Handicapping Raiders' Pro Bowl chances

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Handicapping Raiders' Pro Bowl chances

The Raiders should want nothing to do with the the Pro Bowl.Yes, it would be nice to be selected for the NFL's annual all-star game. No doubt a free trip to Hawaii in the dead of winter would be a welcome reward at the conclusion of a grinding season.But if you're "playing" at Aloha Stadium on Jan. 29, 2012, that means that neither you nor your team is in the Super Bowl the following Sunday. And that, is the true end game for every player in the NFL.Still, it wouldn't be football without some pigskin prognostications. So, as we enter to the fourth quarter of the 2011 regular season, a look at some Raiders who should garner consideration for the Pro Bowl as fan voting for the exhibition game runs through Dec. 19, with players and coaches voting that week and the initial Pro Bowl teams announced Dec. 27RELATED: Handicapping 49ers' Pro Bowl chances
NO IFS, ANDS OR BUTS--Punter Shane Lechler: The best punter in the history of the game -- just look at the stats -- will be making his TKth trip to the game. And really, the 12th-year veteran might not deserve it anymore than this season, or have you already forgotten that 80-yard bomb he unleashed against Chicago? He is leading the fan voteby a wide margin.
--Placekicker Sebastian Janikowski: Finally, mercifully, the man known as SeaBass and first-round draft pick from 2000 will get his overdue recognition. At least, he should. He's made 22 of 24 field goals and he tied the NFL record with his 63-yarder in the season opener. Janikowski, who also converted a franchise-record six field goals against Chicago despite a gimpy left hamstring, might actually be the Raiders' team MVP. He too is leading the fan voteby a wide margin.
--Strong safety Tyvon Branch: Quietly, at least on a national level, he's put together the finest season of his four-year career. Still, what he lacks in national appeal -- he was only third in fan voting, behind Pittsburgh's Troy Polamalu and Buffalo's George Wilson -- he more than makes up for in gritty play against both the run and the pass. That he has only one interception belies his importance. "He is the epitome of a Pro Bowl player in my mind," said Raiders defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan. "Anybody that knows football, sees the impact he has on a game."SERIOUS CONSIDERATION--Defensive tackle Richard Seymour: He not only has name recognition, but stats, as in six sacks. The TK-time Pro Bowler is second in fan voting behind Baltimore's Haloti Ngata and is highly respected among his peers, even if he gets kicked out of the occasional game for throwing a punch.
--Fullback Marcel Reece: A matchup nightmare with his myriad skill set, Reece is no mere lead blocking back. Opposing teams have to actually gameplan for the converted receiver who is third in fan voting, behind San Diego's Jacob Hester and Baltimore's Vonta Leach. Reece missing four games due to injury, though, might work against him.
--Left tackle Jared Veldheer: Just because he's not in the top 5 in the fan vote does not mean he's not deserving. Take a look at the job he did at Minnesota in shutting out Jared Allen. Then throw in the relatively low number of sacks he's surrendered and penalties for which he's been called all season in protecting the QB's blind side. Yes, the second-year lineman He deserves serious consideration.ALSO IN THE MIX--Free Safety Michael Huff: Fresh off being named second-team All-Pro last season, Huff suddenly has name recognition with fans, ranking fifth in the vote behind Baltimore's Ed Reed, San Diego's Eric Weddle, Pittsburgh's Ryan Clark and Indianapolis' Antoine Bethea. It would take a lot of withdrawals and one of those guys going to the Super Bowl to get Huff to Hawaii, though.
--Strongside linebacker Kamerion Wimbley: He's not in the top 5 for outside linebackers but he does have seven seven sacks and there are two Ravens and a Steeler in the top 5.
--Special teamer Rock Cartwright: A highlight of the Raiders season was Cartwright taking the direct snap and rumbling downfield on a game-turning fake punt at Houston. He is third in fan voting, behind the Ravens' Brendon Ayanbadejo and Pittsburgh's Arnaz Battle.
--Long snapper Jon Condo: Hey, Lechler and Janikowski can't do their jobs without Condo, right? Well, he already went to the Pro Bowl two years ago, so that might be held against him.
--Left guard Stefen Wisniewski: That a rookie is fifth in the fan vote speaks to his popularity. His ability to transition from guard to center and back again should only help his candidacy with Li'l Wiz's peers and opposing coaches.
--Defensive tackle Tommy Kelly: A Pro Bowl alternate a year ago, Kelly's play has maintained, if not improved, as evidenced by his 5 12 sacks with four games to play. He'd need some serious help from the coaches and players, though, as he is not in the top 5 of the fan vote.BEFORE YOU ASK --Running back Darren McFadden: He was the most explosive back in the NFL and its leading ground gainer through five weeks and seemed primed for the Pro Bowl. But he has not played since Oct. 23, and while was was still shockingly second in the fan vote to Arian Foster, he has become an object of scorn, of sorts, for frustrated Raiders fans of late.
--Cornerback Stanford Routt: He's acquitted himself quite well, thank you very much, as the Raiders' top cornerback in the wake of Nnamdi Asomugha's departure. But even with a Top 5 "burn rate," he's not in the top 5 of the fan vote.
--Kick returner Jacoby Ford: A threat to take it to the house every time he touches the ball, unfortunately for the Raiders, and his Pro Bowl chances, he has not touched the ball since Nov. 10, when he went out with a sprained left foot.

Raiders sign rookie OT Sharpe, LB Lee, all four seventh-round draft picks

Raiders sign rookie OT Sharpe, LB Lee, all four seventh-round draft picks

The Raiders signed several members of their 2017 draft class, the team announced on Friday. Later round picks put pen to paper following the first week of OTAs, which began on Monday.

Fourth-round offensive tackle David Sharpe and fifth-round linebacker Marquel Lee highlight this group of signings, as both players inked four-year rookie contracts.

All four seventh-round picks also signed their first professional contract. That group includes running back Elijah Hood, safety Shalom Luani, offensive lineman Jylan Ware and defensive tackle Treyvon Hester.

These deals aren’t hard to work out. The NFL and the league’s players union agreed on a rookie wage scale in the last collective bargaining agreement that slots salaries by draft order, which leaves little negotiating room within the set payment structure.

The team’s top picks remain unsigned, though they’ll get done in time. First round cornerback Gareon Conley, second-round safety Obi Melifonwu and third-round defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes remain unsigned.

Here’s a list of estimated contract values over a four-year rookie deal for each signed draft pick, per spotrac.com:

OT David Sharpe (No. 129 overall): $2,986,415 total; $586,415 signing bonus
LB Marquel Lee (No. 168 overall): $2,653,693 total; $253,693 signing bonus
S Shalom Luani (No. 221 overall): $2,494,414 total; $94,414 signing bonus
OT Jylan Ware (No. 231 overall): $2,484,295 total; $84,295 signing bonus
RB Elijah Hood (No. 242 overall): $2,469,750 total; $69,750 signing bonus
DT Treyvon Hester (No. 244 overall): $2,468,601 total; $69,750 signing bonus

Marquel Lee gets to play for his father's favorite team: 'He started bawling'

Marquel Lee gets to play for his father's favorite team: 'He started bawling'

ALAMEDA -- Marquel Lee’s NFL draft weekend wasn’t always fun, a byproduct of high hopes unrealized. The former Wake Forest linebacker wanted to go early, but slid into Saturday and waited well into the fifth round before his phone lifted spirits.

A 510 area code brought Lee out of an emotional rut, one so deep he started wondering whether he’d get drafted at all.

“When I got the call from the Raiders, everything changed,” Lee said in the latest episode of NBC Sports California’s Raiders Insider Podcast. “I was so excited to play for this organization.”

Marquel Lee wasn’t the only one. His father jumped over the moon.

“He might’ve been more excited than I was,” Marquel Lee said. “He started bawling. I’ve never seen my dad cry like that.”

Corey Lee’s tears don’t come easy. He’s a no-nonsense military man who served 11 years in the Navy before entering the private sector. He was a strict but fair father and football coach who instilled the discipline and work ethic required for his son to realize great potential.

Corey Lee is also a lifelong Raiders fan. Seeing his son get drafted by his favorite team created a perfect emotional storm.

“I’m as die-hard as they get,” Corey Lee said. “When they called his name in the fifth round, it was such a great, powerful moment. There was some relief, because he worked so hard and sacrificed to reach this point. When families were on vacation, we were in summer camps and working out hard.

“Everything we did was to prepare him for the next level. I was so proud to see him achieve a goal he had.”

Corey Lee didn’t break down completely when Marquel Lee officially became the Raiders’ fifth-round selection. This proud papa let emotion overcome for a beat, and then darted for his bedroom. He returned to the party with a brand new Raiders hat and a No. 89 Amari Cooper shirt from his vast Raiders collection.

Marquel Lee threw on dad’s gear to honor his new team and the golden opportunity to play for a linebacker-starved Raiders team.

That wasn’t Marquel Lee’s first time in silver and black. He rocked a full Raiders uniform at age 2, complete with a helmet, football pants and a Tim Brown jersey.

He donned one again when rookies reported to the Raiders offseason program earlier this month. The full-circle moment wasn’t lost on Marquel, a man proud of his past and excited about an NFL future.

“There’s a picture of me in a Raiders jersey, pants and a helmet on my second birthday,” he said. “I look at it now and think, ‘Wow. It really happened.’ I’m wearing a Raiders uniform for real. My dream is becoming a reality.”

Corey Lee grew up a Raiders fan in Southern California, going to games with his family at the Los Angeles Coliseum. Pardon Marquel for not following in those footsteps. He grew up on the East Coast when Donovan McNabb was a superstar and gravitated toward the Eagles. Ray Lewis performed in Lee’s Maryland backyard and became an athletic role model.

Marquel watched tons of NFL football with his dad, complete games where father and son would talk about strategy and scheme. Marquel would watch game tape with his father at an early age and when Corey Lee deployed with the Navy, his mother Katanya – she, too, understood football -- made sure that practice continued.

Marquel Lee was armed with natural athletic gifts and cultivated knowledge of the game, allowing him play quarterback and middle linebacker as a junior at Westlake High in Waldorf, Md. His dad was a guiding light as youth instructor, a JV head coach and a varsity linebackers coach, but took steps to separate family and football.

“As a father, I never would allow him to call me dad on a practice field or anywhere,” Corey Lee said. “I was always ‘Coach’ during the season, whether we were at home or at practice, because I wanted to keep him in that mindset.”

Football was a primary focus back then, when the family often traded summer vacations for skills camps. Despite buzz around Marquel’s talents, Corey was against his son doing interviews with recruiting websites or ranking services. Father wanted his son’s head on straight, and it has remained that way. 

Top schools were slow to come around, but gravitated after Marquel fully recovered from a torn patella and stood out early in his senior year. He chose Wake Forest, a commitment his father wanted upheld even with late interest from other programs.

His growth continued as a collegian, and took a real spike during the 2016 season. Wake Forest’s defensive captains graduated, leaving him to assume a leadership role and put team over stats. Lee considered his junior season at Wake Forest subpar, and vowed to do better.

“I was pressing a lot, trying to rush my time and trying to get to the NFL,” Lee said. “I was on a road where I thought I wanted to leave (school) early. I was so hard on myself, especially if I didn’t produce. That’s why I said it was subpar. I don’t think I played like a team player that year.

“(The next season) I made a decision to finish what I started and be the leader I always knew I could be. I wanted to help my team get to a bowl game. I hadn’t played in one. That was a major part of me coming back in 2016. … I grew up a lot. I feel like I gained respect as a team leader, and really understood what it took to own that responsibility.”

Lee might have major responsibilities as an NFL rookie. The Raiders don’t have many options at middle linebacker, and Lee will be allowed to compete for a starting spot. It’ll take a solid spring and summer to earn it and give the Raiders confidence to hand an important starting spot to a rookie. The Silver and Black could add a veteran to that position group, though they have high hopes for their fifth-round pick. Lee could well make an instant impact. 

“We definitely think he has the potential to start,” Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie said in an interview with 95.7-The Game. “He’s a long ways away from that. We haven’t even begun to get the pads on, so a lot will be determined in training camp and the preseason. So far, he has looked very good.”

Lee considers himself well prepared for the challenges ahead, and believes he can compete at the professional level.

“I’ve been getting ready for this a long time,” Marquel Lee said. “My dad has been telling me that this experience will be different. It’s not like college anymore. It’s a job, and I have to be mentally prepared for everything I’m about to do. I’m here and I’m learning and I’m trying to do my best.”