Raiders

NFL Draft 2020: Fifteen Prospects for Raiders to watch at Senior Bowl

NFL Draft 2020: Fifteen Prospects for Raiders to watch at Senior Bowl

Last year, Jon Gruden, Mike Mayock and the Raiders' coaching staff got a close look at a number of prospects who eventually would don silver and black while coaching at the Reese's Senior Bowl.

The Raiders won't be coaching this year, with their 7-9 record keeping them from the not-so-prestigious honor that is given to the Cincinnati Bengals and the Detroit Lions this season.

After hitting a home run with the 2019 draft class, Gruden and Mayock are looking to stack classes and fill some of their gaping holes via the 2020 NFL Draft. 

While they won't be coaching in Mobile, Ala., this week, the Raiders still will be hyper-focused on the talent at the Senior Bowl, of which there is a lot that could help the Raiders next season.

Yes, probable high draft picks Justin Herbert (QB, Oregon), Terrell Lewis (EDGE/LB, Alabama), Kristian Fulton (CB, LSU) and Javon Kinlaw (DT, South Carolina) all will be present at the Senior Bowl. And yes, all could intrigue the Raiders. But since the smart money is on Gruden selecting a wide receiver and a linebacker in the first round, we will spend this time focusing on some likely Day 2 and Day 3 guys.

Wide receivers

The Raiders need to select multiple receivers in the 2020 draft. I expect they'll grab either Clemson's Tee Higgins or Alabama's Henry Ruggs in Round 1 (CeeDee Lamb would be nice, but I don't expect he'll be available.) One receiver won't do it, though, and the Senior Bowl has a number of veteran pass-catchers who figure to be available later in the draft.

Michael Pittman Jr., USC: At 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, Pittman is a big-body receiver with bear paws for hands. He's a physical receiver and uses that to his advantage. Pittman has got a good catch radius and is a sufficient route-runner, but he lacks the ability to separate at the top of the route and isn't a dynamic catch-and-run guy. He'd be a solid Day 2 grab.

Brandon Aiyuk, Arizona State: He'll likely start to shoot up draft boards (we have him mocked to the 49ers with the last pick in the first round), but Aiyuk brings all the tools you want in a wide receiver. He has good hands with great after-the-catch ability. Likely won't be there, but he's one to watch.

Chase Claypool, Notre Dame: As my colleague Dalton Johnson noted, Claypool is a touchdown machine. The 6-foot-4, 229-pound athletic marvel has great hands, is an efficient route-runner and is great in contested catch situations. Drafting him would give the Raiders a jump-ball threat if they choose to move on from Tyrell Williams. 

Jauan Jennings, Tennessee: At 6-foot-3, 208 pounds, Jennings has prototypical NFL size. He led the Volunteers with 57 catches for 942 yards and nine scores. Questions about his character likely will make him slide, but a good showing in Mobile will help his case. 

Collin Johnson, Texas: Size, size, size. Johnson is 6-foot-6, 220 pounds and a lethal red-zone threat. Great at attacking the ball at the high point while maintaining control of his body.

K.J. Hill, Ohio State: Hill doesn't have the breakaway speed you'd like, but he's solid sub package wide receiver with great hands and polished route-running ability. Definitely, someone for the Raiders to watch.


Edge rushers

Marlon Davidson, Auburn: A Day 2 pick with a specific skill set, Davidson has impressive strength and uses his hands well which allows him to win at the point of attack. Great at keeping runs inside. Not a game-changing rusher, but someone to watch.

Jabari Zuniga, Florida: Zuniga is a versatile edge defender who has a powerful first step and strong hands that have destroyed tackles at the collegiate level. His lateral quickness and wingspan make him a good run defender as well.

Kenny Willekes, Michigan State: Willekes has an insanely high motor and is ultra-competitive. He's the type of player Gruden would love to add to the DL rotation. He is a good run defender and has a solid array of pass-rush moves. Needs to get stronger, but has a high-floor.

Bradlee Anae, Utah: Anae is quick and has good hands. He's a versatile guy who can rush the passer from an up or down position.

Secondary

K'Von Wallace, Clemson: Another Clemson guy? Why not? The Raiders need another safety alongside Johnathan Abram, and Wallace comes from the winning-factory in Death Valley. Wallace is a high-IQ player who played all over the secondary at Clemson. He's most successful as a roamer. At 5-foot-11 his lack of size could be an issue covering downfield at the NFL level, but I wouldn't be shocked to see the Raiders go here.

Linebacker

Malik Harrison, Ohio State: The Raiders need an answer at middle linebacker and Harrison might be the guy. He's a physical thumper in the run game. Coverage ability needs some work, but Harrison should intrigue Mayock and Gruden.

[RELATED: Raiders should follow draft blueprint, raid LSU-Clemson]

Defensive tackle

Leki Fotu, Utah: A late Day 2/early Day 3 guy, Fotu is perfect for a team that needs to create more pressure up the middle. He's an explosive player with great hands. At the moment. he's a rotational piece but could become a starter in time.

Davon Hamilton, Ohio State: At 6-foot-4, 310 pounds, Hamilton is a mountain of a man. He's a smart player who was productive even when facing constant double teams at Ohio State. To beef up the defensive line, the Raiders should look at Hamilton.

Kicker

Rodrigo Blankenship, Georgia: The Raiders almost certainly won't move on from Daniel Carlson, but if they do, Blankenship could be an option in the late rounds or as an undrafted rookie. He has a big leg and was very reliable during his time at Georgia.

NFL Draft 2020: Raiders could find late-round steal in Harrison Hand

NFL Draft 2020: Raiders could find late-round steal in Harrison Hand

Wide receiver and linebacker are the Raiders' two biggest needs as they enter the offseason.

But the Silver and Black need upgrades across the entire defense. All eleven positions will be evaluated and improved if possible. That improvement won't just be for the starting unit, but for the depth as well.

While the linebackers are the most glaring issue, the secondary also needs to be fixed. Trayvon Mullen showed lock-down potential during his rookie season, and the Raiders will be excited to get Johnathan Abram on the field in 2020.

The Raiders first can address their leaky defense in free agency, before turning their attention to the 2020 NFL Draft. There they will find a talented crop of corners from LSU's Kristian Fulton to Alabama's Trevon Diggs.

I don't expect the Raiders to use a first-round draft pick on a cornerback, but even if they do, they'll still need to improve their depth at the position and Harrison Hand could be a great fit.

Hand started his career at Baylor before transferring to Temple. Hand, 5-foot-11, 197, is projected to be a Day 3 pick. He won't be ready to jump in right away, but he's a physical corner, who has worked hard to become a better tackler. He's long, rangy and has solid ball skills.

He believes he has the tools to be a star at the next level.

"I'm a lockdown corner," Hand told NBC Sports Bay Area on Radio Row during the week of Super Bowl LIV. "I've got speed in coverage. Not a lot of corners tend to want to come up and tackle and be in the box -- be that aggressive -- but that's a part of my game that I like to make an impact."

With Gareon Conley traded to the Houston Texans and Daryl Worley hitting free agency, the Raiders need to find a long-term solution to the corner opposite of Mullen. 

Some believe Hand would be a better safety than corner at the next level, but the Temple product wants to mold his game after another corner who many counted out in the draft -- Richard Sherman. 

"His knowledge," Hand said of what part of his game he wants to model after Sherman. "He's a film junky. He knows the game like the back of his hand because of all the film he watches."

[RELATED: Ruggs, Claypool, Jefferson should have Raiders' attention after combine]

The Raiders only have one Day 3 pick right now, but Hand might be someone for them to look at if he's still on the board. He's not afraid to be physical and has the potential to be a solid corner in the NFL if the right team gets ahold of him.

Henry Ruggs, Chase Claypool among combine stars Raiders should target

Henry Ruggs, Chase Claypool among 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.

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.

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.

[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.