With the 57th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Oakland Raiders selected P.J. Hall, Defensive Tackle out of Sam Houston State in Huntsville, Texas. While that’s not a name that I was expecting to hear at that point in time, it’s clear that Head Coach Jon Gruden and General Manager Reggie McKenzie wanted to address the lack of pash rush from the interior of the defensive line.
Hall (6’1”, 310 pounds) brings exactly that to the table, as he’s explosive and strong at the point of attack. If you need proof of his strength, just know that in 2013 he was filmed doing a 700-pound squat, and that incredible upper & lower body strength helps him gain leverage against interior offensive linemen.
Hall went on to amass 42 sacks and 86.5 tackles for loss during his career as a Bearkat, while somehow managing to also be a special teams gem that recorded 14 blocked kicks. Yes, that’s right, FOURTEEN BLOCKED KICKS.
That being said, Sam Houston State competes in the FCS division, so Hall did not go up against “bigger school” talent. That does add a bit of an asterisk next to his accomplishments when you compare him to other players who competed at the highest levels of college football, but that could mean little to nothing if/when Hall starts impacting the Raiders positively on Sundays.
You’d think a second round pick would be a guy who should start right away, right? Well, in all fairness, the Raiders drafted Maurice Hurst. Hurst, who was a star at Michigan and was slated to be a top 15 pick, saw his draft stock plummet due to a heart condition that made news at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. Regardless of where he was drafted, Hurst’s talent likely puts him in prime position to start and thrive as a 3-Tech DT in Raiders’ Defensive Coordinator Paul Guenther’s scheme. So, while it’s likely Hurst starts ahead of Hall, that does not mean Hall can’t and won’t have a positive role/impact for the Silver & Black in the upcoming season.
So, what can we expect from Hall in 2018? Can his dominant FCS play transfer to the NFL?
Obviously, training camp and preseason will be huge for Hall. He’ll have the opportunity to prove himself and show that he’s not the “project” that he was labeled to be by many NFL analysts leading up to the draft. To say that he will or will not be dominant during his NFL career is impossible to answer, but high effort, explosive, and strong are all great traits for interior defensive linemen.
As for 2018, I think a reasonable expectation for Hall is to be a rotational player who can come in and wreak havoc with his ability to get upfield and pressure the opposing Quarterback, especially in obvious passing downs.
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