6 Hidden Gems the Oakland Raiders Should Have Noticed at the Combine
Some will downplay the event, while others will overhype it. Either way, the week represents a time for teams to get to know the young prospects who will populate their draft boards this spring, as well as an opportunity for little-known players to make themselves stand out.
As is the case every year, there were a number of players who had notable performances, either gaining increased attention from teams and media alike or simply further cementing themselves as the solid NFL prospects they are.
Many of them are players the rebuilding Raiders should now, if they didn’t already, have on their radar heading into the draft.
All combine results courtesy of NFL.com unless otherwise noted.
WR Brandin Cooks (Oregon St.)
Projected first-round selections are tough to consider “hidden gems,” but with the attention top wideouts like Sammy Watkins have been receiving, the combine acted as somewhat of a reminder just how deep this receiver class is.
Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks spent his on-field workout day showing just how explosive of an athlete he is, leading all receivers with a 40-yard-dash time of 4.33 seconds and doing the same in the 60-yard shuttle with a 10.72.
At 5’10”, 189 pounds, Cooks is not the biggest receiver, but doesn’t he have to be. The elite athletic ability that he displayed at the combine is what allows him to create separation in the secondary, as well as make plays after the catch.
Again, Cooks is almost certainly a late first-round prospect, but should the Raiders find a way to trade down this year, their need at receiver could make him a possible target.
WR Brandon Coleman (Rutgers)
Sticking with the wide receiver position, a player who did well for himself and could be a mid-round target for the Raiders is Rutgers receiver Brandon Coleman.
At 6’6”, 225 pounds, Coleman is the kind of big and powerful target the Raiders have been missing in their offense for quite some time.
No, he wasn’t close to setting records in any of the combine’s events, but his 4.56-second 40-yard-dash time is impressive for his size. This number should ease any speed concerns, as he may not struggle to separate as some bigger receives do.
While the bench press is just one exercise, his 21 reps were good for second among prospects at the position, going along with the strength he should be able to play with.
Overall, Coleman didn’t put up numbers that will stand out in comparison to the track stars of this draft class, but rather ones that are impressive relative to his size and playing style.
DT Aaron Donald (Pittsburgh)
Like Brandin Cooks, there is little chance that Donald makes it out of the first round, but there is a possibility of him being drafted later than he should be due to his 6’1”, 285-pound frame.
The reason Donald is so tough to handle on the interior defensive line, despite being slightly undersized, is the leverage he plays with at the point of attack, as well as his elite-level quickness and athleticism.
Speaking directly to all of which, Donald was second among defensive linemen with 35 reps on the bench press, fifth with an incredible 4.68 40 time and fourth in the three-cone with a time of 7.11.
When you consider that the only players ahead of him in both running drills were defensive ends, it becomes clear how athletically gifted he is as a defensive tackle.
Undersized or not, the strength and quickness Donald plays with will be tough for interior offensive linemen to handle even at the NFL level, and he should be a target of the Raiders should they find themselves selecting later on in the first round.
DE Jackson Jeffcoat (Texas)
Addressing the pass rush will be a prime focus for the Raiders throughout this offseason, but with a glaring need at quarterback, there is no guarantee they will be able to do so in the first round.
As such, mid-round defensive ends should be of extreme interest to the Silver and Black, and one such player who performed well at this week’s combine is Texas’ Jackson Jeffcoat.
He has always been considered a talented player, but troubles with injuries have prevented consistent production at the college level.
In case anyone forgot, Jeffcoat reminded us all just how athletically gifted he is, finishing among the top defensive linemen in the 40-yard dash (4.63), three-cone drill (6.97), vertical jump (36”) and broad jump (10’3”).
At 6’3”, 247 pounds, he would likely have to add some size to become an every-down player at the next level, but he certainly has the makings of a situational pass-rusher off the start at the very least.
With multiple mid-round picks and potentially more if trading down in the first round, expect the Raiders to target several pass-rushers there, and Jeffcoat should be one of them.
DE Cassius Marsh (UCLA)
Another edge-rusher who should draw interest in the middle-late rounds—and thus from the Raiders—is UCLA’s Cassius Marsh.
Marsh didn’t have a fast 40 time this week at 4.89 seconds, but his 7.08-second time in the three-cone drill was among the best for defensive linemen.
Of course, low 40 times are great, and they stand out when posted by players at any position on the field, but the argument can quite easily be made about the three-cone being more important for linemen in particular.
An impressive time in that drill speaks to Marsh’s athleticism and quickness in small spaces.
At 6’4”, 252 pounds, he also may need to add some size to be an every-down player in the NFL, but at one of several positions where it’s more important to be quick than it is to be fast, Marsh’s performance at the combine should help his draft stock moving forward.
RB George Atkinson III (Notre Dame)
With so many needs elsewhere on the roster, the Raiders are unlikely to be looking for a running back early on in this year’s draft.
However, with some uncertainty at the position, the late rounds are still a possibility for such, and the son of a former Raider, George Atkinson III, could become a realistic target.
With good running back size at 6’1”, 218 pounds, Atkinson tested well across the board at the combine, posting a 40 time of 4.48, a vertical jump of 38” and a 60-yard shuttle time of 11.50.
Lacking experience more than anything else, Atkinson may just need the right opportunity at the next level to make use of his impressive athletic ability.
Whether or not that team ends up being the Raiders remains to be seen, but a late-round pick spent on a player with such size and speed may make for some good value.