Raiders

Raiders hope to help Arden Key prove he's a first-round talent

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AP

Raiders hope to help Arden Key prove he's a first-round talent

Arden Key’s draft stock took a tumble. The former Louisiana State edge rusher knows why. Off-field troubles, some weight gain and a few injuries hindered his production, leading some to raise red flags about his professional future.

That’s why he was available at No. 87 overall, when the Raiders’ second third-round pick stopped his slide.

“I’m a first-round talent, top five,” Key said last week in a conference call. “I went through some situations that caused me to be a third-round pick. I’ve learned from those things and this is the consequence of me going through what I went through. I’m a better person now than I was prior to it. I’m just happy to be at the right place. I feel the Oakland Raiders is the right place for me.”

Key’s happy to be a Raider for a few reasons. He wants to learn behind two of the best, studying under Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin.

Lamonte Winston also made a good impression. The director of player engagement met with Key during his official pre-draft visit with the Raiders, and set out a life plan should Key become a Raider.

“He is off the chart. We had a long talk,” Key said. “We talked about things outside of football, what I want to do as far as business and career, things of that sort. We wrote a plan out and we stuck with that plan. It was saying I was going to be a Raider. We spoke it into existence, now look where I’m at.”

Key must stay out of trouble and focused on football now. The Raiders offer a fresh start, a clean slate for someone who went through some troubled times at Louisiana State. He was away from the program during the 2017 offseason for publicly undisclosed reasons – Key says he was an open book during NFL interviews – a time when he also had shoulder surgery. He played a bit heavier in 2017, and struggled, relatively speaking, when compared to 2016’s game tape.

Key had 56 tackles, 12 sacks, 11 quarterback hits and three forced fumbles in 2016. He had just four sacks an a forced fumble in 2017, looking at times like a different version of himself.

“Two years ago, his tape was unbelievable,” Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said last week after Key’s selection. “He was a heck of a football player. He gained 25 or 26 pounds – he bulked up. I think he tried to add a different dimension to his game size-wise. Perhaps it backfired, he got hurt and there were issues there. He underachieved his year, but I go back to the film two years ago – the kid is special – and I know the man that’s been training him.

"I’ve got a lot of confidence in (defensive coordinator) Paul Guenther and (defensive line coach) Mike Trgovac. They’ve done this a long time, they’ve developed players like this.”

Key can develop behind Mack and Irvin, without the pressure of being a full-time starter. He should be the rotational reserve the Raiders have missed the past few years, when starters played nearly every snap off the edge.

The Raiders are confident Winston’s department can help him stay on a proper path, giving Key a chance to prove he’s a top talent. There’s some work to do, but the Raiders are ready to dig in.

“He’s not a finished product,” Gruden said. “He’s made some mistakes. He’s had some difficult times in his young life, and I know where he’s been for the last several months, and I know what he’s been through in his career. We’ve done a lot of research on him and he has a lot to prove. We have a lot to prove.

"But at the end of the third round, we feel like it’s a gamble worth taking and this young man has some qualities that are rare. We do think he’s a very good kid so I’m not going to get much more into it than that. I realize we have our skeptics, and rightfully so, but this is a young person that needs some help right now and we’re going to help him.”

Key knows he has much to prove, and is ready to start his next chapter.

“That I’m not the guy that the media portrays me to be,” he said. “The only thing. On the field? Football things? Football is not the question. Everybody knows, talent-wise, if we’re just talking talent, (I’m a) top-five pick, automatic.”

Raiders inform NFL draft prospect of parking-ticket history at combine

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USATSI

Raiders inform NFL draft prospect of parking-ticket history at combine

NFL Scouting Combine interviews can be harsh, inappropriate and even downright weird. Ross Blacklock's interview with the Las Vegas Raiders this week in Indianapolis was revelatory. 

The TCU defensive tackle told reporters Thursday that the Raiders informed him he had 37 parking tickets he didn't know about during his time in Fort Worth. 

Blacklock offered a compelling reason for his lack of knowledge on the subject: He claimed the TCU athletic department handled each ticket on his behalf.

"I don't know how they get that," Blacklock shrugged. 

Thirty-seven of anything is a stunning number, let alone when you're counting parking citations. It clearly took the Mike Mayock-led Raiders brain trust aback enough to prompt them to bring it up in an interview, one of 45 they're allowed to conduct during the week in Indianapolis. Those interviews are limited to 18 minutes, so you wonder what question(s) didn't make the cut if Blacklock's ticket history did.

[RELATED: Hurts' talent entices, but should Raiders take chance on QB?] 

Those citations made the Raiders scratch their heads, as you might find yourself doing, too. Alas, it's difficult to envision Blacklock's previous fines dampening teams' enthusiasm for the 6-foot-3, 290-pound defensive lineman. NFL Media's Daniel Jeremiah ranked Blacklock No. 19 in his Top 50 and The Ringer's Danny Kelly slotted Blacklock at No. 38. The prospect didn't crack the first round of NBC Sports Bay Area's latest mock draft, but Blacklock likely won't have to wait longer than a day to hear his name called at the NFL draft in Vegas this April. 

Blacklock has talent, but the Raiders simply have bigger needs than along the interior of their defensive line to draft the former Horned Frog with one of two first-round picks. If the Silver and Black passes on the D-lineman, it won't be because of the parking tickets. 

NFL Draft 2020: Raiders should target these six players on Day 2

NFL Draft 2020: Raiders should target these six players on Day 2

All the talk surrounding the Raiders' 2020 NFL Draft plan revolves around their two first-round picks.

With picks No. 12 and No. 19, how will the Raiders build on the success of last year's draft class? Will they trade up for a quarterback? Take the best receiver available and whatever linebacker is left? Do what is necessary to put Isaiah Simmons in silver and black?

The questions are endless. But the Raiders' draft class truly will come together on Day 2 of the draft, when they have three third-round picks. That's enough ammo to move up into Round 2 or select three players who can contribute immediately to the up-and-coming Raiders. Yes, they could take a flier on Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm or try and develop the enticing talent that is Jalen Hurts, but they have many needs outside of quarterback. 

With the Raiders getting a good look at the best the draft has to offer this week at the NFL Scouting Combine, let's look at six Day 2 prospects for the Raiders to target.

Marlon Davidson, DE, Auburn

Davidson is fast rising so he likely will be gone by the time the Raiders go on the clock in Round 3.

The 6-foot-3, 303-pound defensive end has an impressive array of skills that most NFL teams would love to have on their roster. He has heavy hands and a quick first step. He played outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme on The Plains but might be better suited for an interior role at the next level.

He's a high upside guy who has the ability to help the Raiders in one of their biggest areas of need.


K.J. Hill, WR, Ohio State

The Raiders need more than one wide receiver. While they likely will land one of CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy or Henry Ruggs, the Silver and Black need more weapons for whoever the quarterback is.

This is a deep and talented wide receiver class, so the Raiders could go a number of ways.

I'll highlight Hill because he's a great route-runner with solid hands. He had a down senior season but was an explosive weapon for Dwayne Haskins two years ago.

He'd be a great addition as Gruden looks to build a more dynamic offense.


Troy Dye, LB. Oregon

We all know the Raiders need linebacker help. Whether they trade up to draft Simmons, take Patrick Queen or Kenneth Murray or avoid going linebacker in Round 1, they need to build depth at the position. 

Dye was a four-year starter at Oregon, whose leadership helped keep the program from nosediving. 

He's an athletic, rangy linebacker with the explosiveness to be an impact NFL starter. He needs to work on his play processing and taking better angles in space.

Kenny Willekes, EDGE, Michigan State

The Spartan defensive end has an extremely high floor. He's a very competitive guy with a high motor who would thrive under Gruden.

Willekes has a variety of pass-rush moves and is a stout run defender. 

He racked up 47.5 tackles for loss and 22 sacks during his career at Michigan State and would be a solid addition to the Raiders' defensive end rotation. 


James Proche, WR, SMU

Proche is a name that you don't hear a lot in this loaded class, but he could be the steal of the draft.

At 5-foot-10, the SMU slot receiver has big hands for his size (9 5/8). Those hands were golden during his time at SMU as Proche basically caught anything thrown in his zip code. He has no problem snagging balls at high velocity with one a hand or in the air or off balance.

He's not the fastest or strongest receiver, but he's a guy who could be a valuable weapon in a four-wide set.

[RELATED: Brady-to-Raiders becoming more realistic with latest rumors]

Davon Hamilton, DT, Ohio State

Hamilton is 6-foot-4 and 310 pounds. The Raiders are in need of a big body who can disrupt offenses up the middle.

He's an outstanding run defender and found success against constant double teams while at Ohio State.

His pass-rush skill needs some polishing, but you can't teach size or power. Hamilton has both and the quickness to boot.