College: Wake Forest
Weight: 240 pounds
Selection: Fifth round, No. 168 overall
ALAMEDA – It took five full rounds, but the Raiders finally drafted an inside linebacker. They don’t have a starter in the middle and have razor thin depth at that position and weakside linebacker, with Jelani Jenkins as that position group’s only experienced member.
The Raiders could’ve addressed this pressing need earlier in the draft but followed their draft board and fortified other positions instead. General manager Reggie McKenzie finally added Lee to the mix.
McKenzie was forthright with Lee regarding the lack of depth at his position, and told Lee he'll have a chance to start.
"Yeah, the general manager explained that to me, and everything and he said he wanted me to come in and compete at that spot," Lee said Saturday in a conference call. "That’s what I plan to do.”
He’s certainly the right size to play middle linebacker, at 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds with long arms. He’s was a team leader in college, and analysts say he takes a disciplined approach to his craft. He’s a solid run defender and does his job creating proper run fits.
Critics says his slow to adjust to misdirection, and doesn’t play fast enough in man coverage. His speed may have pushed Lee down the draft board some, which might hinder his ability to play inside in a Raiders scheme where inside linebackers are expected to have great range in coverage.
Lee is a decent blitzer, with 7.5 sacks as a senior. He also had 105 tackles, including 20 for a loss, and three forced fumbles in his final season.
He’ll compete for a role with linebackers already here, including Cory James and Ben Heeney. The Raiders might still look for a veteran addition. That includes 2016 starter Perry Riley, who remains on the open market.
Raiders middle linebackers are asked to cover and play sideline to sideline, responsibilities Lee is ready to handle.
"I was pretty good in coverage over my years," Lee said. "Just polishing up my attack on the ball and going after the ball, I think that’s where I need to improve myself. In coverage, I mean zone dropping, I have good hips, I’ve shown that I can cover at the combine. I mean, I do any of the drills and stuff at the combine that translate to the field. I feel like I can cover anybody.”