With six weeks until the 2023 NFL season kicks off, we’re getting ready with six bold Las Vegas Raiders predictions, with a new one releasing every week.
They say that if you squint hard enough, you might be able to see a defensive unit that might be able to get to a league-average level.
Like, squint really hard — and maybe focus most of your attention on Maxx Crosby and the potential impact of his counterparts Chandler Jones and rookie Tyree Wilson. Heck, maybe even sprinkle in a little Tre’von Moehrig and Nate Hobbs optimism, and you get the picture.
But one name not included on that list — and the guy who might be the key to unlocking this defense as a whole — is Divine Deablo, and he just might be ready to pop this season.
Deablo was the Raiders’ third-round pick in 2021, and while he started his college career as a receiver before transitioning to playing as a safety at Virginia Tech, his pro career has been exclusive as a linebacker. In his rookie season, Deablo played in all 17 games mainly as a special teamer), but as the season went on, his impact on the defense grew and grew and he finished with 45 tackles.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to really solidify that growth in his second year — playing in just eight games before being placed on injured reserve with a forearm injury. That said, in the eight games he did play, he logged 74 tackles (which was the most on the team at the time), a pace that, if maintained, would have put him among the top 10 tacklers in the league come season end.
What makes 2023 especially exciting, though, is the runway Deablo has. This offseason, the Raiders allowed Pro Bowl linebacker Denzel Perryman to walk in order to give Deablo more space to develop as the guy at the center of the Raiders defense. That trend continued when it was announced that he would be wearing the green dot, making him the quarterback of the defense and adding a whole new level of responsibility.
The only question now is: can Deablo rise to the level of responsibility he is being trusted with? He has all of the physical tools to be both a run stuffer and a guy who can run with backs and tight ends — and he has proven he can be productive, but can he put it all together and stay healthy?
The Raiders have placed all of their chips on “YES” so far this summer, and for my first bold prediction, I will agree with them. I’m not saying Deablo is a Pro Bowler this season, but I think he will make a positive impact — which will make him stand out in a unit that I imagine will still struggle. I think he finishes with 130+ tackles, forces a couple of fumbles and logs an interception, all of which won’t be enough to carry the Raiders to the playoffs, but at least it’ll let them know they’ve got a genuine building block on that side of the ball moving forward.