Oakland Raiders

Antonio Brown’s departure opens spot for Raiders to bring back UC Davis’ Keelan Doss

Oakland Raiders wide receiver Keelan Doss (89) during an an NFL preseason football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. The Raiders won 33-26. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
Oakland Raiders wide receiver Keelan Doss (89) during an an NFL preseason football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. The Raiders won 33-26. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) AP

At this point, we can say with confidence that Keelan Doss runs a mean comeback route.

An Alameda native and UC Davis wide receiver, Doss, an undrafted free agent, was dismissed by the Raiders at the end of training camp, during which he became a “Hard Knocks” darling. (“He’s a big story on the TV show, but that’s not the reality that we saw on tape,” coach Jon Gruden said upon cutting him.)

The Jacksonville Jaguars subsequently signed Doss. On Sunday the Raiders, finding themselves down a receiver, lured Doss back to the flock, enticing him with a one-year $495,000 contract and a $300,000 bonus.

“Happy to be back in the Bay! #Raidernation,” Doss tweeted Sunday.

He was back practically before anyone knew he was gone, packing an upper division education in the vagaries of the NFL.

Doss’ ordeal has been the feel-weird hit of the summer. But what do we really know about him?

Well, he killed at the prep level. During his three years on the varsity at Alameda High, Doss caught 56 passes for 998 yards (17.8 average) and 12 touchdowns, according to the UC Davis football website. He took it to another level as a senior: 29 catches, 577 yards (19.9 average) and nine touchdowns.

Oh by the way, he was a four-year member of the school’s academic honor roll.

His next stop was UC Davis, where he set the school record for receptions (312), yards (4,069; 13.0 average), and receiving touchdowns (28).

He opened some eyes on Sept. 15, 2018, when he caught 13 passes for 106 yards against Stanford. Cardinal head coach David Shaw, a top-drawer pass catcher back in the day, was dead impressed.

“This guy is really good,” Shaw said of Doss after the UC Davis game (a 30-10 Cardinal triumph). “He’s fast, he’s long, tracks the deep ball really well. That was potentially a 200-yard receiving game if our guys don’t make the plays that they did make on him. He’s a good football player, and he’s going to play well at the next level.”

Oakland could have elevated receiver Marcell Ateman from their practice squad, but decided the energetic Doss was a better fit.

Doss was a preseason star as well as a cinematic star for the Raiders as he led the team with 17 catches for 162 yards. He also scored the first touchdown in the team’s last season in Oakland when he grabbed a 3-yard scoring pass from Nathan Peterman against the Rams.

General manager Mike Mayock acknowledged cutting Doss last week was one of the team’s most difficult decisions. They had chosen to keep veteran receivers and Doss will now join a receiving corps that features Tyrell Williams, J.J. Nelson, Ryan Grant, special teamer Dwayne Harris and much-heralded fourth-round pick Hunter Renfrow from Clemson.

“We have strong feelings about Keelan Doss,” Mayock said. “Local kid, great story. That was a very difficult cut.”

In the end, the Raiders replaced one receiver who didn’t want to be with them with a receiver whose life-long dream was to wear the Silver & Black.

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