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MOBILE, Ala. – The Raiders brought six coaches and most of their personnel department down south for the Senior Bowl. Odds are the No. 5 overall pick isn’t here.
A record 102 underclassmen declared for this year’s draft and are therefore not eligible to play in an all-star game highlighting college seniors. Players expected to go in the top 10 – regardless of class – aren’t in Mobile for an intense practice week that doubles as an unofficial coaching convention.
That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth the trip. Like every other club, the Raiders have scouted seniors throughout the season, compiling tape and supporting it with in-person visits. The Senior Bowl offers scouts and coaches a chance to see how a player competes against other top players and how they’ve improved throughout the season.
It’s valuable because the Raiders need to find impact players later in the draft. Evaluation at this stage can be crucial even with the NFL scouting combine and individual pro days yet to come.
The Raiders coached the game last year, which clued them in on outside linebacker Sio Moore, a third-round pick who was clearly the team’s rookie of the year. Then again, Tyler Wilson was at the Senior Bowl – he was on the opposing team, meaning the staff didn’t get a good look at him there – and the fourth-round pick didn’t pan out. They'll do so from the bleachers this go round, but they'll have time to meet with players individually in the evening.
While their first-round pick is likely somewhere else, these practices might help find the next diamond in the rough.