Mario Edwards Jr. is a conundrum. The Florida State defensive lineman is a freakish athlete who can dominate in the weight room and on a football field.
Just because he can doesn’t mean it always happens. At times, Edwards is invisible.
Such dichotomy seems an unattractive trait for someone drafted so early in the NFL draft, but it didn’t stop the Raiders from selecting him No. 35 overall on Friday night.
Head coach Jack Del Rio, not always forthcoming but honest when he is, admitted Edwards’ 2014 game tape doesn’t always excite. His weight fluctuated wildly during his true junior season.
"We see a supremely talented guy that obviously had a little case of senioritis,” Del Rio told NFL Network. “I think that goes away when you come into the league and you understand the demands and the challenges that are in front of you.
“The guy does have a lot of talent. It's up to us to make sure that we bring the type of discipline that he needs to his game. Part of that is keeping his weight in line and all of those types of things. That shouldn't be an issue. It's a profession now. He has a lot of talent and we look forward to working with him."
Edwards’ weight reached 310 pounds, but he dropped down to 277 for a remarkable pre-draft pro day. Shortly after being drafted Edwards said the Raiders want him to play a LEO position, a weakside edge rusher popularized with the Seattle Seahawks.
“I’m not sure which of our coaches got carried away with disclosing what we’re going to do with him before I could tell him to button it up,” Del Rio said with a laugh during a Saturday press conference. “We’ll address that. We’re going to get him here and plug him in and let him learn to play defensive end, defensive tackle, Leo, closed end, whatever it is we decide makes the most sense for us and for him. We think he’s a really good football player. We’re looking forward to getting our hands on him and getting to work.”
Del Rio will get that chance starting Friday, when Edwards and fellow Raiders rookies come to Alameda for a minicamp.
Reviews of the Edwards pick are mixed, but he’s truly a wait-and-see prospect. If he works hard, maintains his weight and remains committed, Edwards could be viewed as a quality selection. If he struggles, it’ll seem like a reach the Raiders shouldn’t have made.
Edwards owned his mistakes in a conference call with East Bay press, and vowed to work extremely hard for his new employers.
"I’m trying to be a complete player," Edwards said. "I’m trying to go out there and be great in the run and be great in the pass and go out there and contribute to the team.”