NFL Draft 2020: Raiders can find future receivers in Alabama-Michigan


NFL Draft 2020: Raiders can find future receivers in Alabama-Michigan

The Raiders took a step forward in 2019 but did so with mainly smoke and mirrors in the passing game. 

Without Antonio Brown, the Raiders struggled to stretch the field vertically and only tight end Darren Waller and rookie receiver Hunter Renfrow proved to be reliable options for quarterback Derek Carr. 

Jon Gruden has said he wants to be more explosive in the passing game, but to do that the Silver and Black will have to overhaul their receiving corps. 

The 2020 NFL Draft will play a big part in that as the Raiders should allocate at least two, if not three selections to bringing in young, dynamic receivers. 

WIth Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock on the hunt for explosive pass-catchers, their eyes should be on Orlando on Wednesday when No. 13 Alabama and No. 14 Michigan lock horns in the Citrus Bowl. 

Here are five receivers the Silver and Black should be watching on New Year's Day in Orlando. 

Jerry Jeudy, Alabama

Right now, Jeudy is seen as the cream of a loaded wide-receiver class. It's unlikely he falls out of the top 10 and to the Raiders at No. 12, but I expect Oklahoma's CeeDee Lamb to overtake him as the top wideout after testing, and we could see teams opting to fill other needs early in the draft and taking one of the other talented receivers in the second round. 

At 6-foot-1, 192 pounds, Jeudy is a polished route-runner with soft hands. He is great at tracking the ball vertically and he has been running by SEC defensive backs since he stepped foot on campus in Tuscaloosa, Ala. He has drawn comparisons to Cincinnati Bengals star A.J. Green and is projected to be an immediate impact player in the NFL. 

Once again, it's unlikely he slips out of the top six, let alone top 11, but he's one to watch regardless. 

Henry Ruggs, Alabama

Ruggs feels like the guy the Raiders will nab with one of their two first-round draft picks. 

With Jeudy and Lamb off the board, the Raiders grab a guy with blistering speed who can help take the Raiders' offense from a dink-and-dunk passing attack to one that can be explosive down the field. 

Ruggs has improved his route-running this season at Alabama and is electric with the ball in his hands. He's played mostly in the slot at Alabama but can play on the outside as well. He's a versatile guy who Gruden could find multiple ways to use. 

DeVonta Smith, Alabama

The hero from the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship Game, Smith isn't as fast as Ruggs or as explosive as Jeudy but he still has the chance to go in the first or early second round. 

The 6-foot-1,175-pound receiver is great at creating separation and making people miss after the catch. He still has room to grow in his frame and needs to work on his body control to reach his ceiling. There still is some question as to whether or not Smith will declare for the draft or choose to return to Alabama and be part of a dynamic one-two punch with Jaylen Waddle. 

If he does declare he could be an option for the Raiders at either No. 19 overall or perhaps on Day 2 of the draft if he's still available. 

Donovan Peoples-Jones, Michigan

The junior receiver has lined up outside and in the slot for Jim Harbaugh at Michigan. At 6-foot-2, 204 pounds, Peoples-Jones has good hands and is able to adjust to balls that are thrown outside of his target radius. 

He will need to polish his footwork at the NFL level and right now projects to be a likely Day 2 receiver. With the Raiders having three third-round draft picks, there's a possibility that Peoples-Jones will be calling Las Vegas home in 2020, if he decides to declare for the draft. 

Peoples-Jones also can be used as a punt returner which would allow the Raiders to move on from Dwayne Harris, who missed most of the season with an ankle injury. 

[RELATED: Carr, Gruden address QB's uncertain future]

Nico Collins, Michigan

At 6-foot-4, 222 pounds, Collins has the body of an NFL receiver. While he has been hampered by the lackluster play of Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson, Collins still hauled in 33 passes for 681 yards and seven touchdowns this season. 

He has a long, lean body that he uses well to shield off defenders and make contested catches. Collins shows good body control downfield and has a knack for high-pointing the football. He will need to work on his footwork at the snap, but Collins could be a good Day 2 receiver for the Raiders to target. 

Collins has drawn comparisons to Chicago Bears wideout Allen Robinson. 

Raiders' Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas looks awesome lit up at night


Raiders' Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas looks awesome lit up at night

The Raiders’ new home of Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas appears to be blending in perfectly to the new location.

Vegas reporter Joe Bartles was driving by the stadium and took footage of what it will look like when it’s all lit up -- and it looks pretty amazing.

The black with silver lighting gives the perfect homage to the color scheme of the team.

The $1.8 billion project is maintaining strides toward its projected July 2020 opening. Construction began in September of 2017.

[RELATED: Watch drone video of Allegiant Stadium construction]

It’ll be a top technological experience for those in attendance, as any venue should in 2020. In addition to some of the top Wi-Fi, there will be nearly 2,200 screens throughout the stadium. There will be 65,000 seats as well as a translucent plastic polymer roof.

It gets hot in Vegas, of course, so that extra detail was imperative. 

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NFL rumors: Tom Brady 'identified' Raiders as team he could win with

NFL rumors: Tom Brady 'identified' Raiders as team he could win with

Tom Brady is a Tampa Bay Buccaneer. That still feels weird to say.

The six-time Super Bowl champion elected to leave the New England Patriots after 20 years, and spend the twilight of his career in Florida. But was that his first choice? According to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport, Brady initially had his eyes on a different team -- the Raiders

"Around the time of the Super Bowl, Brady wants the Raiders, but like they're probably not going to make a big run at him," Rapoport said on Complex's "Load Management" podcast. "And then, everybody was reporting Raiders, and I'm like, 'maybe I'm crazy.'

"Yes. Oh, yes," Rapoport said when asked if Brady wanted the Raiders. "Now, I'm not saying more than the Bucs, but that was a team that he definitely identified and was like, OK, l like this, I could win here."

Rumors of a potential Brady-Raiders pairing swirled for over two months, but the Raiders reportedly never made an offer to the 42-year-old, knowing the type of investment it would take to land him.

On Wednesday, Brady went on the "Howard Stern Show" and talked about the free agency process, appearing to note there wasn't much discussion between the two sides.

“I really believe I could help any organization, and that’s why I signed up to continue to play," Brady told Stern when asked if the Raiders were interested. "If I didn’t think I could do that, I wouldn’t have continued to play. … I don’t know how much interest, they could probably speak to that more than me, I just know the conversations I have with my agent at the time. There were probably a lot of different teams that were interested, I’d say. Some, I want to respect their privacy, too, because they still have organizations they’re running, and I don’t want to f--k with their program at all.”

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With Brady in Tampa, the Raiders will head into the 2020 season with Derek Carr back at the helm and Marcus Mariota serving as his backup.

The Raiders are in Year 2 of an extensive rebuild under coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock. While improving, the Silver and Black aren't on the same timeline as Brady, so the fit always seemed curious unless the Raiders were willing to accelerate their rebuild.

[RELATED: Why speedy Ruggs could be exactly what Raiders are looking for]

Stern said he would have renamed the team "The Brady Boys" in order to land the quarterback if he were the Raiders. Instead, the Raiders wisely spent their cap space shoring up a defense that was atrocious for most of the second half of the season.

If Brady plays long enough, perhaps he and the Raiders can have one final playoff bout. You know, for old time's sake.