This week in Mobile, Alabama, 32 NFL teams will get an up-close look at some of the draft’s fastest rising prospects. None will get a closer look, however, than the North and South coaching staffs.
While Jim Schwartz and his Detroit Lions coaching staff will work with the South squad, Dennis Allen and the Raiders will be coaching the North
This could not come at a better time for the talent-thirsty Raiders as they quickly approach a crucial draft. While every draft is important, the Raiders have so many holes on their roster that they need to come away with players they can build around – especially with their first round selection, where the Raiders haven’t had much luck over the last decade.
The Senior Bowl will also allow Allen’s staff the opportunity to work with the less heralded draft prospects in hopes that they can find a few diamonds in the rough. Luckily for the Raiders, the North defense is absolutely stacked with players who look like NFL starters.
Here are some North squad draft prospects who could fit in with the Raiders:
OT Eric Fisher, Western Michigan: Elite LT prospect who will be quickly climbing draft boards. Quick, long arms, and plays with a mean streak.
OL Kyle Long, Oregon: Son of Howie, an athletic but raw linemen with tremendous upside. His future might be at OG.
QB Zac Dysert, Miami (OH): Second-tier QB prospect who has tools to build on. Will need to show he can put enough zip on the ball to make completions outside the hashes.
RB Kenjon Barner, Oregon: Electrifying playmaker who might be a more complete player than his former Oregon teammate LaMichael James.
RB Jonathan Franklin, UCLA: Franklin carried the load for the UCLA offense in 2012. He may not make much happen between the tackles at the next level, but he’s exciting to watch in space.
TE Ryan Otten, San Jose State: Sleeper TE prospect who has enough size and quickness to make it in the NFL.
OL Ricky Wagner, Wisconsin: Another prospect from the vaunted Wisconsin O-line, Wagner played mostly LT but his home will likely be RT or OG in the NFL.
OL Brian Winters, Kent State: Winters may not move well enough to be stay at LT, but could be a very solid developmental prospect at RT.
WR Chris Harper, Kansas State: Harper flashes on tape, and could greatly improve his stock this week. One of the first players the Raiders met with as the Senior Bowl began.
TE Nick Kasa, Colorado: Kasa has spent only one full season as a TE after moving from the defensive side, but scouts like how he moves and he’s a capable run blocker, too.
LB Arthur Brown, Kansas State: The best inside linebacker prospect in the draft may not play in the Senior Bowl, but he’s been on the field nonetheless, picking the brains of the Raider coaches.
LB Khaseem Greene, Rutgers: On tape, it’s almost impossible to keep your eyes off Greene. He’s seemingly always around the football. He’s also by far the best coverage linebacker in the draft. His skill set will be highly-coveted come draft time.
DE Alex Okafor, Texas: While draft pundits have questions about his ability to bend, reports are that scouts at the Senior Bowl have no such concerns. Okafor plays with overwhelming power and displays a nice closing burst to get to the QB.
DL Datone Jones, UCLA: Jones is incredibly stout at the point of attack, and his impressive short area burst makes him a versatile, dangerous player who can be moved around the defensive line to exploit matchups.
DB Jonathan Cyprien, FIU: Rangy, instinctual, aggressive safety has a chance to establish himself as one of the top FS prospects in the draft this week.
DB Jamar Taylor, Boise State: Taylor has a nice skill set that could lend itself to CB or S. Impressive combination of size and speed, and does not shy away from making plays against the run.
DE/OLB Michael Buchanan, Illinois: A disappointing 2012 season sunk his draft stock, but in 2011 many thought him superior to 1st-round teammate Whitney Mercilus. The Senior Bowl will give him a chance to show that he can use his length to compete with top OTs.
CB Jordan Poyer, Oregon State: A very polished corner who excels in press-man coverage. Those tend to be a hot commodity in the draft.
CB Desmond Trufant, Washington: Prototypical corner with NFL bloodlines, Trufant has been a vocal presence on the North defense so far. Scouts should like his ability to play both in the slot and on the boundary.
DE/OLB John Simon, Ohio State: Simon terrorized QBs all season with his relentless motor and impressive strength, but at 6’1 the concern is he may be too short for DE in the NFL. I don’t necessarily agree, but for the sake of his draft stock he’s going to have to showcase some OLB skills this week.
DT Brandon Williams, Missouri Southern: A relatively unheralded prospect until recently, Williams has NFL size and strength even if he didn’t play against top teams. If he shows that he can hang with the more celebrated draft prospects this week, expect him to be a Day 2 pick.
DE Margus Hunt, Southern Methodist: At 6’8 and almost 280 pounds, Hunt is a physical specimen. But he’s raw and his performance during the 2012 season was underwhelming. He has every physical tool, so the Senior Bowl will give scouts a chance to see if he’s capable of putting it all together.
For more thoughts on the 2013 NFL Draft prospects or the Raiders, follow Brad on Twitter @jazzhessian