Raiders

Raiders coaches slap stickers on standouts during Senior Bowl victory

grudenstickersap.jpg
AP

Raiders coaches slap stickers on standouts during Senior Bowl victory

Daniel Jones extended his arm for a handoff, but pulled it back at the last moment. The Duke quarterback was going right but rolled back left, fooling enough defenders to forge an easy path to the end zone.

It capped a 10-play, 84-yard drive and scored the North squad’s first touchdown during Saturday afternoon’s Senior Bowl.

Raiders head coach Jon Gruden was waiting for Jones near the sideline, ready to slap the iconic silver and black shield on his helmet.

Jones wasn’t the only one with a Raiders sticker after a 34-24 victory in the annual college all-star game at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala.

Several NFL draft prospects earned one from the Raiders coaching staff, which led the North squad all week. Some guys -- including Delaware safety Nasir Adderley, UC Davis receiver Keelan Doss, UMass receiver Andy Isabella and Texas edge rusher Charles Omenihu -- got two.

That was an easy way to see which players left a good impression on Raiders coaches in this game, typically deemed less important than the practices leading up to it.

Gruden still thinks the game holds value. Here’s why:

“It will weigh in because it’s full-speed live,” Gruden said Thursday, the last full practice of the week. “When you’re live, that’s the only evaluation that we’re lacking. You can run all the controlled environments you want, but the best evaluation comes in games.”

That’s especially true for running backs, who have easier paths through practice without going to the ground. Notre Dame’s Dexter Williams followed up an excellent week with a solid game effort that included a touchdown run, which is what scouts want to see.

The aforementioned players were solid. South defensive lineman Kingsley Keke of Texas A&M was all over the place early on, and end Jaylon Ferguson got to the quarterback a few times. Mississippi State end Montez Sweat flashed his athleticism on occasion. Both offensive lines had solid moments as well.

[RELATED: Raiders keeping close eye on edge rushers at Senior Bowl]

Jones was the best North squad quarterback, and Adderley had an excellent game including an interception late. 

Scouts will break down Senior Bowl practice and game tape time and again in the coming weeks and months leading up to the NFL draft, trying to find players who can help after turning pro.

That includes the Raiders, who leave with great knowledge of every prospect who played in this game.

“Everybody will tell you they look at the Senior Bowl practice tape, the Senior Bowl game film over and over and over,” Gruden said earlier this week. “You watch the matchups over and over and over.

“I remember doing it with [late Raiders owner/GM Al Davis]. He would put the Senior Bowl on for the 44th time and I would say, ‘how many more times are we going to watch that game?’ There’s tremendous value in it. It’s a great tool, and provides great matchups you would never see if you didn’t come here.”

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 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.