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Both of the top two picks for the Raiders in Alex Leatherwood and Trevon Moehrig are expected to start as rookies. Both were well-known prospects from big schools and both were worthy of top-50 selections.

But one of the picks by the Raiders that hasn’t generated a ton of buzz is defensive end Malcolm Koonce. Koonce didn’t receive a ton of pre-draft buzz, but that didn’t stop the Raiders from making him the No. 79 pick in this year’s draft. But are we sleeping on a potential star in Koonce?

In a recent article by Kristopher Knox of Bleacher Report, he named every team’s possible rookie gem. For the Raiders, that was none other than Koonce. Here is what Knox had to say about the selection and why he could contribute early this year:

“Third-round pick Malcolm Koonce, however, could be a sneaky-great addition who looks even better after the fact. The Raiders needed to improve a pass rush that delivered a mere 21 sacks last season. Las Vegas added Yannick Ngakoue in the offseason, but there should still be room for Koonce as a rotational edge-defender.

Koonce, who had five sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss in six games this past season, could have a rookie impact similar to that of 2019 Raiders breakout Maxx Crosby. Crosby was a fourth-round selection and has now led Las Vegas in sacks in back-to-back years.”

Koonce did not work out at his Pro Day due to a foot injury, but the expectation is that he would have tested like an elite athlete. He doesn’t have elite size, but the production and athleticism might allow him to have a career much like another Raider; Yannick Ngakoue.

With the depth chart basically set up top, Koonce will compete with someone like Carl Nassib for snaps. That shouldn’t be too difficult and it means we could see a ton of Koonce as a rookie. Don’t be surprised if the Buffalo product finds a way to be productive in 2021 as a rookie.

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