Raiders

Jordy Nelson's presence felt in Raiders receiver corps

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AP

Jordy Nelson's presence felt in Raiders receiver corps

ALAMEDA – Jordy Nelson was the biggest name to join the Raiders this offseason. A two-year contract brought the veteran receiver to Oakland days after Green Bay released him, and he’s already made a major impact on his position group.

Quarterback Derek Carr has lauded Nelson’s leadership, and his involvement with younger players in an overhauled position group. That has been clear during a productive offseason program that has just a three-day minicamp remaining.

“We’ve put in a few good months here in the meeting rooms and on the practice field,” Nelson said Thursday, after helping coach a prep passing league tournament at Raiders HQ. “We have another week to go, but we’ve done well.”

Nelson may be the biggest name among the new guys, but he isn't the only established receiver to join the Silver and Black. Martavis Bryant was acquired from Pittsburgh for a third-round pick during the NFL Draft, and has impressed Nelson in a few short weeks. 

“He’s very talented,” Nelson said. “Everyone has seen what Martavis has done in Pittsburgh. He’s another threat to put out there in the passing game. He’s another big threat as well. We have a few big guys to line up and hopefully create some mismatches. We’re looking forward to him playing with us. We’re excited to see him get on the field and get after it.”

Nelson has helped Bryant and other receivers hit the ground running this offseason. He’s involved in meetings and game plans, trying to be as quarterback friendly as possible.

“Nothing is just being left under the rug,” Carr said last week. “Nothing is just being thrown out the window and not thought about. Jordy is very detailed. He wants to do everything exactly how you want it done. I see why Aaron (Rodgers) loved throwing him the ball. He knows if you’re comfortable, you’ll throw it to them. I think all the guys are taking note of that.”

The Raiders hoped to add production and leadership with Nelson’s acquisition. The 32-year old has a long track record of success in the NFL, save a down period save a stretch last year after Rodgers got hurt.

Nelson won’t be a motivational speaker, but his professionalism could set an example for an otherwise young receiver corps.

“When you add a guy like that, it just trickles down throughout the whole room of guys just their study habits,” Carr said. “You see Jordy off to the side when another group is in, if you just look over there, he is probably just telling somebody something about a route or a technique or a coverage. He’s very smart. He can read coverage like a quarterback.”

Boom or bust? Some of the best, scariest options for Raiders first-round picks

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USA TODAY SPORTS IMAGES

Boom or bust? Some of the best, scariest options for Raiders first-round picks

Raiders general manager Mike Mayock wants four foundational players from this NFL draft. Finding them is far easier near the top, where the Raiders three first-round picks.

He and head coach Jon Gruden have to hit at an above average rate even with all that draft capital, which could increase with a trade down at either No. 4, 24, 27 or 35.

Defense needs serious help most everywhere, and offense has specific holes to plug as the 2019 season encroaches. Every upgrade-worthy position won’t get addressed in one draft, but they have to make the most of selections they do make.

Will the Raiders land some boom picks or busts in the first round? We’ll choose a few options at each first-round pick that could end up like Khalil Mack or, JaMar—well, the quarterback who shall not be named.

No. 4 overall

NOTE: We’re going to set some rules at No. 4 to think outside the box a bit: The Raiders love Ohio State edge rusher Nick Bosa as a producer and scheme fit, but we’ll assume he’s gone in the top three. We’ll take Quinnen Williams away as well to make things interesting, even though we think the interior defensive lineman is a sure thing and would be the pick if he’s sitting there at four.

Boom?: LB Devin White, LSU The do-it-all linebacker doesn’t fill a glaring need here, but the Raiders need to take the best player available wherever possible to strengthen this roster long term. If Bosa and Williams are gone – they have been eliminated as options for this story – and the Raiders don’t like options to trade down, White could be a dynamic, safe selection at No. 4.

He has great playing speed, hits hard, isn’t afraid to blitz and can cover tight ends. The Raiders haven’t had a player like that in the middle for years, and he could lead this Raiders defense for years. Sure, the Raiders have Vontaze Burfict and Brandon Marshall, but those veterans aren’t long-term answers and shouldn’t stop the Raiders from taking someone who seems to be a surefire NFL standout at No. 4. While the team’s primary focus at No. 4 hones on a few prospects or a trade down, White could offer great value and Jon Gruden-like tenacity at an important position.

Bust?: OLB/DE Josh Allen, Kentucky Before we all freak out at this selection and tag him with this link on social media, let’s make this clear: Josh Allen should be an excellent pro. He has the size, speed and pass-rush ability and work ethic to succeed in this league. But…would that happen with the Raiders? Is he a perfect scheme fit? Probably not. Analysts say he’s better suited for a 3-4 defense as a standup outside linebacker, where he could rush, stop the run and cover. While coordinator Paul Guenther is an innovative mind who can make any talented player work, this might not be a perfect pairing. Again, and I can’t say this enough, we’re talking bust POTENTIAL, with players consider worthy of the No. 4 pick. Those guys are most always elite talents.

No. 24 overall

Boom?: RB Josh Jacobs, Alabama Taking runners in the first round can be a polarizing proposition, but Jacobs is a do-it-all player who would fit well as Jon Gruden’s feature back. He has power and acceleration to rush inside and out. He’s a solid receiver with some elusiveness in space. Analysts see potential in him as a pass protector. He also doesn’t have many carries to his credit, so he’s fresh and ready to assume a large workload. He’ll still get rest with Gruden’s preference of using several runners, but Jacobs could be an excellent lead back with plenty of touches in this scheme.

Bust?: DE Clelin Ferrell, Clemson The Raiders need edge rush help at some point early in the draft, and would look to get one in the 20s if their top pick goes in a different direction. As with Allen, there’s a real possibility Ferrell develops into a solid, productive pro. After all, he was steadily productive at Clemson. But…if we’re playing devil’s advocate, he was playing on an awesome defensive line with intimidators everywhere. Also, Ferrell won’t wow you with athletic traits, creating some concern with how he’ll fare against the NFL’s best offensive tackles. He’s a 4-3 defensive end and would fit the scheme, but will great college production continue in the pros at a level worthy of a first-round pick?

No. 27 overall

Boom?: CB Rock Ya Sin, Temple This aggressive cover man is tough, competitive as heck and has great ball skills. Does that sound like a Raiders cornerback, or what? The former wrestler can obviously mix it up at the line of scrimmage, and analysts say he’s good finding the ball in the air and making plays on it. He’ll play tough against the run and battle throughout a game. He could give the secondary some grit as the Raiders search for quality, depth and long-term solutions at an important position.

Bust?: Greedy Williams, LSU Williams has a lot of plus traits and an excellent first name for a cornerback. Analysts say he lacks play strength and has a thin frame. He’s could be a quality cover man, but there he’s not terribly physical. The Raiders like corners who tackle well and never give up.

Why Raiders have reasons to close ranks with NFL draft approaching

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AP

Why Raiders have reasons to close ranks with NFL draft approaching

Information has been gathered on this year’s NFL draft. It’s time for Raiders decision makers to start making decisions.

That’s why the team is closing ranks leading up to next week’s draft. The Raiders sent their scouts home for the weekend and won’t bring them back before the NFL draft, NFL Network first reported Thursday morning.

Few inside any organization know the true plans, which top brass prefers to remain in-house leading up to the draft. Leaks are less likely when the circle of trust is small, which is why the act of sending some personnel people home is not entirely uncommon.

Even the part of the NFL Network report that suggests general manager Mike Mayock and head coach Jon Gruden don’t know who to trust is somewhat understandable when given some context.

Significant turnover within the scouting staff is expected after the NFL draft, something sources say is relatively common knowledge in the team facility. That leaves many without job security, lessening allegiance that could lead to leaks.

Scouts working on this year’s draft were hired by a previous regime, creating an awkward pairing as we head toward the spring.

Mayock was hired on Dec. 31, 2018, already deep into the team’s 2019 draft prep. There wasn’t time to make hires at the national and regional levels – the team still hasn’t replaced director of player personnel Joey Clinkscales, who was let go in January after years as Reggie McKenzie’s right-hand man -- and Mayock said at the Senior Bowl he wanted to evaluate incumbent scouts during this pre-draft process.

The Raiders certainly want to avoid a repeat of last year when leaks were prevalent leading up to a draft where scouts and coaches reportedly had different draft boards.

Mayock said in January he wants to create an open building with transparency between coaches and scouts, with everyone pulling in the same direction.

This NFL Network report about trust issues suggests the building isn’t there yet, and won’t be until Mayock can import some of his guys. And the fact releasing the scouts immediately got leaked to a national reporter is a sign the Raiders were right to be worried.

[RELATED: Game-by-game predictions for Raiders' 2019 season]

We’re less than a week from the NFL draft now, and the Raiders have tons of information on this class of prospects. They’ll strategize on how to navigate an all-important draft that will play a massive role in the Gruden/Mayock tenure.

Few people will know exactly what the Raiders will do even after strategy sessions, and they’d like to keep it that way.