No Raiders player last season impressed more than Nate Hobbs. The fifth round rookie leapt to the top of the depth chart as the team’s starting nickel cornerback in training camp and was outstanding throughout the season handling the slot.
Even after just one season, it’s not a stretch to say Hobbs was easily one of the top finds by the Raiders during the Mike Mayock era as GM.
Part of Hobbs’s greatness stems from the fire to prove himself. Something he’s had to do every step of the way in his football life. As a fifth round pick, sure, but it goes way back for Hobbs. Something I detailed last year, shortly after he was drafted.
He’s been underestimated his whole football life. He was thankful for being drafted into the NF, but he still had 166 players taken ahead of him, including over 30 defensive backs. So, here he goes again.
Guaranteed, there is a hell of a lot fewer than 30 of those DBs who are better. Hobbs has proven himself. You think that changes his outlook? Think he’s shed that chip on his shoulder? Not a chance.
“Until I die. Real talk, until I die,” Hobbs said of still carrying that chip on his shoulder. “Where I’m from, I’m from Louisville, Kentucky, so I never got the chance to see anybody make it that far to the NFL with my own two eyes or personally know somebody. It feels like that in all areas of Louisville, we are a real underrated city. So, growing up there it made me like that. I guess I was a creature of my habitat.”
Hobbs has taken his talents from inside out with the Raiders as they have been seeing what kind of versatility he possesses. The 6-0, 195-pounder is clearly talented enough to hang with shifty slot receivers and make stops in short yardage, so the team is seeing whether he can move around some if called upon.
“Really most of my high school career and college career, I played outside. That’s second nature to me,” Hobbs said. “That’s something I feel like I can do at a high level. But playing in the slot, like you said, there is a lot more room. Playing corner, slot, whatever I got to play, safety if I got to do that, it makes it a lot easier I feel like just having a feel for multiple positions.”
Currently Trayvon Mullen is on the PUP list, giving the team a bit of an opportunity of sorts to find out their options without him. Thus Hobbs getting some work outside along with newcomer Anthony Averett with Rock Ya-Sin on the opposite side.
The question from there would be if Hobbs turns out to the best option outside, would any of the other corners be able to man the slot as well as he can? Based on Hobbs’s play there last season, that could be a tall order.