Raiders CB Nate Hobbs makes PFF’s All-Rookie Team

Source: Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

Nate Hobbs has flashed on tape during his two preseason games and he might just end up being the steal of the draft. The 5th round pick from Illinois was making plays with both his coverage abilities and as a blitzer off the edge. The league is taking notice.

PFF ranked the Raiders corner as part of their all-rookie team, saying the following:

It’s no secret that Las Vegas has had issues at cornerback in recent years. Hobbs is obviously a longshot to fix that as a fifth-rounder, but he was the highest-graded rookie corner this preseason. Hobbs played 57 snaps — 30 in the slot and 27 out wide — and earned a 90.7 overall grade. Both his pass breakup and his interception against the Los Angeles Rams came in an impressive fashion. Expect him to see serious playing time this year.

PFF listed 21 total players for their all-rookie team, and Hobbs was one of them. During his two games, Hobbs stacked up the stats. He had 1 sack, 1 QB hit, 2 tackles for a loss, and 1 interception. He also forced the quarterback to check the ball down because of him being in perfect coverage.

After his impressive preseason, Hobbs is likely locked in as the team’s starting slot corner.

Mike Mayock discussed Wednesday during his presser how Hobbs was discovered by a cross-check scout. Here’s the transcript provided by Silver and Black Pride:

“I’ll tell you a cool story and this is kind of what I think scouting is all about. And in our building where the coaches are so involved it’s even a better story.

So, I got a call from one of our cross-check scouts after the Illinois Pro Day, and he said, ‘Mike, do me a favor and put your eyes on Nate Hobbs. He just ran a 4.45, he jumped 41 inches. He tested better than we thought he was going to test and I’m not sure if we got the right grade on him.’ Don’t get me wrong, we had a pretty solid grade on him, but I want to make sure he’s not getting lost in the cornerback shuffle.

So, I got off the phone and literally put his tape on right there and I was like, man, he competes. He tackles. He’s tough. He’s a three-year starter in the Big Ten. He was an outside corner almost predominantly and he played special teams. This was a hard-noised, tough guy. And he just ran 4.45 and jumped 41 inches. I spent about two hours watching him, get out of my chair, sprinted downstairs to the second floor, grabbed Ron Milus, the defensive back coach.

Again, every building is different. Trust me, I spent 18 years at the NFL Network being in all the buildings and everybody does their jobs differently. We’re a coach-driven building with our scouts, so I run downstairs and say, ‘Milo, get your eye on this guy, please. And tell me what you think, today.’ He comes running back up in about an hour and half, ‘We got something.’ He said, ‘I think this kid will compete at nickel.’ And he was an outside guy and the reason we thought he could compete at nickel was how tough he was. His quickness and his toughness. He rarely missed tackles. Very aggressive kid. So, when you talk about moving outside to inside, that’s what you’re looking for. A.) You got to be a quick processer, which we can’t tell whether he was or not as an outside corner, but B.) you’d better be quick and be tough. And he was those things.

So, all of a sudden now we kind of push him up the board a little bit more. The coaches like him, the scouts like him. We got him on a Zoom call, and he knocked it out the park. What our coaches do is they challenge him pretty hard mentally. They give him some of our Raider verbiage and they push it out and challenge it back. He got all the concepts immediately. I was on the Zoom call, I saw. It wasn’t like I heard about it; I was on the call. He got all the concepts. The coaches drilled him. He got an A+ on that drill and we’re sitting back there going; okay, what’s wrong with this picture? A three-year starter in the Big Ten. Tough, competitive. Every one of our scouting grades on him with competes and toughness was at a high end. So, I think the cool part for me is seeing it come together. It started with a trigger from the cross-checker to tell me to get my eye on them.

It went from there down to Milo (Ron Milus), then it went to the Zoom call, and then it was the whole group getting together to say, ‘We got to get this guy. Where is he probably going to go league value? And at what point do we have to pull the trigger.”

Although it was only preseason, Nate Hobbs looks like the real deal as a rookie. We’ll see if he can continue his dominance during the season.

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