Many Raider fans watched the 2011 Senior Bowl on Saturday to size up some of the prospects that will be in this year's draft. It's too bad that there isn't a collegiate all-star with underclassmen included so we can see the very best of the best.
With all of the talent and the speed of the skill position players on both sides of the ball, the Raiders are sure to focus on the trenches in this year's draft. The trenches were far and away the weakness of this Raider team as they were around the bottom of the league in run defense and sacks given up.
Underclassmen will be out this spring in the draft to fill some of those needs. Free agency will also be a time that the Raiders can load up on some players to help their cause.
But this year's Senior Bowl did have some guys that could be on the Raider radar.
Turn the page to see who they are.
At 6'4, 337 pounds, Phil Taylor is a huge man that looks like he can stop the inside run all by himself. He has a combination of strength and quickness that give opposing offensive lineman problems.
He didn't put up any numbers on Saturday but, showed that strength and quickness as he did all week. He showed that he is more than capable of clogging the lane in the middle as he helped hold the north to zero net rushing yards in the game.
Every coach Hue Jackson has wanted to talk to about the Raider's vacant defensive coordinator position is with a 3-4 team. The fact that he hasn't hired anyone yet tells us that he could be waiting for former Raider linebacker and current Packer linebacker coach Winston Moss.
Taylor looks like the type of nose tackle a 3-4 defense can be built around if Haloti Ngata doesn't become a free agent. The problem is he's projected to go in the first or second round and the Redskins are on the look for a nose tackle.
But he should still be on the radar just in case.
Danny Watkins has only played the game of football for four years of his young 26 year old life. But what the man displayed last week doesn't show that is all the experience he has.
It has been reported that few offensive guard prospects show the kind of knee bend and leverage Watkins plays with in one on one drills. He used such attributes to handle Taylor, his Baylor teammate and Clemson's Jarvis Jenkins.
And to think Watkins played left tackle during his collegiate career and just moved to guard for the Senior Bowl. If the Raiders can't get Stefen Wisniewki, perhaps they should move Watkins to the center position.
His 6'4, 310 pound frame and athletic ability would be put to good use there. Watkins is projected to go in the second round so the Raiders will probably need some luck there as he helped himself last week.
I'm sure the Raiders at least have him on their radar.
There's another Mathews coming out in the draft.
This one is Casey Mathews.
Mathews is projected to be a third day pick and played pretty well in the Senior Bowl with four tackles and a pass break up. The Raiders could use a guy like Mathews if they want to take a linebacker later in the draft.
At 6'0, 235 pounds, many of the experts think that the son of Clay and brother of Clay Jr. is too small for the NFL. So was Sam Mills and he more than made up for it with his heart, intelligence, passion for the game.
Does the latest Mathews have all of these qualities?
He is a Mathews.
Kelvin Sheppard is a 6'4, 250 pound, thumper linebacker that could work well next to Rolando McClain should the Raiders chose to go to a 3-4. He could also back McClain up in a 4-3 as the Raiders don't have much for that now. (See the Jaguar game.)
Sheppard is projected in to go in the fourth round and Todd McShay believes he'll be a steal there. Sheppard had 116 tackles as a Senior to go with 11 tackles for a loss, three quarterback hits, and seven passes defensed.
He also has two interceptions in pass coverage so there appears to be no weakness in his game. Sheppard had a good Senior Bowl week and capped it with five tackles on Saturday.
The Raiders usually do quite well in the fourth round so this may be another good one.
I really don't think the Raiders are looking too hard for a wide receiver these days. As a matter of fact, Leonard Hankerson's five catch for 100 yard Senior Bowl may have moved him into the first round from the second.
But the Raiders should have him on the radar anyway.
He hasn't run in the combine yet but looked very fast on the field on 49-yard catch on Saturday. At 6'3, 205 pounds, the speed Leonard has makes him the ultimate vertical threat.
He looked like the second coming of Andre Johnson Saturday.
Derek Sherrod is considered to be a first round prospect by some and a second rounder to others. He has shown the ability to catch up to speed rushers but is a little inconsistent against them.
He has good feet but can be crossed up with double moves at times. The reason why is he is a little tight in his hips and plays high at times.
Sherrod has ideal size at 6'6, 315 pounds but can still add more to his frame. He can obviously be helped with some coaching so it remains to be seen if NFL teams will invest a first or early second round pick on him.
The Raiders should be after Jared Gaither in free agency but Sherrod should still be on the radar.
Christian Ponder isn't the big-armed type of quarterback Al Davis likes. However, The Raiders need another back up quarterback as Bruce Gradkowski has just become a free agent.
Why should Ponder be on the Raider Radar?
Because Ponder is the 2011 Senior Bowl MVP and that should put him on every team's radar. He was originally projected to go in the third round of the draft but his draft status may have been affected for the better.
I'm not expecting a pick here but he has to at least be on the Raider radar.
I really wasn't all that impressed with the Senior Bowl players or game itself overall. But there were some players there that should be on the Oakland Raider radar.
This is in no way a suggestion or projection of who the Raiders will pick in the draft from the game. But this is a list of players that have stood out enough during the Senior Bowl week to at least get a look from the Raiders.
Free agency will have much do with the direction the Raiders go in as well as the underclassmen coming out. Then there's the NFL Scouting Combine to see who the strongest and fastest players in the draft are.
That's how you really catch the eye of Al Davis.