Raiders combine preview: Who to watch, when Gruden talks and more

Gruden-Mayock pairing takes on first NFL Scouting Combine

Raiders owner Mark Davis, GM Mike Mayock and head coach Jon Gruden. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)
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The NFL world descends on Indianapolis this week for the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine, the epicenter for prospective draftees, executives, coaches, agents and reporters from Tuesday through Monday.

The Raiders own 10 picks in this year’s draft, including a league-high three in the first round, so this week of interviews and evaluations are crucial for Jon Gruden, new general manager Mike Mayock and the future of the franchise that will have one more season in Oakland before relocating to Vegas.

Here’s what you need to know before activity ramps up in Indianapolis, from prospects to watch to when Gruden talks and more for the football-deprived Raiders fan.

1. When do the Raiders pick in this year’s draft?

Ten total picks as of now:

Round 1: No. 4, No. 24 (via Chicago in Khalil Mack trade), No. 27 (via Dallas in Amari Cooper trade)Round 2: No. 35Round 3: No. 66Round 4: No. 106Round 5: No. 141Round 6: No. 197 (via Chicago in Mack trade)Round 7: No. 219Round 7: No. 236 (via Seattle in Shalom Luani trade)

2. Potential targets at each first-round pick

At No. 4: Kentucky edge Josh Allen, Alabama DT Quinnen Williams, Clemson DE Clelin Ferrell, Michigan DE Rashan Gary, Mississippi State DE Montez Sweat, Florida State edge Brian Burns, LSU LB Devin White, Houston DT Ed Oliver, Florida DE Jachai Polite

The Raiders should bolster their pass rush with their first pick after recording the fewest sacks in a single season (13) of any team since the 2008 Chiefs. Last year’s second third-round pick, defensive end Arden Key, only logged one sacks despite defensive coordinator Paul Guenther saying Key should’ve had around 10. Maybe the Raiders don’t find the next Mack, but anything better than last year’s edge group will suffice. Williams and Oliver play on the inside, but both get after the quarterback. Maybe Allen slips if a quarterback-needy team trades into the top three. Names like Sweat, Burns and Polite could jump into the top-five conversation with standout showings in Indianapolis and their respective Pro Days. Then there’s the possibility the Raiders trade down from No. 4 if a quarterback-needy team pegs them as a trade partner instead of the Cardinals, 49ers or Jets.

At Nos. 24 and 27: Oklahoma WR Marquise Brown, Louisiana Tech DE Jaylon Ferguson, Iowa TE T.J. Hockenson, Ole Miss WR D.K. Metcalf, Delaware S Nasir Adderley, Alabama RB Josh Jacobs, South Carolina WR Deebo Samuel, Alabama LB Mack Wilson, Alabama S Deionte Thompson

Gruden might want to split these picks between offense and defense, one on a pass-catcher (wide receiver if Jared Cook re-signs, possibly tight end or maybe still wide receiver if he doesn’t) and one on a defensive back, No. 2 linebacker or pass-rush insurance. As every Raiders fan knows, they can never have too much on defense, hence the possibility for additions at any position on that side of the ball with these two picks. They also don’t have a true No. 1 wide receiver, a title currently held by soon-to-be 34-year-old Jordy Nelson. A dark horse selection here would be Jacobs, the Crimson Tide running back who NFL Network draft guru Daniel Jeremiah said is the clear-cut No. 1 at his position in this class. Oakland might be a potential home for Jacobs if Marshawn Lynch retires and Doug Martin doesn’t re-sign.

3. When do Gruden and Mayock talk in Indy?

Mayock is the first general manager to speak this year. He’s on the main podium (there are three in the interview fieldhouse) at 9 a.m. EST, 6 a.m. PST on Wednesday.

Gruden is first to the podium on Thursday morning. He’s on the main stage at 9 a.m. EST before Rams coach Sean McVay and Browns general manager John Dorsey.

4. Which prospects will talk and test when?

Group 1: Running backs, offensive linemen, kickers, punters- Talk to media on Thursday, bench press on Thursday, K/P workouts on Thursday, OL/RB workouts on Friday

Group 2: Quarterbacks, wide receivers, tight ends- Talk to media on Friday, bench press on Friday, on-field workouts on Saturday

Group 3: Defensive linemen, linebackers- Talk to media on Saturday, bench press on Saturday, on-field workouts on Sunday

Group 4: Defensive backs- Talk to media on Sunday, bench press on Sunday, on-field workouts on Monday

5. Talking points of the week

Some relevant topics that will be addressed in Indianapolis from Raiders figureheads this week:

  • Strong likelihood of staying in Oakland for one more season before move to Vegas, something Gruden favored heavily
  • Lynch’s future at 32 years old, entering unrestricted free agency and coming off a season-ending injury, Gruden said in late January he’d know more after the Super Bowl
  • Discussions (or no discussions) with Cook’s camp regarding re-signing the tight end and team’s best pass-catcher
  • Some will surely ask Gruden about his praise for Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray and relate it to the No. 4 pick, and Gruden will wisely praise Murray to increase the trade value of the No. 4 pick while sending mock drafters and talk-show hosts into a frenzy
  • Mayock’s first combine as a general manager and having to prevent himself from spewing knowledge about every prospect (which he’s admittedly used to doing) so as to not divulge the Raiders’ preferences to other teams

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