When the Oakland Raiders signed undrafted free agent Conner Vernon from Duke Univeristy not many people gave it a second glance. Vernon ran a 4.68 40-yard dash at the NFL combine and wasn’t considered much of a prospect despite being the ACC’s all-time career leader in receiving. He was the first player in ACC history to put up multiple seasons of 70 or more catches.
Vernon, however, has impressed the Raiders coaching staff with his ability to run crisp routes and flashing sure hands from the slot during mini-camp and OTA’s. The Raiders currently have seven receivers capable of making the final roster. However, even among the starters there aren’t any that truly stand out.
At the slot position the Raiders currently have Jacoby Ford but he has an injury history so having Vernon around, even on the practice squad would serve as good insurance. However, the way Vernon has played he might force his way onto the roster and could even get some decent playing time.
In college, Vernon caught 55 passes for 746 and three touchdowns in 2009. He then followed that up with a 73-catch, 973-yard, four touchdown season. He became the first player in ACC history to post two seasons of at least 70 catches when he caught 70 passes for 956 yards and five touchdowns. His best season came last season when he caught 85 balls for 1074 yards and eight touchdowns. He finished his collegiate career with 283 catches and 3749 yards and 20 touchdowns.
The Raiders will need all the help they can get in the passing game. Right now the number one receiver on the roster is Denarius Moore followed by Rod Streater and Juron Criner with Josh Cribbs factoring in somewhere as well. Seventh round pick Brice Butler could also play a role in the new Raiders passing game as well. The Raiders lost quarterback Carson Palmer, tight end Brandon Myers and receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey this off-season so the Raiders passing game is in complete transition.
Vernon has a real chance of not only making the roster but actually playing a role in the offense within a year or two. The fact that he is already standing out to head coach Dennis Allen.