Oakland Raiders

Raiders find special teams talent with potential in LB Ben Heeney

The Oakland Raiders addressed a need at middle linebacker with their first fifth round pick in Ben Heeney out of Kansas. The Oakland Raiders signed Curtis Lofton to start at middle linebacker this season, but the last thing they want is Miles Burris stepping in should he get hurt. We saw that in 2014 … no one liked what they saw.

Heeney is a fun player to watch — high motor and aggressive, constantly going downhill. He makes a ton of tackles but also has his fair share of missed tackles. He will contribute right away on special teams covering kicks and has time to learn and improve his game sitting behind Lofton. While his aggressive nature is fun to watch, it sometimes leads to mistakes with overpursuit and bad angles. He does play well in coverage which means he has the potential to be a four-down linebacker. That helps out the Raiders when they want to play Khalil Mack with his hand in the dirt.

The Raiders clearly hope that having Ken Norton Jr. and Jack Del Rio on the coaching staff, two former NFL linebackers themselves, means they can teach Heeney how to do the little things. If they can help him perfect his technique, he is a guy who could be a super sub and back up all three spots while getting a few snaps to relieve Lofton. It’s nothing fancy, but with this pick the Raiders addressed multiple needs, upgrading both their kick coverage and their linebacker depth.

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