Can Marquee Lee rekindle the once-revered Oakland No. 55? Perhaps the better question is can the fifth-round pick stabilize the black hole at middle linebacker? That’s way too much to ask for a late-round rookie, but RaiderNation is looking upon Lee in earnest. The chiseled 6-foot-3, 240-pound Demon Deacon hailed as the savior to the all-important Mike spot. Head coach Jack Del Rio — not only a former linebacker himself, but a wearer of the 55 during his playing career — smartly didn’t stoke the flames. He tempered them. The Raiders have a whole and Lee could possibly fill it.
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“I don’t know that we’ve adequately addressed our middle linebacker position, to be honest,” he said last week during an appearance on NFL Network. “I think we have some work to do there. The rest of our roster is pretty well situated, but we’ll be looking for a linebacker and we’ll continue to look, whether it’s the waiver wire, trades or available guys out there, veterans on the street. We’ll continue to look.”
Other than the prototypical size Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie noted Lee had in spades, what else does the Wake Forest have to offer? The most common denominator amongst various scouting reports is Lee’s aggressiveness and tackling ability. As his Demon Deacon career progressed, so did Lee’s penchant for getting after it. He finished 2016 with an impressive 105 tackles (10 for loss), 7.5 sacks and a trio of forced fumbles. He showed he can time his blitzes well and uses power and relentlessness to get to the quarterback.
There was something else that popped up quite often on the reports: Lee’s overall lack of athleticism. Running a 4.78 40 is only the surface. Lee struggles with change direction, stiffness in his hips and his inability to chase down faster running backs and adequately cover. Oh, and he has a tendency to bite on play-action. The last part is of vital importance as the Raiders ask linebackers to do their part in pass coverage.
“I like his size but I question his speed and instincts,” a NFC scout said of Lee. “He’s also not as aggressive as he needs to be. He’s not fast so he better make up for it with field toughness.”
The Raiders are banking on it. After all, they didn’t address in the MLB spot until the fifth-round.