Our in-house NFL Draft analyst Kelly Kriner takes a look at key storylines for the Raiders heading into the NFL Combine.
With the NFL Combine just around the corner, everyone is abuzz with questions about their favorite prospects. The Underwear Olympics is a chance for top prospects to cement their place in the first round and small school guys to make their name known. Every year we see player’s stock rise and fall with the click of a stopwatch or a tip of the scale. Here are some of the questions I can’t wait to get answered when it comes to the potential Raider targets.
DK Metcalf’s Medicals
If this draft was 15 years ago, Metcalf going fourth to the Raiders would be so obvious that the commissioner would announce the pick three days before the draft. His rare combination of superhuman size and speed was something Al Davis just couldn’t pass up. Taking a wide receiver with that pick isn’t the most ideal option for a team that has so many defensive needs but the Raiders may be in a trade down situation that could put them right in the Metcalf sweepstakes.
Early word is the neck injury is fully healed and he will be 100% for not only the combine but also the start of the season. If teams are even a little worried about his medical history Metcalf could be in for a draft night tumble. Teams all have different levels of risk/reward when it comes to injuries but neck injuries are universally feared. A medical red flag at the combine and Metcalf could drop to the late first or even early second round where the Raiders will have multiple opportunities to grab this athletic freak.
Ed Oliver’s Measurables
Watching the tape of Houston’s Ed Oliver, you see a defensive tackle that will make ever front office drool. His burst off the snap and hand usage are elite and second only to his motor. Oliver was being mocked as the number one pick in the draft for the past two years – then something happened. Oliver’s production didn’t live up to the hype and he didn’t seem to progress as a pass rusher. Scouts started looking for reasons for the decline and the obvious culprit in Oliver’s case is his size. We will finally get an official height and weight at the combine which will be huge for Oliver. His weight has been reported anywhere from 270 on the low end to 290 on the high end. To put this into perspective Aaron Donald fell a few spots in the draft because of worries about his size and Donald weighed in at 285 at the combine. If Oliver can come into the combine in the 285 to 295 range, without losing any of his agility or explosiveness, the Raiders will definitely be looking at adding Oliver to the defense. Interior pressure from Oliver and Hurst would be a dramatic upgrade from last year. Oliver’s speed and flexibility may allow him to play on the edge in a pinch which will add much-needed depth and pressure.
N’Keal Harry and Kelvin Harmon 40 times
Adding an explosive weapon on the outside should be a priority for the Raiders this offseason. The wideout class in this draft is deep with #2 or slot receivers but lacks many options for that true #1. Harry and Harmon could be two targets the Raiders look at in the back of the first round. Harry is a yards-after-the-catch monster and Harmon generates space with his route running but neither player has top-end speed on tape. In a league where speed is at a premium, the 40 times will go along way in separating these two prospects. The early word on Harry is not promising as he is supposedly not running the 40 during his training. This could be a red flag that he will run a slow time at the combine which could crush his draft stock. Harmon just seems to find a way to get the space needed and uses his big frame to make contested catches. This works in college but the NFL scouts will want to see a little more speed to complete Harmon’s game. The winner of this 40-time race will get the leg up on draft boards across the league.
After the top 3 LBs who is next
Every time I mention the linebacker position for the Raiders I hear the same response. I know Paul Guenther’s system doesn’t put a premium on the LB position. I also know the NFL is switching to an offensive league that demands you have LBs that can cover. The middle linebacker position for the Raiders is a complete teardown in my opinion and will require more attention than a mid-level free agent or late round draft pick. There is little argument about the top three LBs in this draft (White, Mack, Bush) but after them, the position is wide open. Who is going to separate themselves at the combine is up in the air. There are a few contenders in Deshaun Davis, Vosean Joseph, and Joe Giles Harris but there may be a wildcard out there that can grab the attention of scouts and move up draft boards. I don’t see the Raiders using a Day 1 pick on the position so they will probably miss out on the top three. The combine will be huge in separating the rest of the pack and maybe deciding on the next player patrolling the middle of the field for the Raiders.
Nobody knows how much of a participant Kyler will actually be at the combine but he will be the main attraction. He is without a doubt the most polarizing player with the highest floor to ceiling ratio in some time. His height and weight will be important, but the interview process will be the most fascinating. Kyler will have to go into every interview room and convince each team he is all in on football. His athletic testing will mean nothing if teams believe he has one foot out the door and into professional baseball.
By now every team has seen the Dan Patrick interview where Murray couldn’t have come off any worse if he tried. The fact he waited so long after to commit to the combine is another red flag that he isn’t 100% into football. How much he participates is also going to be the main topic of the combine. Will he throw at the combine? Will he run at the combine? Conspiracy theory me thinks he has spent most of his off time putting on weight so he can come in at around the 200 lbs range and will not run at the combine. I said it on our CBS Sports Radio 1140 show, and I will say it again, I don’t care what he weighs at the combine what is his playing weight. Players always add or lose weight before the combine to hit certain thresholds. If Kyler hits the thresholds the NFL wants to see and aces his interviews he will be a hot commodity. Don’t kid yourself Raiders fans – Gruden will kick the tires on Murray just like every other NFL team. A team trading up to take him would be the best case for the Raiders in one of two ways. If somebody trades up ahead of Oakland one of the top three will fall to them, or it will provide the trade down scenario for them to move down and pick up even more draft assets.
Every year the combine helps to shape draft boards across the league. The answers to these questions will go a long way in shaping what can be a transformational draft for a team with three picks in the 1st round. Staying put and drafting three players or trading up or down for certain prospects will all be on the board for a team with so many holes and so many picks.
The combine isn’t the be all end all but it will be the starting point for what should be the most interesting Raiders draft in quite awhile.