Raiders draft target Rashan Gary should shine at NFL Scouting Combine

Raiders draft target Rashan Gary should shine at NFL Scouting Combine

INDIANAPOLIS – Rashan Gary believes he’s the best player available in this NFL draft, regardless of position. The former Michigan defensive lineman made that clear speaking to reporters a few weeks back, while training for this week’s NFL Scouting Combine.

While Ohio State’s Nick Bosa is widely considered the cream of this year’s crop, many draft analysts put Gary right up near the top.

He’s consistently listed in the top 5 among rankings at his position – defensive lineman dominate the overall draft boards – and on mock drafts, with most slotting him to go No. 4 overall to the Raiders.

That isn’t always met with positive reactions. His stat line is the largest sticking point, with just nine sacks his last two seasons at Michigan and 3.5 in 2018 while dealing with injury issues.

Fans want more of a proven track record. The combine, however, could sway them and possibly some NFL teams. Odds are great Gary puts on a show in all these individual drills. The former No. 1 prep recruit has all the physical tools, with ideal size at 6-foot-5, 283 pounds, with strength and agility to play the run and rush the passer.

His athleticism, after all, is sky high. At this point, that’s his greatest asset.

“Rashan Gary to me is -- he's a little bit more athlete than football player at this point in time,” NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said Monday in a conference call. “You'll see a rare, rare, rare combination of size and speed. Very explosive. The production doesn't necessarily match the skill set. So that to me kind of going back through, watching more tape on all these guys, as you go through the process, I view him as a top-10 player. Wouldn't shock me if he was the second pick in the draft because there's tremendous upside with him from a skill set standpoint.”

That’s why he should thrive in the combine environment, where all his physical tools will be on display. Coaches will take a look at that a see lump of clay easily molded into an excellent pass rusher and complete player off the edge.

Do the Raiders agree with that sentiment, and would GM Mike Mayock and head coach Jon Gruden take him at No. 4 if Bosa and Kentucky’s Josh Allen are off the board? That information will remain close to the vest, though there are pros and cons to be weighed with such a selection.

At No. 4, you need a slam dunk. It would be if Gary lives up to Jeremiah’s NFL comparison.

“I think the ceiling for him is like a Cam Jordan, who seemed to be one of the better defensive ends in the NFL,” Jeremiah said. “He was a big heavy end. I know some people say he should kick inside. I like him better on the edge. That's where he fits for me. But kind of the -- a lot of disruption, not a lot of production.”

Gary will spend the pre-draft process trying to eliminate doubts in interviews and official visits. A strong showing could put him in in the running for a top 5 pick, where each team with one needs defensive line help.

Gary believes he should be taken up there.

“I feel like I’m the best player in the draft, defensively and offensively,” Gary said, via the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “I’m the best player in the draft. “The team [that drafts me] is going to get Rashan Gary. I’m a blue collar worker. Every day, head down, learn the ways of the team, be the best now and be the best for that team and be the best for that state and bring back a Super Bowl wherever I go.”

The Raiders have three first-round picks this season thanks to the Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper trades, so there are opportunities to take an edge rusher at No. 24 or 27 if one doesn’t get selected or if Gruden/Mayock decide they need another one.

[RELATED: Cowboys exec throws shade at Raiders over Cooper trade]

Jeremiah has some edge rushing suggestions for the Raiders if they want one later in the first round.

“One name I'll throw out to you is L.J. Collier from TCU, who I think you're going to continue to see get more notoriety and attention as we go through the process,” Jeremiah said. “…He's got a nasty little shake bowl move, he's got quick hands, he can convert speed to power. He can play a little bit inside, he can play outside. He's got some versatility that way. So he would be one I think kind of in the bottom of one.

“Jaylon Ferguson is another one with real heavy hands, who's kind of to me a little bit of a poor man's Chandler Jones. He's got unbelievable production when you look at it. I think he led the nation in sacks. He's another one I think you can kind of keep an eye on there at the end there in the end of the first round where they've got some options. So they can go a lot of different ways.”

NFL rumors: Donald Trump says season should start on time despite coronavirus

NFL rumors: Donald Trump says season should start on time despite coronavirus

President Donald Trump held a call with the commissioners of major American sports leagues Saturday, and offered a prediction for the upcoming NFL season.

Trump told NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and the other members on the call that the NFL season should start on time despite the coronavirus outbreak, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Adam Schefter reported. Trump reportedly told the commissioners that he expects arenas and stadiums to be filled come August and September, according to Wojnarowski and Schefter.

However, it's currently unclear if public health officials agree with Trump's prediction. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases as well as a lead member of the White House's coronavirus taskforce, told Warriors star Steph Curry that sports only can return once the country as a whole has turned the corner with the outbreak and the medical system no longer is under strain. Then it will be easier to identify cases, and the cities won't be overwhelmed.

It is unknown when sports will return and how it will look when they do.

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While Trump's optimism might lift some spirits, it will be up to public health officials to determine when it is safe for sports to begin and be held with fans in attendance. With many epidemiologists expecting the virus to surge in the fall, the NFL's season could be in jeopardy.

While all major sports currently are on pause, the NFL is planning to start the season on schedule and hold games as normal with fans in attendance.

The NBA suspended its season indefinitely after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19 on March 11. The NHL, MLB, PGA Tour and MLS all followed suit, with the NCAA choosing to cancel the men's and women's tournaments altogether.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver reportedly said on the call that his league would love to "lead the way" in jumpstarting the economy but they only can do so once they are told by public health officials that it is safe.

[RELATED: Raiders reportedly eyeing DT at No. 19 in draft]

Trump reportedly also brought up the idea of the leagues lobbying for a tax credit that used to exist for fans. This credit would allow fans to deduct concessions and ticket prices from their taxes, according to Schefter and Wojnarowski.

The call included commissioners and top executives from the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, MLS, WNBA, WWE, PGA Tour, LPGA, UFC, IndyCar and Breeders' Cup, according to a White House pool report.

As of Saturday, there were more than 270,000 cases of coronavirus in the United States and more than 7,000 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and NBC News reporting.

NFL draft rumors: Raiders expected to take defensive tackle in Round 1

NFL draft rumors: Raiders expected to take defensive tackle in Round 1

The Raiders stocked up in free agency, spending big to fix a defense that was leaky at best in 2019.

Coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock now must turn their attention to hitting another home run in the NFL draft. With the No. 12 and No. 19 overall picks, most expect the Raiders, who have glaring needs at wide receiver and cornerback, to address those holes in some manner with their first two picks. That might not be where Gruden and Mayock are planning to go, though.

Bleacher Report's Matt Miller reported Friday, citing league sources, that most around the league expect the Silver and Black to draft a top wide receiver with the No. 12 pick, but use their second pick on a "middle-of-the-field" defender since the Raiders would like to make an upgrade at defensive tackle.

The middle of the field was a massive problem for the Raiders' defense in 2019. But they went out and added defensive tackle Maliek Collins and linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski to lead the unit. They also lucked into signing safety Damarious Randall, upgrading the middle of the field at all three levels.

However, the Raiders do still need some help in the middle of their defensive line. Collins is young and thrives beating double teams, but he only signed a one-year deal. Maurice Hurst had a nice 2019 but he still needs to improve and Johnathan Hankins, while great against the run, doesn't move the needle rushing the passer.

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If the Raiders do want to draft a defensive tackle -- it might not be the best use of a first-round pick -- there are a few elite talents they could look at.

Derrick Brown leads this year's defensive tackle class. The 6-foot-5, 318-pound Auburn product might be the most complete defensive tackle to enter the draft since Aaron Donald. He has powerful hands, an unreal motor and can play in odd and even fronts. He's a Day 1 plug-and-play starter with All-Pro potential. Brown is expected to be a top-10 pick so the likelihood of him donning and Silver and Black is low.

Second on the list is South Carolina's Javon Kinlaw. The 6-foot-5, 315-pound Gamecock is an elite pass-rusher with all the tools and the strength of a bull. He has a great first step and unreal explosiveness. Kinlaw might be a shade below Brown but he appears to have Pro Bowler written all over him. He could be available for the Raiders at No. 12, but it's doubtful he slips to No. 19.

The next two players are end of Day 1-beginning of Day 2 guys, which means the Raiders must be sure they can contribute right away to take them at No. 19 or must trade down to make the pick lineup with the talent.

Next up is TCU's Ross Blacklock, a 6-foot-4, 305-pound load who has all the goods to be a star at the NFL level. Blacklock has the size, length, power and athleticism to be a dynamic playmaker at the NFL level. While some evaluators believe it might take him some time to adjust to the NFL game, he has all the tools you want in a three-down interior defensive lineman.

The last high-end interior defensive lineman is Oklahoma's Neville Gallimore. The rare defensive tackle that is defined by his speed, the 6-foot-2, 302-pound Gallimore has all the looks of a Day 1 NFL starter who can collapse the pocket and put the quarterback on his heels. His quickness, motor and power are traits that leap off the tape.

[RELATED: McKinney headlines top DB prospects for Raiders to target]

Now a middle-of-the-field defender could mean a safety like Alabama's Xavier McKinney, which would mean the Raiders would shift Randall to corner where they have a huge hole after Eli Apple's contract couldn't get finalized.

If Kinlaw or Brown falls to the Raiders, Gruden and Mayock should snap them up. Both would be a powerful inside presence who could open up rushing lanes for Clelin Ferrell and Maxx Crosby.

But if both are off the board and corner like Florida's C.J. Henderson or even LSU's Kristian Fulton still are available, it might be wise to address to cornerback need first and see if a defensive tackle like Davon Hamilton,  Raekwon Davis or Justin Madubuike falls to them in the third round.