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  • Cyril’s Senior Bowl sleepers
    by Cyril Penn on January 23, 2020 at 12:24 am

    Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports Day 2 of Senior Bowl practice has come to a close, and we’re starting to have a better understanding of whose stock is rising and falling. Some guys were able to build off strong first impressions with even better second impressions, while others have shown that their initial struggles might not be a fluke. With over 100 players at the Senior Bowl collectively, NFL scouts in attendance are typically divided into assigned position groups so that they’re able to keep a keen focus on one or two positions. It’s hard to keep track of the performance of each and every individual, especially considering that multiple drills are taking place at the same time. But after combing over the All-22 from Tuesday’s practice and closely watching many standouts on Wednesday, I’ve compiled a list of my Top 10 Senior Bowl sleepers thus far. No. 1: Van Jefferson, Florida WR I came into the Senior Bowl with high hopes for Jefferson, and my hopes have been surpassed. He’s a smooth technician with long and efficient strides and has been creating separation from cornerbacks in one-on-one drills with sharp route running. Jefferson’s hands and downfield tracking ability have been on display as well, and as the son of a former NFL player, he’s likely more well-equipped for the transition to the pros than most young players. Jefferson likely solidified himself as a Day 2 draft pick with his performance thus far, even amidst a deep receiver class. If he’s there in the third, the Raiders could pounce. No. 2: Kenny Willekes, Michigan State EDGE Willekes has now strung multiple strong performances together and has surprised a lot of people in attendance. He was a late addition to the Senior Bowl roster, and that’s proven to be a good decision as he’s shown competitive fire, great hand usage and solid play strength. During the 9-on-7 team session, Willekes was giving opposing offensive linemen the business. On one play in particular, he squeezed Purdue tight end Brycen Hopkins so far down the line on the backside of the play that he knocked Hopkins into the running back for a loss. No. 3: Ben Bartch, St. John’s OL The Division III product entered the Senior Bowl with many scouts questioning whether he’d be able to handle the elevated level of competition. And instead of just handling the competition, he’s debatably been the best looking offensive line prospect of the bunch. Bartch looks strong, smooth and physical on the line, and his 6-foot-5 frame, 33 inch arms and wide base give him an ideal frame for an offensive tackle. No. 4: Joshua Uche, Michigan EDGE Uche checks in quite small for an edge rusher at 6-foot-1 and 241 pounds, and he’s likely to be a positional tweener that’s mainly used as a pass rushing specialist, but man oh man can this guy get after the quarterback. The Michigan outside linebacker has been dominant all week against opposing offensive linemen, who are unable to quell his speed off the edge and speed-counters inside. With a fast first step and violent hands, Uche gets on linemen before they can get their hands on him. There’s no way that he can sit in a 5-technique every play and stop the run in a 4-man front, but he’ll certainly pique a lot of team’s interest with his pass rushing acumen. No. 5: Troy Pride Jr., Notre Dame CB Troy Pride Jr. came out strong on Day 1 and continued his excellent showing today. He’s shown tenacity, stickiness in coverage, and a keen ability to break up passes when he sees a receiver raise his hands for the ball. Pride even showed well in press coverage today when matched up against the much taller Michael Pittman Jr., which was an area of his game that scouts were a bit concerned about. No. 6: Jason Strowbridge, North Carolina EDGE Strowbridge is the definitely of a sleeper prospect, and he’s been eating at the Senior Bowl. Well, maybe he’s not doing much actual eating considering that he’s dropped about 20 pounds off his reported weight before arriving in Mobile. But whatever Strowbridge did prior to arriving in Alabama has worked. He’s been a force off the edge in team drills and has routinely won his one-on-one pass rushing reps. He could be a steal on Day 3. No. 7: Harrison Bryant, Florida Atlantic TE Bryant doesn’t wow you with his physical presence or look like a particularly explosive athlete when lined up next to other tight end prospects, but the FAU product has been steadily making plays whenever the ball comes his way. Bryant has great hands, quick feet and a knack for finding holes in opposing zones. While Brycen Hopkins might be the best tight end prospect in Mobile right now, Bryant is certainly making a compelling case for himself. No. 8: Francis Bernard, Utah LB It’s hard to linebackers to stand out in an event like this because players aren’t allowed to tackle each other, but Utah’s Francis Bernard has still managed to impress. His coverage skills have stood out in one-on-one drills against running backs and tight ends, and he’s looked fast as hell getting sideline-to-sideline. Bernard is well undersized, standing a half inch under 6-foot-1 and weighing in at only 230 pounds, but he’s a late-round sleeper worth keeping an eye on for the Raiders. No. 9: Jeremy Chinn, Southern Illinois Safety The small-school product might have been the biggest winner of Senior Bowl weigh-ins after he measured at 6-foot-3 with a rocked up 219 pounds of what looks like pure muscle. He’s shown some dynamic coverage skills as well and clearly has passed all of the height/weight/speed baselines with flying colors. The level of competition hasn’t been too big for Chinn thus far either, and it seems like at least one team in attendance is bound to fall in love with his potential. No. 10: Collin Johnson, Texas WR Johnson’s weigh-in didn’t start off well, as he measured in with tiny hands (under 9 inches) for his 6-foot-5 height. But his hand size hasn’t mattered one bit as Johnson has proven the last two days at practice. He’s still caught basically everything thrown his way. Johnson has shown much more route-running prowess than anticipated, and he’s proven that he’s not just a big, one-trick red zone threat. It was tempting to put SMU’s James Proche and Baylor’s Denzel Mims on this list, as they’ve both had fantastic showing so far, but Johnson has edged them out ever-so-slightly in my eyes.

  • SB&P Roundtable: With the 12th & 19th pick...
    by Alex Thayer on January 22, 2020 at 4:00 pm

    Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports Want to be a part of the next roundtable discussion? Tell me who you would pick 12th, 19th, and how you became a Raiders fan. The best answer will join us for the next roundtable discussion. Cyril thinks that Kenneth Murray is subpar in pass coverage and Evan thinks there’s no substantial difference between Isaiah Simmons and Murray. What’s your opinion on Murray? Photo by Justin Tafoya/Getty Images Alex: I asked this question because I wanted to see the three film heads flex and argue amongst themselves. BD: Murray is a fine player and would instantly be the Raiders best linebacker. Murray can certainly play the pass as he has great fluidity and burst to take away passing lanes and rally downhill to make open field tackles. Murray’s best plays come in space. He can struggle getting off blocks however and needs an NFL weight room regimen to become an every down NFL Mike LB. Right now he’s a gap shooting Will LB who needs to be the protected man in the front. Evan: I have watched a lot of Murray film recently. He is not as versatile as Isaiah Simmons, but he would be a very good option for the Raiders should Simmons not be available at pick 12. Murray’s greatest attributes are his speed and his ability to quickly diagnose plays. Oklahoma used him as a rusher off the edge at times so he has that ability as well. Some are concerned with his coverage skills. From what I have seen he played primarily zone in college, but I have not see anything that makes me think he can’t cover. I’m interested to see how he runs at the combine. Cyril: Murray is an explosive athlete both sideline-to-sideline and downhill. He’d certainly be the top Raiders linebacker immediately if drafted, and would bring some borderline elite reactionary athleticism to the table. My worries with him come in his rudimentary understanding of zone coverages, limited route feel, and inability to get off blocks with physicality. When scraping the edge, Murray avoids blockers by simply outrunning them to get to the point of attack, but when he’s faced with blockers who get to the second level and get in his path, he doesn’t show much of a plan to get over the top of blocks. In a relatively weak linebacker class, I worry that Murray is being pushed up boards because of a positional depth. With the 12th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Las Vegas Raiders select ______ Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images Evan: I think the Raiders will trade back with this pick. Simmons, Lamb, and Jeudy are off the board and Mayock/Gruden see this as an opportunity to add a pick in round two. Cyril: I’m taking the best player at the Senior Bowl, Javon Kinlaw with this pick. I’ve been a big fan of Kinlaw and his 7-foot wingspan for quite some time now, and he looks like the type of interior force that could open things up for Clelin Ferrell and Maxx Crosby. Assembling a Super Bowl-caliber defensive front will be pivotal for the Raiders in stopping Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, so why not give new defensive line coach Rod Marinelli another versatile interior chess piece. Alex: My first 11 picks, which can be found here, have all the top-tier players at positions of need gone as of right now. I think the wild card of the first 11 picks are the Jets. If they don’t draft CeeDee Lamb, he falls to the Raiders at 12, but if they take him, then I agree with Evan. Trade down. BD: Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama. Sorry Raiders fans, I just can’t see Isaiah Simmons falling to the 12th overall pick. Jeudy gives Gruden that volume WR he’s been craving since coming back for his second stint. An incredible route runner with great feet and loose hips, think of a speedier Chad Johnson. No way Gruden is passing that up when the marquee defensive players (Young, Simmons, Okudah, Brown) are likely already gone. With the 19th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Las Vegas Raiders select ______ Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images BD: Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma. Shoot, let's do it. Murray won’t look silly in space like the the Raiders current group of LBs. He can match the RB on wheel route like the Chiefs and Chargers like to run. From all accounts he has the leadership and character traits of a foundational player that Mayock likes to take in the first round. Cyril: Laviska Shenault Jr. is my pick here. He’s not all that refined as a route runner at this point, but Shenault projects as a prototypical X receiver who can also be utilized all over the field. He lined up out wide, in the slot, at tight end, and in the backfield with regularity across his collegiate career. He is a certified offensive weapon and would unlock Gruden’s play-calling creativity. With no linebacker in the first round, I’m looking for Jordyn Brooks (who stuck around for team interviews at the Senior Bowl) in the third round. Evan: Kenneth Murray. I have done many mock draft simulations and I find myself taking Murray with the 19th pick. I think when it’s all said and done Murray will settle in as a top 20 player and will be a great pick in this spot. Alex: Henry Ruggs, WR, Alabama. There are good linebacker free agents that the Raiders should be giving some attention to. Even in a draft class that has great depth at the wide receiver position, Ruggs is fast, but he isn’t a one trick pony, he can run the route tree. He seems like a slam dunk at 19, but I want to see what the Raiders do in free agency first. Matt Miller of Bleacher Report has heard rumors that Mayock is going to be more aggressive during this draft. If the Raiders trade both first round picks to draft a QB, how would you feel? Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images Alex: If the Raiders were going to do this, I’d be down next year for Trevor Lawrence, but there’s not a quarterback that warrants giving up both first round picks to move up in my opinion. If anything the Raiders should be moving up to grab Isaiah Simmons, if they’re going to move up at all. Cyril: In a poll from last week, about a third of Raider fans said they’d be interested in trading up for Joe Burrow. That isn’t happening, but perhaps a trade up from Justin Herbert or Tua Tagovailoa could be in the cards. I think the opposite scenario could take place, however, with someone trying to trade into the Raiders spot at 12 to grab Jordan Love ahead of the Colts at 13 and Buccaneers at 14. BD: I wouldn’t be mad at this IF all the top tier defenders are off the board when a trade like this happens. That being said, not sure how the Raiders could justify making that kind of investment in a first round QB when Derek Carr is still due 2/3rds of his 125 million dollar contract. The Raiders can’t cut him until 2021 due to the cap hit they would incur and Carr’s contract basically makes him un-trade-able. Basically if this happens, the front office has ZERO faith in Carr and think paying him millions of dollars not to play is better than the alternative. Evan: Will not happen. How on earth could the Bengals trade away the opportunity to draft Joe Burrow? The kid grew up an hour and half away from Cincinnati. I think what Miller means about Mayock being aggressive is looking to add picks and move up and down the board. Break my heart and explain to me why the Raiders won’t fire Paul Guenther to hire Wade Phillips? I understand a scheme change is a pain in the ass, but what building blocks are exactly stopping the Raiders from switching to a 3-4? Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images BD: Guenther’s defense relies on a big heavy 4 man front and press-man corners. Phillips’ defense relies on a gap shooting 3 man front with pass rushing linebackers and zone corners. The personnel overhaul this would require would take years before coming to fruition. Crosby could be a LEO, Ferrell and Mauro could play 5-tech, and Hankins could play 1-tech. Everyone else would be looking for a job elsewhere. If the Raiders fire Guenther, they will look for someone who can maximize their investments in the front 7 (Ferrell, Crosby, Hurst, Hall etc). Evan: Gruden seems to be very loyal to Guenther. I think Gruden knows deep down this defense still lacks talent and is being patient with Guenther. I don’t agree that Wade Phillips is the answer. Cyril: As BD points out, the personnel the Raiders currently have invested time, money, and assets into would have to be overhauled for that type of scheme change. Could there be a change at defensive coordinator? It’s unlikely, but possible. But might that new defensive coordinator be Wade Phillips? In my eyes, there’s no shot. Alex: I don’t like any of you, and any of your answers. I just want one nice thing in my life, and all three of you couldn’t give that to me. How did you become a Raiders fan? Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports BD: I had no choice in the matter, my entire family are Raiders fans, I was born into it. I wouldn’t have it any other way, Raiders and USC Football are the only teams I root for. Evan: I became a Raiders fan because of Bo Jackson and Marcus Allen back in the days of Tecmo Bowl. Bo Jackson was the most popular athlete at the time when I was young, and he was unstoppable on that game. I also recall as a young kid being attracted to the Raiders logo and color scheme. I grew up in Central NY, so none of my family or friends were Raider fans. Cyril: I was born in Oakland and raised in the Bay Area. What more can I say. Alex: I grew up in East Oakland, 10 minutes away from the Coliseum. I couldn’t take three steps outside of my house without seeing Raiders gear for as long as I could remember. It was always the way Raiders fans carried themselves that caught my eye when I was a kid, that silent pride in rocking the silver and black. I was in the 4th grade and knew this was my team.

  • Javon Kinlaw ‘would love to play with’ Maxx Crosby and Clelin Ferrell
    by Cyril Penn on January 21, 2020 at 11:55 pm

    Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports The first of three days of Senior Bowl practice is in the books, and a plethora of potential Raiders had the opportunity show out in front of scouts from all 32 teams at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Alabama. Day 1 of Senior Bowl practice is quite honestly the most important time for prospects to show scouts what they bring to the table, as many of them only stick around for a day or so, while few if any team scouts actually stay for the game. The top non-QB prospect in attendance in Mobile is South Carolina defensive lineman Javon Kinlaw, who was clearly dominant in one-on-one drills and may have solidified himself as a surefire Top 15 pick. In between practices, I had the opportunity for a quick Q&A with Kinlaw, and here’s what he had to say: Cyril: What do you think about the Raiders franchise? Could you see yourself in silver and black? Kinlaw: Oh, most definitely. When I think about the Raiders, what comes to my mind is just tough, gritty, stuff like that. Just bash your head in, you know. Cyril: That reminds you of yourself, right? Kinlaw (smiling): Yeah, a little bit. Cyril: You’ve talked about improving your pass rush and how you’ve shown mostly a bull rush. What other moves are you trying to showcase here? Kinlaw: Long arm, double hand swipe, counter off the bull. The bull ain’t going to go nowhere. If it’s there, if it’s available, I’m still going to use it. But if you sit down on it, you know, I try to snatch them, pull counters off that. Cyril: What do you think the best part of your game is right now, and what do you need to improve most between now and your rookie season? Kinlaw: Best part? Probably just striking people. You know, getting displacement, things like that. I can improve, definitely improve on pass rush. That’s for sure. Cyril: Do you think you’d be better in a one gap or two gap scheme? Kinlaw: It don’t really matter to me. I can definitely get better at both, but at the end of the day, I think I could probably excel being at being a one gap type of guy. Cyril: The Raiders have two young guys in Maxx Crosby and Clelin Ferrell on the line already. What do you think of them? Kinlaw: I would love to play with them guys, man. For sure. Maxx goes crazy off that edge, man. He definitely gets to the passer. What, he had double digit sacks this year right? He did his thing man. I love his pass rush. Additional Day 1 Practice Notes Michael Pittman Jr. and Van Jefferson both stood out in one-on-one drills against defensive backs. Pittman’s speed and physicality was on display with every route, and he imposed his will on defensive backs. Jefferson, meanwhile, is a real technician and showed exactly that while routinely separating from defensive backs in coverage. Don’t sleep on SMU WR James Proche. He’s a smooth route runner that may have the best ball skills of any receiver in attendance. Jalen Hurts didn’t help his stock on Day 1 after throwing a series of ducks. Even without any defenders in the area, Hurts’ passes were off-target and he seemed to be overthinking simple drills. He could be quite the athlete if placed in a Taysom Hill-type role, but I’m not sure if he has a future as a starting QB in the NFL. Troy Pride Jr. and Dane Jackson stood out at cornerback. Pride Jr. was tenacious on every rep and Jackson was the stickiest in coverage on Day 1. Clemson guard John Simpson shook off a few bad reps to have a solid day. In a relatively weak interior offensive line class, Simpson has a chance to be a second-round pick. He got some reps at left tackle as well, which suggests that a few teams must have asked to see what would look like as a swing tackle. Wake Forest CB Essang Bassey would like to forget about Day 1. He was manhandled quite often in coverage against the North receivers.

  • 2020 Senior Bowl: Notable player measurements
    by Cyril Penn on January 21, 2020 at 4:18 pm

    Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports With the Senior Bowl officially underway today, it’s officially draft season. Player measurements took place this morning at 7:00 AM CT, and a few interesting results were unearthed. We will keep you updated with notes on the trio of practices this week in Mobile, but for now, here are 10 of the more notable profiles to emerge from weigh-ins on both sides of the ball. Offense: Justin Herbert, Oregon QB: HT: 6-6 WT: 227 Arms: 33 3/8” Hands: 10” Jordan Love, Utah State QB: HT: 6-3 WT: 223 Arms: 33 1/8” Hands: 10 5/8” Anthony Gordon, Washington State QB: HT: 6-2 WT: 199 Arms: 31 3/8” Hands: 9 1/2” Prince Tega Wanogho, Auburn OT: HT: 6-5 WT: 307 Arms: 33 1/8” Hands: 10 1/8” Collin Johnson, Texas WR: HT: 6-5 WT: 221 Arms: 32 7/8” Hands: 8 3/4” Brandon Aiyuk, Arizona State WR: HT: 5-11 WT: 201 Arms: 33 1/8” Hands: 10” Lloyd Cushenberry III, LSU OL: HT: 6-3 WT: 312 Arms: 34 1/2” Hands: 10 1/2” Chase Claypool, Notre Dame WR: HT: 6-4 WT: 229 Arms: 33 1/8” Hands: 10” Nick Harris, Washington iOL: HT: 6-1 WT: 293 Arms: 32 3/8” Hands: 9 1/2” Jauan Jennings, Tennessee WR: HT: 6-3 WT: 206 Arms: 32 7/8” Hands: 9” Defense: Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina DL: HT: 6-5 WT: 315 Arms: 34 5/8” Hands: 10 1/8” Zack Baun, Wisconsin EDGE/LB: HT: 6-2 WT: 240 Arms: 31 1/8” Hands: 9 5/8” Johnathan Greenard, Florida EDGE: HT: 6-3 WT: 262 Arms: 34 1/2” Hands: 9” Akeem Davis-Gaither, Appalachian State LB: HT: 6-1 WT: 219 Arms: 31 1/4” Hands: 9” Kenny Willekes, Michigan State DL: HT: 6-3 WT: 252 Arms: 31 1/4” Hands: 9 3/4” Francis Bernard, Utah LB: HT: 6-4 WT: 230 Arms: 31 5/8” Hands: 9 5/8” Khaleke Hudson, Michigan LB: HT: 5-11 WT: 218 Arms: 30” Hands: 10” Josh Uche, Michigan EDGE: HT: 6-1 WT: 241 Arms: 33 1/4” Hands: 9 1/2” Evan Weaver, California LB: HT: 6-2 WT: 234 Arms: 32 3/8” Hands: 9 3/8” Anfernee Jennings, Alabama DL: HT: 6-1 WT: 252 Arms: 32 3/4” Hands: 9 3/8” For the complete list of weigh-in results, follow this twitter thread from TDN!

  • Going for 2: Wide Receiver edition
    by BD Williams on January 20, 2020 at 9:15 pm

    Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports Yesterday we looked at the state of the WR room for the Raiders offense. Today let’s take a more in depth look at a couple of potential targets who could be added to the roster this offseason. Jon Gruden’s offense requires wide receivers to play multiple positions. The most effective version of this offense would have receivers who can win in a variety of ways. The Raiders WRs in 2019 struggled to win deep down the sideline. Adding a player who can add this element to the offense will be priority No. 1 for Mike Mayock this offseason. Let’s take a look at an impending free agent and incoming rookie to see if they could be Raider targets this offseason: Breshad Perriman - 2020 Free Agent Perhaps not a household name, Perriman is a former first round pick who became a deep ball specialist for the Tampa Bay attack down the stretch in 2019. In his last four games of 2019, Perriman went for 419 yards and five touchdowns. WR Breshaud Perriman: Potential FA target for the Raiders in 2020 pic.twitter.com/5It9vJszQr— BD Williams (@BDWilliams18) January 20, 2020 At 6-foot-2, 215 pounds, Perriman will turn 26 after the 2020 season begins. He boasts first round size and athleticism, which helped him reel in deep passes with regularity, even if he played third fiddle to Mike Evans and Chris Godwin last season. He doesn’t run a complete route tree and he doesn’t have the stop-start quickness to be a consistent after the catch runner. But what he does, he does really well: playing the deep ball in the air and contorting his body to make acrobatic catches down the field. He would fit in well on this Raiders team because he’s a deep threat who can threaten the top of the defense from any alignment. In the clip shown above he roasts former Raiders CBs Gareon Conley and Rashaan Melvin, so he’s at least better than those guys. Devin Duvernay - 2020 Draft Target Of course getting CeeDee Lamb or Jerry Jeudy in the first round should be a priority. Even if the Raiders do manage to land one of those two, they could still take a swing at the WR position in the third round. Taking advantage of a loaded WR class to infuse youth and talent at the Raiders weakest position group on offense wouldn’t be a bad plan. WR Devin Duvernay: Potential draft target for the Raiders in 2020 pic.twitter.com/vjKFrv9nZq— BD Williams (@BDWilliams18) January 20, 2020 Duvernay wins in a wide variety of ways. Despite only playing in the slot at Texas, the speedy WR challenged defenses down the field and and turned short passes into long gains quite regularly. With more of an RB build at 5-foot-11 and 212 pounds, he has the physique and speed to be a run after the catch specialist in the Raiders offense. He needs to work on a few things in his game. At times he can take a false step and reset his feet at the line of scrimmage before getting into his route. He also shows some extra steps when changing directions and making hard cuts at the top of his route. For these reasons, it’s possible that he could still be available when the Raiders are on the board in the third round. With such a talented crop of receivers in the 2020 draft, there are so many ways the Raiders could go. Duvernay is someone who has versatility and a proven pathway of success in the NFL (see 2019 Deebo Samuel).

 

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