Raiders

Henry Ruggs, Chase Claypool among NFL combine stars Raiders should target

Henry Ruggs, Chase Claypool among NFL combine stars Raiders should target

We know two things for certain about the 2020 NFL Draft: The wide receiver class is deep and stocked with talent, and the Raiders need a lot of help at wideout.

With five picks in the first 92, it should be a match made in heaven.

General manager Mike Mayock and head coach Jon Gruden have spent all week at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, and Thursday they got an up-close look at the best the class has to offer. 

While the class is insanely loaded, six receivers dazzled Thursday during drills and testing, no doubt shooting up the Raiders' draft board.

Chase Claypool, Notre Dame

Teams asked Claypool to work out at tight end during the combine, not knowing if he had the athleticism to play wideout at the NFL level.

At 6-foot-4, 238 pounds, the Notre Dame product was a touchdown machine in college. Any doubts about his athleticism and fit should have been put to bed Thursday with his testing.

Running a 4.43 at 6-foot-4 is some alien-type stuff.

In fact, only one other receiver in history has run a sub 4.45 40 at 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds or more.

Calvin Johnson.

In the age of positionless football, just put Claypool on the field and let him go to work.

CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma

This is going to be short. I've long believed Lamb is the best receiver in the class and the Raiders should jump at the opportunity to draft him if he's available at No. 12.

He did nothing Thursday to dispel that belief. He just spent it showcasing why he'll be highly coveted in the draft.

Another look?

Your WR1.

Henry Ruggs, Alabama

Much like Lamb, Ruggs only solidified his position as one of the top-three wideouts in this loaded class.

Have you ever seen a cheetah run on two legs? Here you go.

An effortless 4.27.

In a freaky class, Ruggs is at the top of the class.

Denzel Mims, Baylor

You want to talk stock up? Look no further than Denzel Mims.

The 6-foot-3, 207-pound receiver had the best three-cone time of the night at 6.66, he broad jumped 10' 11'', had a 38.5-inch vertical and ran a 4.38 40-yard dash.

Freaky.

He also looked fluid in pass-catching drills, showing he's not just a workout warrior.

Mims dominated the Senior Bowl and continued his rise in Indianapolis.

[RELATED: Hurts' talent entices, but should Raiders take chance on QB?]

Justin Jefferson, LSU

Despite Jefferson lighting the world of college football on fire this past season, Jefferson entered the combine with some questions about his speed and overall athleticism. Those now are gone.

And since catching the football is the name of the game, he put on a show in The Gauntlet.

Jefferson might have had the best overall combine performance. Don't be surprised if the Raiders snatch him up at No. 19.

Raiders' Derek Carr, Zay Jones building chemistry during offseason work

Raiders' Derek Carr, Zay Jones building chemistry during offseason work

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr didn’t link up much with Zay Jones after the receiver was acquired in a midseason trade. The former Buffalo Bill took some time to get situated, but he didn’t receive a ton of targets even after receiving tons of snaps.

Jones only had 20 catches on 27 targets in 10 games as a Raider despite averaging 46 offensive snaps per game. Those numbers suggest a lack of chemistry between an established quarterback and a receiver new on the Raiders scene.

The pair are working on that now, during downtime in the NFL calendar and when large gatherings are prohibited due to the coronavirus pandemic. Even if these were normal circumstances, players can't work together at training facilities during a dead period prior to the start of offseason programs. OTAs and team-organized strength and conditioning work could be canceled altogether as people in most states are encouraged to shelter in place. 

Carr and Jones have worked together often in recent days in the Las Vegas area. The videos posted on Carr’s Instagram page suggest they’re building chemistry and trust that could be applied to training camp and the regular season.

Carr has been adding Instagram stories of the two prepping for workouts over the past few days but posted several longer videos Thursday showing the two connecting well.

Jones is a smooth route runner with solid potential but he will have to compete for playing time in 2020 and might have to battle for a spot on the depth chart.

[RELATED: Why Kwiatkoski felt Raiders were 'best fit' in free agency]

Tyrell Williams and Hunter Renfrow are locks, with free agent signing Nelson Agholor in the mix as well. The Raiders are expected to add a receiver in the NFL draft’s first round and possibly another later in the selection process. Keelan Doss and Marcell Ateman also will be in the mix as the Raiders try to improve a receiver corps that wasn’t good enough last season.

The Raiders acquired Jones on Oct. 8, 2019, for a 2021 fifth-round pick.

Why Nick Kwiatkoski thought Raiders were 'best fit' in NFL free agency

Why Nick Kwiatkoski thought Raiders were 'best fit' in NFL free agency

Nick Kwiatkoski doesn’t have a massive social media following, but a tweet the veteran linebacker sent out on March 16 quickly went viral.

It didn’t include a single word. It contained a picture of Allegiant Stadium and nothing more, but it was a clear sign that the Las Vegas Raiders had landed their first unrestricted free agent while representing their new market.

Sources later confirmed Kwiatkoski agreed to join the Silver and Black on a three-year, $21 million contract, showing the Raiders were serious about upgrading a long deficient linebacker corps.

The deal came together quickly, on the first day of free agency’s open negotiating window, because Kwiatkoski loved what the Raiders had to say. He would join the Raiders as a full-time, three-down middle linebacker.

“I felt that I’ve earned that spot, and that’s something I looked for in free agency,” Kwiatkoski said in an exclusive interview with NBC Sports Bay Area, available in its entirety on the Raiders Talk Podcast. “When they told me that, it was very appealing.”

That wasn’t the only reason the former Chicago Bear signed with the Raiders.

“They called very early and, when I spoke to them, it was very clear there’s an excitement around the whole organization with the move to Las Vegas,” Kwiatkoski said. “That was one of a number of reasons why I [made my decision]. When we played them in London last year and I just loved the mentality they brought to the game where they come right at you. With their defensive scheme, I thought I’d fit right in. I gave it some time and took some other calls, but I ended up thinking the Raiders were the best fit for me.”

There was some thought he’d fit in well as the Bears’ middle linebacker, but that prospect was eliminated when Danny Trevathan signed a contract extension on March 9. Kwiatkoski proved worthy of a starting gig after taking over following Trevathan’s season-ending elbow injury in Week 9.

There was no going back after an excellent eight-game stretch that included 58 tackles, two sacks and interception. Especially, not with teams ready to court him on the open market and make him a major player.

While those numbers look solid, the clip below shows exactly what the Raiders are getting in Kwiatkoski, and he doesn’t even record a stat.

Kwiatkoski put Minnesota running back Dalvin Cook on his back during a Week 4 win over the Vikings, blowing up a play with raw power and aggression.

“That’s an example of how I enjoy playing. I like being physical, going downhill,” Kwiatkoski said. “That’s how I have always played, and I plan on continuing to do that.”

He’ll do that with the Silver and Black, while paired with fellow free-agent addition Cory Littleton.

“He’s a great linebacker,” Kwiatkoski said. “To be able to line up with him and call him my teammate is going to be fun.”

The former LA Ram is a true sideline-to-sideline presence and an excellent coverage linebacker, a perfect complement to Kwiatkoski’s strength going downhill as a run defender and blitzer. The former high school safety, who converted to linebacker at West Virginia, also is confident in coverage and running a defense from the middle linebacker spot.

[RELATED: Raiders go offense/defense in latest mock draft]

Chicago’s fourth-round draft pick back in 2016 always has worked hard and capitalized on opportunities when presented, helping him earn a lucrative deal with a Raiders team counting on him to be a consistent playmaker. Earning this opportunity certainly is a point of pride as he moves on to the next chapter of his career.

“There were definitely times where I got down on myself after certain things happened, but to see how it has all played out … for me, no matter what my role was or what the situation was, I just put my head down and kept working,” Kwiatkoski said. “For that to all payoff is really gratifying. You can only control what you can control, and that’s what I focused on. I never lost sight of my goals. No matter what my role was, I was determined to work like a starter and play each day like it’s my last. For it to work out the way it has, with this new opportunity, it’s really gratifying.”