Raiders

Oaklander Marshawn Lynch will be a handy shield for Mark Davis

Oaklander Marshawn Lynch will be a handy shield for Mark Davis

Marshawn Lynch has some big beast to mode in his new role as Oakland’s Oaklandest Raider, and the first item on the agenda is to make the customers forget that most of them are about to be ex-customers.

Lynch, who is a pro forma trade between the Raiders and the Seattle Seahawks away from repatriation with his ancestral home, will be a handy shield (pun intended) to those who want to string Mark Davis up from the highest light pole at Bushrod Park. At least he will be in the short term.

What he is as a football player two years from his best seasons remains to be seen. He turns 31 a week from Saturday, and 31-year-olds, even ones who have taken a year off from the game to rejuvenate a battered body and weary mind, do not tend to light up the night with their incandescent talents.

But Lynch could also defy the math because those best seasons were wondrous things indeed. And the closer he is to his Mode years, the greater the Raiders’ chances of doing the one thing that can save Davis from the ignominy that awaits him in this town.

Win the big one.

The Raiders’ proudest era is now 35 years old; that’s the last time they won the Super Bowl by eviscerating Washington. It’s been a hills-and-ravines existence since then, and the current Raiders just finished living down 12 years of horrendous existence.

They are, in the words of the prophets, a very live bet indeed.

They are also a very live bet on the way out of town, which means that for Oakland fans who have chosen to endure far more than a fan base should be expected to, the window will be open for three more years, max, before it shuts for good . . . or until they move back to Oakland in 2033 as part of their 20 years in/13 years out/20 years in migratory pattern.

Thus, Lynch will define at least some of the terms of the Raiders’ departure. If he is a key contributor to another parade, he will be remembered as the man who made the team’s departure a slightly more palatable one. That’s a nice way to never have to pay for another drink in your town ever again.

And for him, this is a win-win proposition. If he isn’t Lynchy enough for the fan base – that is, if his 31-year-old legs act the way most 31-year-old legs act in the modern NFL – at least he came with the best of intentions, and whatever bad feelings about the Las Vegas Raiders remain won’t touch him. After all, he will have chosen the OAKLAND Raiders, while most of his teammates will have been assigned to them.

Yes, that matters. At a time when Oakland’s renaissance-let is coming with the departures of two of their three professional sports teams, wanting Oakland has always played well with those who live in Oakland . . . as it should.

And while anyone can come home again, coming home this way plays exceedingly well. Marshawn Lynch has always understood this about his home, and if nothing else, he is genuine about Oakland.

So he will be a Raider at last, and no matter what kind of Raider he turns out to be, he will be an honored Oaklander no matter what.

But if he happens to be the grand marshal in the city’s final Super Bowl parade, well, being made the mayor without ever having to be elected is a nice gig, too. He just has a finite time to pull it off before Mark Davis reminds everyone that he owns the Oakland Renters.

Raiders watch running backs Damien Harris, Josh Jacobs at Alabama Pro Day

Raiders watch running backs Damien Harris, Josh Jacobs at Alabama Pro Day

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – General manager Mike Mayock was the most prominent Raider at Alabama’s pro day. He wasn’t the only one with a keen eye on the Crimson Tide’s NFL draft prospects.

New running backs coach Kirby Wilson was on hand Tuesday in Tuscaloosa, Ala. shadowing Josh Jacobs and Damien Harris. The Raiders remain unsettled at the position, and Wilson was afforded the luxury of checking out the draft’s top two rushing prospects at the same time.

Jacobs and Harris should be the first running backs taken off the board. Both guys could be Raiders targets, and will be evaluated closely as they determine which players to take and when.

Both guys came off well during Tuesday’s workouts.

It’s odd to see top prospects from the same school, sharing carries throughout illustrious careers. There’s no competition between the two for who gets drafted first, though both should be gone in two rounds. They just want to show well throughout the pre-draft process.

“The whole situation has never phased us,” Harris said. “It has never even been a conversation about who goes first. I know that our friendship means more than where either of us get drafted.

"Josh is a guy that I have looked up to, and I hope that he has looked up to me and that I can be a positive influence in his life.”

Those two shared carries for the Crimson Tide, but will be drafted in places with an expectation they’ll carry a significant load. Harris is a tough runner capable of pass protecting well and being an every-down player.

He has solid game tape and didn’t feel pressure to impress at Alabama’s pro day, though he went out and executed well.

“I wasn’t necessarily looking to wow anybody or impress anybody,” Harris said. “I just wanted to be myself and compete at a high level with guys I played with for a long time. I was able to do that today.”

Jacobs didn’t run at the NFL Scouting Combine and was generally limited there due to a minor groin injury. He ran the 40-yard dash in the 4.6s at Alabama’s pro day.

The number is but a minor component of his draft evaluation – Jacobs wasn’t available to the media Tuesday -- and it shouldn’t greatly impact his draft stock.

"He didn’t run as well as you would hope at 4.6 but I thought the field workout was outstanding, specifically him catching the football,”analyst Daniel Jeremiah said on the NFL Network’s broadcast of Alabama pro day. “...The 4.6 is not ideal, but it’s not going to cause him to fall very far."

Analysts generally consider Jacobs the draft’s top running backs and possibly the position’s only first-round pick.

Jacobs has ideal size and is a physical, three-down back. He’s also a quality receiving option. His carry total was relatively low, though he was productive over 140 touches this season.

Harris was used more during his Alabama tenure, averaging 6.4 yards per carry while exceeding 1,000 yards twice in his four-year career.

[RELATED: Quinnen Williams never takes rise to top NFL draft prospect for granted]

Continued success is the goal for Harris and Jacobs, ready to move on and represent their university well.

“Being a running back at the University of Alabama is something to take very serious, something I take a lot of pride in,” Harris said. “To be listed with some of the greats to come from this school is an honor. It’s truly special and it’s humbling.”

Quinnen Williams never takes rise to top NFL draft prospect for granted

Quinnen Williams never takes rise to top NFL draft prospect for granted

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Alabama holds an annual junior pro day in early March for players remaining in college who should be legitimate future NFL draft prospects.

Quinnen Williams wasn’t on last year’s participant list. There was no reason why he should after spending 2017 as a reserve defensive end.

“I wasn’t even thought about in terms of the NFL,” Williams said Tuesday at Alabama’s Crisp Indoor Practice Facility. “No scouts knew me.”

They know Williams now. He was the most consistently dominant player in college football on tape last year, one prominent NFL draft analyst said, following a successful position switch. Williams was an overwhelming nose guard, totaling eight sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss in 2018.

Now he’s an elite NFL draft prospect expected to go in the top 5 overall. The rarity of his rocket-ship rise isn’t lost on Williams, who understands and appreciates his standing after a breakout calendar year.

In reality, however, it hasn’t even been that long since Williams flew stealth, well under the radar.

“It was like seven months back that I wasn’t even starting, wasn’t even thinking about the draft or what came next,” Williams said. “It just sinks in sometimes, being here and that I don’t even have to perform. It’s crazy to be where I’m at now.”

Williams didn’t join Crimson Tide teammates in position drills or standardized pre-draft testing. There was no point in that after an excellent combine performance where he wowed most everyone with blazing speed and shocking agility for someone over 300 pounds.

Williams also had a procedure on his finger right after the combine – he damaged some ligaments in a game last November, but played through it – and didn’t want to risk a rehab setback by a pro day where he had nothing to prove.

Williams’ tape is awesome. His testing was A1, and he comes off jovial and football savvy in private meetings. General manger John Lynch and VP of player personnel Adam Peters represented the 49ers, who own the No. 2 overall pick and were among teams meeting with Williams on Tuesday. 

General manager Mike Mayock lead a Raiders contingent at Alabama’s pro day, though the Silver and Black have met with him before.

Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther wasn’t in Tuscaloosa, Ala. for the pro day, but there’s time to schedule an expected private workout with him before the draft. Williams is a realistic option should the Raiders stay put at No. 4.

He wasn’t viewed as a top draft pick prior to this year, but the talent has always been there. Williams worked extremely hard to turn potential into production and capitalize on the new opportunity to create havoc on the defensive interior.

[RELATED: Who are consensus picks for Raiders, 49ers?]

That’s something Williams never, ever takes for granted.

“That’s why I do everything full speed,” Williams said. “I know how hard I had to work to get to this spot, and now that I’m here I’m not just going to feel satisfied. There’s more work to do. I’m very passionate about that fact.”