“I see myself being a full-bore special teamer. Just a special teams war-daddy.”
That was Tanner Muses, the Las Vegas Raiders; third third-round pick, just after being selected. Now, admittedly, it’s not great when the first thing you think of about your third-round pick is “special teams”, but it’s more so the attitude and the mentality that you see come screaming through in a quote like that.
I mean, is there any doubt as to why Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock loved this guy? During our pre-draft coverage, Dane Brugler mentioned in an interview with me that he thought Muse was a perfect fit for the Raiders — albeit he was projecting Muse to come off the board a round or two later.
For Muse, the biggest question is where he fits at the NFL level. At Clemson, he played all over the place — in a very similar way to Isaiah Simmons — but struggled at some of those spots more than others. Of course, when you have 4.41 speed at 6’2″ and 227 pounds, it makes sense, right?
And yet, despite the measurables, many folks felt Muse was a massive reach for Mayock — but it appears not everyone agrees with that sentiment. One of Muse’s biggest fans is Thor Nystrom of Rotoworld, who I got a chance to interview after the draft. Here was his take on why Raider fans should be excited about Muse:
“I love the Tanner Muse pick, he’s a guy that in college, I didn’t like him as a player at deep safety — but I think he was miscast, and when they played him in the box, he was a stud. And it wasn’t just an eye test thing, but if you look at his PFF things, the advanced numbers on him when he’s playing in the box it’s super interesting the way his coverage grades change.”
I guess it’s no surprise then, that right after the draft, Mayock mentioned that Muse’s primary place on the field would be at linebacker.
“When he’s in the box he is AWESOME in coverage, and he’s always great in run support because he’s a big athletic kid who loved getting his nose dirty,” Nystrom said. “People that didn’t like him watched him at deep safety— he’s just not comfortable running with big time athletes in space, when he just has to pick up a RB or TE, he’s awesome because he’s more athletic than them.”
But will it be an easy transition for a guy who has played all over the field to come in and learn an NFL scheme at linebacker?
“The narrative about him being a position convert isn’t right,” Nystrom said. “Over the last two years, he actually played double the snaps in the box (710) compared to deep safety (350) — so the transition won’t be as difficult as some people think it will be. I ranked Muse No. 112 and they took him No. 100, and so I’m guessing that the Raiders probably saw him exactly the way I did. I’m sure they saw the advanced numbers, and realized that if they put him at linebacker all of his weaknesses go away.”
Nystrom isn’t alone in his liking of Muse at linebacker either. Brett Kollman of “The Film Room” had this to say when I asked him about Muse:
“I always thought he would end up at linebacker instead of safety just because of his build and skillset, so that potential move doesn’t really surprise me,” he said. “His straight line speed and explosiveness make him an intriguing option as a Will linebacker or ‘overhang’ player in this defense.”
Of course, the elephant in the room here is the Clemson connection — with Muse one of eight players who played for either Clemson or Alabama in the 2018 National Championship Game to be drafted by the Raiders.
Combining the big-game pedigree with Muse’s height/weight/speed and you can see why this was a pick the Raiders felt good about making on Day 2 of the draft. He may not have a floor that many are comfortable, but the upside on a guy like this — who may have just been in the wrong role at the college level — makes all the sense of the world.
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