer snaps than he did last season. This could be good or bad for Sims. Less playing time means he’ll be fresher, but some players need those snaps to get a rhythm. Sims ended 2013 with a very good second half of football, but he will need to show he can replicate that play consistently for an entire season before he can earn the trust of a long-term deal, let alone earn the label of “superstar,” secret or otherwise.