Hello, Raider Nation. As promised in Only1Nation’s most recent weekly roundup, we’re bringing you a special combine edition of the Oakland Raiders Weekly Roundup. Here, we’ll talk about things that happened at the NFL combine that are specific or pertinent to the Silver and Black.
Of course, this is the NFL. So there are a few other things to discuss as well, one related to the Oakland Raiders, one not yet — but perhaps?
Anyway, it was quite the combine. Saquon Barkley could have skipped it and still went top 10. Instead he dominated it and will now likely go #1.
Shaquem Griffin is a hero to a new generation, as he should be. Vita Vea and Roquan Smith, two top potential Raider prospects, showed impressive strength and speed respectively, before getting hurt.
But unfortunately, some bad news first. Or news, at least. While many hoped he would revive his career — and some recent personal life achievements looked like it was on track — the Raiders have released…
I’m not one for punny headlines and certainly not the first to throw this one out. But it is appropriately sad and true.
Aldon Smith (allegedly) assaulted his fiancee and fled through a window this past Saturday night. An arrest warrant was issued, and apparently Smith contacted his fiancee’s family and has checked himself into rehab. The Raiders released him on Monday after much speculation as to whether he’d ever play again, and if he was worth keeping on the roster.
He, unfortunately, made that decision for the team. Smith has a history of alcoholism, and it appears it has reared its ugly head in his life again. This time, ending his NFL chances in all likelihood.
The loving embrace of a team and NFL family may have helped Smith in his life path — but reading so many people blaming everyone but Smith himself is a little frustrating. While it’s true if reinstated he may have behaved better with more focus — history shows that’s not necessarily the case. Smith has messed up while active, and while suspended. He’s had many chances, and he squandered them all of them.
That’s what addiction does — it strips away everything but the need, everything else be damned. Alcohol ruined Aldon Smith’s promising football career, and it’s unfortunate he’s still unable to get a handle on it and the people he loves are suffering. Hopefully it all works out for him, but his football days are sadly over.
Let’s turn attention then, to who MIGHT end up a Raider. The 2018 NFL combine showed us some things, and directly related to the Raiders are a few prospects like…
Roquan Smith and Vita Vea
These are two players that were frequently mocked to the Raiders in the first round prior to the combine.
So how did they do? Well, quite well for sure. Unfortunately for both Smith and Vea their respective combines ended early with hamstring injuries, but neither are expected to be serious.
While active, both showed quite a bit of promise in measurables to add to their very impressive play on film.
Smith, the 2017 Butkus Award and a true sideline-to-sideline linebacker with excellent pre-snap diagnosing instincts, had questions about his size. So he came into the combine with a bit more muscle. Initially listed at 226 pounds, he showed up at 236 pounds in Indy and people took notice. But would that extra weight hurt his speed and quickness, his best traits?
Nope. He blazed to a 4.51 mark in the 40 — but unfortunately tweaked his hammy and was unable to compete in any other drills. Still, NFL.com has him rated quite highly and anticipates him becoming an elite player in the NFL. Many mock drafts are still keeping him in the Raiders mix. There is no record of the Raiders meeting with Smith at the combine but take that however you will. And remember — the Niners have the ninth pick and a sudden need at LB:
If SF turns this No. 9 pick into Roquan Smith, a player the Raiders really want, we’ll remember this 49ers coin toss win for a long time
— Kevin Jones (@Mr_KevinJones) March 2, 2018
Whoever the Niners take will always be linked to the Raiders pick — but if the Niners take Smith, it will hurt a bit.
The Raiders did meet with Vea, who other mock drafts have the Raiders taking in the first as well. Vea also tweaked his hammy, but not before posting some pretty impressive numbers.
First of all, a man his size (6’4″, 347 pounds) isn’t supposed to be this fast and light on his feet. Yet Vea posted a very impressive 5.1 in the 40-yard dash — absurd for a man that big.
.@MikeMayock's #1 rated interior DL.
— NFL (@NFL) March 4, 2018
He also put up an astonishing 41 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press, showing not only impressive strength but endurance as well.
Combine this with his game tape, where he sheds blockers like they’re a mere nuisance and penetrates quickly to the ball and Vea’s stock has remained solid and firmly in the mix for the Raiders at pick 10.
Both players would fill Raider needs and be key cogs around defensive centerpiece Khalil Mack.
However, after the combine some other players have come in to the mix. So…
Who Will The Raiders Draft In The First Round?
Well, if Roquan Smith is available he’s a fan favorite and an excellent choice. He may not be. But this class is loaded, and the Raiders have needs all over the defensive side of the ball. As NBC Bay Area says, there are some intriguing options.
Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller has the Raiders going cornerback. The idea of reuniting Denzel Ward with former Ohio State teammate Gareon Conley in Oakland is nice. But Ward had himself a day at the combine on Monday and may not to last to the 10th pick.
Miller thinks Josh Jackson of Iowa is the best bet. Despite concerns about his speed — Jackson posted an official 4.56 time in the 40 — Jackson is an elite prospect for a reason. He’s big (6’1″, 196 pounds) with long arms. He snagged 8 interceptions and broke up another 26 at Iowa as a junior in 2017, then declared for the draft. He had a good combine aside from his 40, with a 38-inch vertical leap, 10’3 broad jump and 18 reps in the bench press — a good number for a corner with long arms like his.
His ball skills are indeed impressive — he’s aggressive, tracks and attacks the ball very well:
The debate between Josh Jackson and Denzel Ward for CB1 is real, but this is the tiebreaker for me: pic.twitter.com/GEXQAw9qkP
— Adam Hoge (@AdamHoge) March 5, 2018
While Jackson would fit a need, he completely doesn’t fit Reggie McKenzie’s draft mold. McKenzie generally drafts experienced players often with team captain experience, and Jackson’s question marks and lack of this team experience likely sees the Raiders pass. A receiver coming out of high school, Jackson has only played corner for three years.
Athlon Sports gave the Raiders Tremaine Edmunds of Virginia Tech. Edmunds is a physical freak, a young kid that is only 19 but already 6’5″, 253 pounds. At that size he ran a 4.54 in the 40, top five among linebackers. He only put up 19 reps in the bench, and jumped 9’7″ in the broad. Both of those results were a tad surprising, but don’t diminish his rare combination of size, speed and athleticism. At 19 years old with a large frame he can only get bigger and stronger with an NFL training program. The prospects are boggling.
Mock drafts are, currently, all over the place but one thing that is consistent is that the Raiders will go defense in the first round. Smith, Vea, Jackson, Edmunds and Ward if he were to fall are all viable possibilities. Smith, Vea and Ward fit McKenzie’s draft profiles a little more but Edmunds measurables are hard to ignore.
Those are first-round players, but this is a long draft. The Raiders have six picks in the sixth round alone. So what other prospects were making noise in Indy that the Raiders may look at?
Other Draft Prospects
Some are saying Reggie McKenzie may draft his son — Reggie ‘Kahlil’ McKenzie Jr. — in the later rounds. A former five-star prospect who started for three years at Tennessee, McKenzie Jr. has excellent size at 6’5″ and 315 pounds. He’s got the bloodlines, with his father and uncle former NFL linebackers. Kahlil, for his part, wants to make his own way:
"I’m a defensive tackle who plays football. That’s it. I’m Kahlil McKenzie, and that’s what they’re getting. They’re not getting my dad; they’re getting me."
— OAKLAND RAIDERS (@RAIDERS) March 6, 2018
He started with a solid combine, running a 5.15 in the 40, posting 26 reps in the bench with a 29.5 inch vertical. He has long arms and produced at Tennessee — he’s currently viewed as a 3rd day pick, which the Raiders have in abundance.
Another player that is being mocked in the mid rounds that the Raiders should target — but is on everyone’s radar now — is Shaquem Griffin. Griffin is an incredibly productive player, a two-time conference defensive player of the year and run-stuffing demon who plays incredibly fast. His blazing forty time simply validated his on-film game speed.
Oh, and as you probably know — he has one hand. On which he put a prosthesis, and then benched 20 reps of 225. While Griffin’s speed and strength are impressive, it’s really his attitude and heart that make him an intriguing prospect. Former NFL greats certainly think so:
I honestly want to put this in perspective with a still shot. I’ve watched this kid @Shaquemgriffin Benchpress 225 (20reps), run a 4.3 AND CATCH footballs out LB breaks on the biggest stage… #NoExcusesNoExplanations #ChasingHisDream pic.twitter.com/JEIKbJimOF
— ROBERT MATHIS The1st (@RobertMathis98) March 4, 2018
He’ll come in to the NFL and play special teams immediately. And thrive. And then will get a shot, and thrive again. He’s not one to bet against — if a team has the guts to draft him higher than the fourth round he’s projected in they will not be sorry. Will anyone take the risk, though? They should.
The Raiders need a linebacker and depending on how the first two rounds shake down Griffin is intriguing in the third. This may be early by analyst standards. But not when you look at his production. His measurables. His intangibles. He’s a winner.
Donald Penn is aging and hurting, and the Raiders need a tackle of the future. David Sharpe may be him but hasn’t shown that as of yet. One prospect that vaulted into the forefront at the combine — UCLA’s Kolton Miller.
Miller set a combine record for OL with 10’1″ broad jump. This is a guy that is 6’9″, 320 pounds broad jumping that far. He jumped high as well (31.5 inches), and posted the third-fastest (4.95) 40-yard dash of any lineman. Again, he doesn’t have a ton of experience having missed most of 2016 with injury. But he’s a California native and showed at the combine he’s worth looking at with his size, speed and athleticism.
#NFL Combine Key Measurements thread…
— Charles Robinson (@CharlesRobinson) February 28, 2018
Miller’s wingspan, arm length and hand size are phenomenal — all the better to maul you with, NFL defensive players. This kid should be on the radar for sure.
Well, that’s about it from the combine regarding Raider-specific news. The prospects most closely linked to the Raiders all performed well, and mock drafts are still looking defensive. Whether it’s Smith, Vea, Jackson, Ward, trading back or whatever may happen, the combine showed that there are indeed as many good prospects in 2018 as we thought there were. In all, most players expected to shine did so – with the notable exception of Orlando Brown Jr. — and some players made themselves some money like Griffin and Miller.
Stay tuned later this week for the usual Raider Roundup and make sure to check out Only1Nation.com and follow @Only1Nation_ for Raiders news and analysis. It’s coming into a busy time as free agency is almost upon us and mock drafts are in full effect after the combine results have rolled in. As always there will be a lot to discuss.