DJ Turner has had very little written or said about him since the versatile wide receiver signed with the Las Vegas Raiders as a free agent out of the University of Pittsburgh after the 2021 National Football League Draft in May.
However, sources with the Raiders who asked not to be quoted have told Sports Illustrated Raider Maven page that Turner was impressive during OTAs and mini-camp, and more is expected from him as training camp begins in Henderson, Nev.
“I think what sticks out is his toughness,” said an NFL scout, who also wished to remain anonymous. “He can be used all over the place, and he can help on special teams. He is fast, has good hands, and quick feet. When you watch his film, the toughness and grit jump out. Turner is a little guy but does not shy away from blocking or being hit.
“He is likely a slot guy at the next level, and when he is on the field, he will find a way to produce. He will put his nose on a defender. He can catch everything. He will blast somebody, and I love that about him. I like his film because Turner has been fun to study. … (Since he wasn’t drafted), he probably will play with a giant-sized sized chip on his shoulder.”
The 5-9, 206-pound Turner spent four years at Maryland, where his playing time was limited by a non-football injury and off-the-field problems that he says are in the past, before transferring to Pitt and completing his college career as a graduate student for the Panthers last season.
Turner played in 11 games with six starts at Pitt as a slot receiver, making 44 receptions for 634 yards and three touchdowns, in addition to returning 15 punts for 125 yards, an 8.3-yard average, and 14 kickoffs for 311 yards, a 22.2-yard average. He was named All-Atlantic Coast Conference as a kick returner and twice earned the ACC Player of the Week Award.
“I feel like (the transfer) worked,” said Turner, who also has played running back. “Certainly, some games surprised me, others felt like there was a lot of play left on the field, but overall, I’m sure last season has helped me a lot. When it came to taking it to the next level, I had to show some variety and have some big games to show that I was productive.
“As far as my presence in the locker room, I would say I am the same guy at home as well. I am pretty relaxed, I am never really doing anything crazy. I am a team player, and my team can rely on me at any time. I think in the NFL, I am going to be the same guy. I have been the same way my whole life. I take this game seriously, and I want to do it for a living. I know what it takes to be successful. I haven’t had the career I was hoping for in college, and while I know I am flying under the radar, I think I can shine at the next level.”
In one of his few interviews since coming to Las Vegas, on Fox5, Turner said: “I’m loving it here and there’s no place I’d rather be. It feels great to be a Raider and I can’t wait to make the most of my opportunity and have a long career here in Las Vegas. I just want to trust the system and do my best to get open. Plus, there are other things I can do in the backfield and returning kicks. My versatility is one of my biggest strengths.”
Micheal Spurlock, another free agent who played for Gruden with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is listed at NFL.com as the kick returner on Gruden’s all-time team. Spurlock became the first player in franchise history to return a kickoff for a touchdown when he went 90 yards in the Bucs’ 37-3 victory over the Atlanta Falcons to clinch the AFC South title in 2007.
Gruden isn’t saying, but perhaps Turner reminds him of Spurlock.
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