The Raiders are either making some targeted pre-draft workouts or throwing out a lot of smoke screens — or a bit of both. My money is on a bit of both.
Last week they took a trip to South Carolina to work out Clemson offensive lineman Chris Hairston and South Carolina corner/safety Chris Culliver. Then they were in attendance for the workouts of Hawaii safety Keanemana Silva. All of those players would fit well on this Raider team. I even had Culliver listed as being on the Raiders draft radar prior to their visit.
The latest to get the invite for private workouts are Florida Atlantic tight end Rob Housler, Wisconsin-Stevens Point wide receiver Jared Jenkins, and Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
At tight end, the Raiders are in the market for a suitable backup for Zach Miller and more depth. Housler is a tremendous athlete at the tight end position and is an H-back type player. He is projected as a round four pick but I can’t see the Raiders taking him any higher than round five. They are also more in need of a blocking tight end with Zach Miller as the primary pass catching tight end on the team. Housler doesn’t quite have the bulk necessary to fill that role but the Raiders could fall in love with his athleticism.
At wide receiver there is also need for some depth. The Raiders have four players who have started but at this point, second year player Jacoby Ford is the closest thing to a solid starting quality player. They could use a good low round gem to throw into the mix to compete for playing time and add some depth. Jared Jenkins was an all-conference wideout his final three seasons for the Pointers. He is a big, tall receiver at 6-4, 225. He has improved on his initial poor Pro Day numbers in the 40 yard dash and broad jump. He went from a 4.60 to a 4.47 in the 40 and from a 9’3″ broad jump to a 12’8″ — a head scatching 3’5″ difference. The Raiders are one of the last teams to schedule him for a workout and his improved workout numbers could have been what finally attracted their attention. Jenkins is looking like a round 6 or 7 prospect.
Kaepernick on the other hand, is a round two or three prospect. And with the questions surrounding some of the QB prospects in this draft, he could go as high as the early second round. He has a strong arm, albeit not elite, and can make plays happen with his feet. Kaepernick has had a great deal of success in his four years at Nevada. They knocked off the fourth ranked, unbeaten Boise State last season on their way to a win over Boston College in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. They would finish their 2010 season with just one loss.
Kaepernick took the Wolfpack to a Bowl game all four seasons he was there. He was the MVP of the Humanitarian Bowl in 2008 as well as being named Offensive MVP and first team all WAC in 2008 and 2010. He also impressed at the 2011 Senior Bowl.
Aside from his accomplishments at Nevada, he is considered somewhat of a local product having grown up in Turlock California, about an hour east of Oakland.
It would be a bit of a shock for the Raiders to go quarterback for their round two pick with their more glaring needs along the offensive line and at corner, but it is possible. If they like Kaepernick enough and are afraid he wouldn’t be available when they pick in the third round (which he probably won’t be), they could very well make him their first selection at pick 48.
In my latest mock I have Kaepernick going to the 49ers in the early third round. That would be a good landing spot for him with the 49ers need at quarterback. That is, of course, if the 49ers don’t jump the gun and pick a quarterback they like better with their early round two pick — or even perhaps their seventh overall pick.
So at this point, there are a few options for the Raiders. A) Choose Kaepernick at 48 and hope a good OG/C or CB they like is available in round three. B) Wait and see if Kaepernick is still on the board when they make their third round pick. C) Use their round two pick on another position of need and then try to trade up into the late second to get Kaepernick. Or D) Not pick him at all.
Hard to say what the Raiders will do at this juncture. Just working him out carries no guarantees. It shows they could have interest and that’s about it. It could be a smokescreen, they may not like what they see, or they may fall completely in love with him.
Jason Campbell is the starter for the immediate future so Kaepernick would be brought in as the heir apparent. When Bruce Gradkowski was looming behind Campbell, it showed in Campbell’s play. If the Raiders spend their first draft pick this year on Kaepernick, we could see more nervous play from Campbell as he feels the pressure of his replacement waiting on the sidelines. But if the Raiders find they really want Kaepernick, they can’t worry about things like that. If they think he can be the next Aaron Rodgers, they have to take him.
But all this is getting way ahead of ourselves. It is just a workout.