Oakland Raiders Scouting Guide to the 2014 Senior Bowl

Dan WilkinsCorrespondent IIJanuary 22, 2014

Oakland Raiders Scouting Guide to the 2014 Senior Bowl

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    John David Mercer-USA TODAY Spor

    As is the case with every team leading up to the NFL draft, the Senior Bowl week is a key part of the scouting process for the Oakland Raiders.

    Being able to watch the prospects in a live environment and meet with them for the first time can allow a team to gather plenty of necessary information.

    Every year, there are players who are dominant in practice sessions but disappear during game action, and there are those who do the exact opposite. 

    Many will put the most stock into the game, but the key is certainly remaining consistent throughout the week.

    With plenty of positions to focus on and highlight during the organization’s rebuild, here is a scouting guide to five players the Raiders should be keeping an eye on heading into Saturday’s 2014 Senior Bowl.

QB Derek Carr (Fresno State)

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    With good size, a great throwing arm and the athletic ability to pick up yardage on the ground when needed, Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr has the tools to succeed at the NFL level.

    For Carr, the key will be building upon the solid practices he has had thus far and showing that he has the accuracy to go with the strong arm. 

    According to NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah, Carr has continued to build momentum throughout the practice week. He is excelling as a passer in relatively windy conditions, showing an ability to throw on the run and putting in plenty of after-practice work with his South team receivers.

    Draft projections will vary at this point, but most will have Carr coming off of the board anywhere within the top half of the first round. A solid performance for the rest of the week, and especially in game situations, could make him a top-10 guarantee.

    With the Raiders selecting fifth overall, and in desperate need of a franchise quarterback, Carr has to be on their radar and a prime focus of theirs heading into Saturday’s game.

QB Jimmy Garoppolo (Eastern Illinois)

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    G.M. ANDREWS/Associated Press

    As badly as the Raiders need to solve their quarterback problems, it is entirely possible they choose not to do so in the first round, instead waiting until the second or third.

    As a result, the mid-round passers should be the subject of significant focus for the Raiders as well, and Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will be a name to watch.

    Coming off of an impressive showing at the East-West Shrine game, the buzz around Garoppolo grew, and he was able to earn himself a spot in the Senior Bowl.

    All indications thus far are that he has done well to make himself stand out once again, and as one NFL executive put it, per the Chicago Sun-Times, “He’s got a good release—a great release."

    Like any Senior Bowl player, being able to translate your positive practice performances to Saturday’s game action is incredibly important. If Garoppolo can do just that, he could be on the Raiders’ radar as early as the second round.

WR Jordan Matthews (Vanderbilt)

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    G.M. ANDREWS/Associated Press

    To go with the quarterback position, wide receiver is a spot the Raiders should look to address this offseason, and general manager Reggie McKenzie alluded to as much in his year-end meeting with the media last week.

    Vanderbilt’s Jordan Matthews is among the standout receivers so far at Senior Bowl week, as he showcased his ability to consistently get open against coverage throughout practice on Tuesday.

    Whether he would only be a possible target if the Raiders traded down within the first round or if he will still be on the board in the second round remains to be seen. Either way, he should be a player the Raiders keep an eye on.

    Adding a receiver with potential to become the team’s No. 1 option in the passing game would open up the field for the rest of the offense, as well as giving a new and likely rookie quarterback another young target to grow with heading into the future.

DE Trent Murphy (Stanford)

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    Danny Moloshok/Associated Press

    The most well-documented need for the Raiders this offseason is by far the pass rush across the defensive front.

    If a potential franchise quarterback keeps the team from addressing that in the first round, we can expect a pass-rusher to be one of their next picks made shortly thereafter.

    Stanford defensive end/linebacker Trent Murphy is the kind of versatile edge player the Raiders will covet as their scheme sees increased multiplicity moving forward, and he could be available in either the second or third round. 

    Thus far in the Senior Bowl practice week, Murphy has struggled in his transition to 4-3 defensive end from the 3-4 outside linebacker spot he played in college. However, a big performance in Saturday’s game would do well to eliminate many of the questions that have come about as a result.

    The strength Murphy is known for playing with should only improve when he adds more size at the next level, and he would fit well in a Raiders defensive scheme that values versatility either way.

DT Aaron Donald (Pittsburgh)

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    The Raiders will need to address their defensive line in more ways than one this offseason, and the deep group in this draft will be a good place to start.

    According to NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah, Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald turned heads on the first day of one-on-one drills at the Senior Bowl, using his quickness, strength and burst off the line to win on a consistent basis.

    As high praise as it is, Jeremiah compared not only Donald’s size and build to that of Bengals star Geno Atkins, but his overall game as well.

    Donald should come off of the board in the first or second round, and in desperate need of talent up front, the Raiders could be a great fit for him should he make it to the top of the second round.

    Of course, if Donald’s dominant play carries over into Saturday’s game, it could very well push him into the later parts of the first round, and thus likely out of the Raiders’ reach as well.