How Committed are the Raiders in Drafting Prospects from the Senior Bowl?

Nicholas Cothrel
Las Vegas raiders Reese's senior bowl
MOBILE, AL – JANUARY 27: The American Team practices ahead of the 2021 Reese’s Senior Bowl at Hancock Whitney Stadium on January 27, 2021 in Mobile, Alabama. (Photo by Senior Bowl/Collegiate Images/Getty Images)

The Reese’s Senior Bowl is an opportunity for college prospects to prove their worth to NFL teams around the league. Based on the Raiders’ recent track record, they’re no stranger to drafting players from the week-long event.

The NFL draft process kicks off each year with the Reese’s Senior Bowl — followed by the NFL Scouting Combine and independent Pro Days, held at universities around the country. However, this year’s process leading up to the 2021 NFL Draft will be like no other.

Jon Gruden and the Raiders staff coached the Senior Bowl in 2019.

In spite of the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, the NFL Scouting Combine has been altered in its entirety. Players will not partake in the yearly drills at Lucus Oil Stadium, and will only meet with teams virtually. Pro Days, however, are still set to take place.

While all of these parameters make the task of evaluating prospects more difficult for each team, the one positive in the process was the completion of the 2021 Senior Bowl. The Raiders staff was in attendance at the Senior Bowl, as were many other teams.

Since coach Jon Gruden hired general manager Mike Mayock in 2018, the duo has selected 31% of their draftees after seeing them participate in the Senior Bowl.

The Raiders have added seven former Senior Bowl players over the last two seasons under Gruden and Mayock. They drafted offensive guard John Simpson, strong safety Jonathan Abram, cornerback Isaiah Johnson, tight end Foster Moreau and wide receiver Hunter Renfrow throughout the 2019 and 2020 draft classes.

Hunter Renfrow Las Vegas Raiders Senior Bowl
Hunter Renfrow was one Raiders draft pick who they were able to spend significant time with as part of the Senior Bowl in 2019.

Additionally, Gruden and Mayock have also added wide receiver Keelan Doss and fullback Alec Ingold as undrafted free agents in 2019 — the same year the Raiders’ staff coached the North team at the event.

“This is going to be our best opportunity by far to get to know over 100 guys, to get the opportunity to interview every single one, to watch three days of practices, prioritize one-on-one drills,” Mayock said last week when asked about the importance in this year’s Senior Bowl with Eddie Paskal on Upon Further Review. “So we’re working from 5:30-6 a.m. in the morning to 11:15 a.m. at night and this is probably going to be the best week of information gathering in the offseason because the combine isn’t going to be the same. It’s going to be another offseason of virtual meetings, so that’s why the value of the Senior Bowl, I think, is maybe more valuable than it’s ever been.”

According to Mayock’s comments regarding the limitations for the second offseason in a row, all signs point towards the Raiders sticking with their roots and drafting more players that come through the Senior Bowl event.

After getting an up-close evaluation of 124 players in attendance, their reputation indicates more Senior Bowl players are likely to hear their name called by the Silver and Black this offseason. The Raiders hold seven picks over seven rounds in the 2021 NFL Draft.