Las Vegas Raiders: 3 candidates for most improved player on the roster in 2024

Las Vegas Raiders' Zamir White
Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

In 2023, Malcolm Koonce emerged as the Las Vegas Raiders’ most improved player. He made the leap from a backup who played sparingly in his first two years to a playmaking starting pass-rusher, filling a void after the team released Chandler Jones.

Who will be the Raiders’ breakout player in 2024?

Three possible candidates could take massive leaps early in their careers. All of them played in reserve roles last season. Though, two of the players listed below are projected to start in the upcoming campaign.

Let’s examine why these three players are in line for a significant step forward in Las Vegas.

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Zamir White takes over as Las Vegas Raiders RB1

Las Vegas Raiders running back Zamir White
Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

For most of his first two seasons, Zamir White performed at the level of an average running back—a ball-carrier who would be part of a platoon but not the lead rusher.

Well, White changed that perspective when he took over for Josh Jacobs, who missed the last four games of the 2023 season because of a quad injury.

Between Weeks 15 and 18, White registered 84 carries for 397 yards and a touchdown. He also flashed the ability to shake off defenders in that short span, finishing the season with eight broken tackles.

Following Jacobs’ departure in free agency, White seems primed to lead the Raiders’ backfield committee ahead of Alexander Mattison, Ameer Abdullah and rookie sixth-rounder Dylan Laube.

White and Mattison will likely split early-down carries. That said, Mattison has been more efficient with fewer touches. 

Mattison averaged more than 4.4 yards per carry when he logged less than 7.8 rush attempts per contest in 2019 and 2020. The former Minnesota Vikings running back averaged less than four yards per carry when he eclipsed eight rush attempts per outing in 2021 and 2023.

While Mattison has done more with fewer touches, White has shown that he needs a high volume of carries to produce optimally.

Despite all the focus on the Raiders’ quarterback battle and notable names at wide receiver and tight end, White could finish within the top five leaguewide in rushing yards this year.

Read more: 3 Las Vegas Raiders players who will be under pressure during training camp

Thayer Munford Jr. could solidy things for Las Vegas Raiders offensive line

Thayer Munford, Las Vegas Raiders
Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Forget where the Raiders drafted Thayer Munford Jr. (2022 seventh-rounder) and pay attention to how he’s earned the team’s trust as a projected starter at right tackle.

Last year, Munford alternated drives with Jermaine Eluemunor, who signed with the New York Giants in free agency, and fared well at right tackle. He eventually took over the starting role in that spot.

Between Weeks 14 and 17, Munford filled in for Kolton Miller, who battled a shoulder injury, at left tackle and didn’t give up a sack in that stretch, per Pro Football Focus.

This year, the Raiders didn’t draft an offensive tackle until the third round (DJ Glaze) after they took guard Jackson Powers-Johnson in the second round, which says a lot about their faith in Munford.

Munford’s jump from a fill-in starter to the probable starter at right tackle allows him to cement himself at a position that’s had a revolving door with this team every one-to-two years.

Related: Training camp development that could boost the Las Vegas Raiders chances this season

Las Vegas Raiders 2023 first-round pick Tyree Wilson

Las Vegas Raiders

This sounds strange to say about a top-seven draft pick from a year ago, but Tyree Wilson isn’t coming into the 2024 campaign with a ton of pressure on him when it comes to his production.

Of course, teams expect top-10 picks to hit their stride early in their careers, but Wilson probably won’t start over Malcolm Koonce.

Because of Koonce’s breakout 2023 season, he will probably play a majority of the snaps on the edge opposite Maxx Crosby. 

As the third edge-rusher in the rotation, Wilson doesn’t have to lead the Raiders pass rush in a prominent role. If he finishes with seven or eight sacks, the second-year defender would be more productive than most situational pass-rushers across the league.

No one is giving Wilson an excuse for a mediocre second year, but with the focus on Crosby and Koonce, he could flourish with less spotlight on him.

Nonetheless, Wilson should benefit tremendously from going through a full offseason while healthy. 

Remember, last year, Wilson had a slow start to the offseason program coming off foot surgery, which hindered his progression through the first half of the campaign. In 2024, he could fill in the gaps on the edge and on the interior for one of the league’s best defensive lines.

Maurice Moton covers the Las Vegas Raiders for Sportsnaut. You can follow him on Twitter at @MoeMoton.

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