Here are some players and positions to keep an eye out in the NFL Scouting Combine approaching this week.
Defensive Tackles- Leonard Williams, Danny Shelton, Arik Armstead
The talent at the top of the inside defensive linemen is stacked. Williams is a special talent, but how special? The combine will show teams whether he is worthy of a top three selection. Either way he won’t get passed the top 3 picks.
The Raiders have needs on the inside, so it would not surprise me to see them take Shelton or Armstead. Both might be a reach, but a dominate combine could make either of those guys a top five pick. Or the Raiders may play it smart and move down and still get their guy.
Wide Receivers- Amari Cooper, Kevin White, DeVante Parker,
The consensus around scouts and media is the Raiders need weapons. Rather or not they do that in free agency, the first round, or the second round depends on how these three guys perform.
Cooper has the production, Parker has the size, and White has a combination of both. The combine will be the perfect outlet for those three guys to compete and see who will be crowned king of the receiver class. Thus far it has been cooper because of his route running and production. Still, he could be dethroned due to the other two’s size and up side.
Parker is a guy who could really rise as he had more than 800 yards and minimal drops in only six games.
Running Backs- Duke Johnson, Jay Ayayi, T.J. Yeldon, Ameer Abdullah
Even the biggest Latavius Murray and Maurice Jones Drew fans can admit the Raiders could use some running back help. If Todd Gurley or Melvin Gordon slide to the second round it should be a no brainier for the Raiders.
Still, any of these guys could contribute to the team even if they are drafted in the middle rounds. I expect the Raiders to find which one’s skillset they prefer based on combine numbers, interviews, and how they measure. I like any of these guys depending on how the rest of the draft and free agency playsout of course.
Inside Linebackers- Denzel Perryman, Eric Kendricks
Miles Burris ranked among the worst inside linebackers, possibly because he was out of position. With Jack Del Rio and Ken Norton Jr. being former linebackers on staff I expect them to address that need. Perryman and Kendricks were both highly productive at the collegian level. Each of them are undersized but instinctive players. Their draft value will be determined by how fast they run in the 40 yard dash, how well they move in coverage, their bench press, and how tall they will be officially listed.
Outiside Linebackers- Vic Beasley, Nate Orchard, Shaq Thompson
What do these three players have in common? They were all highly productive players on defense who have questions about their size. Eyes will be on them to not only show the athleticism displayed on tape in position drills and agility drills, but they must also jump well, measure tall, and bench a lot.
Beasley could have been a top pick last year, but could slide to the bottom picks as it is unsure if he is a stand up or hand down end. Same goes for Orchard, but last year’s sack leader grades somewhere in the second round.
Well Thompson should go in the top half of the draft, every team should have him on his radar. The safety/linebacker/runningback is exactly the type of player you tailor a defense around. Four might be too high, but trading down to draft someone who could highlight JDR and KNJ ‘s hybrid defensive philosophies is not a bad idea.