The NFL’s annual scouting combine is set to get underway in couple of days and for the first time in my lifetime the Oakland Raiders won’t be checking their stopwatches first and the scouting reports second. Among the men that were allowed to remain employed under the new Raider regime, the scouting department is competing for their jobs in addition to finding new talent.
This combine will be different than any other one the Raider organization has participated in. There is, once again, a new coach with a new philosophy in place. There is actually a general manager with a vision for how he wants to build the team. There is also no Al Davis to dictate the need for speed.
This is a new era.
In the past it would have been a no-brainer that Florida’s Jeff Demps would become a Raider. Blessed with world class speed yet very limited production Demps fits the mold of the type of player Davis would covet. There is no doubt Demps will be among the fastest players at the combine. There is, for once, doubt that the Raiders would even consider drafting him.
For the past three years the man that has run the fastest time in 40-yard dash at the combine has become a Raider. Darrius Heyward-Bey, Jacoby Ford and DeMarcus Van Dyke all ran right from the scouting combine and into a silver and black on Sundays. With the jury still very much out on DVD, DHB and Ford have proven to be playmakers. So it is unfair to simply say Davis scouted speed and nothing else.
However the reality is Davis often put speed above all else and many of his draftees reflect that.
This time around the scouting department will go into the combine with a much different mission. As previously mentioned many of the current Oakland scouts are auditioning for their jobs. The real task will be finding late round gems. Thanks to some serious wheeling and dealing in recent years the Raiders are going to be doing a lot of sitting and waiting on draft day. For a second straight year there is no first round pick and for good measure the Raiders don’t have any picks until the 5th round. That can and should change once compensatory picks are handed out. Still, there is very little to work with here.
Perhaps Reggie McKenzie is cooking up some scheme to move talent for more picks. Or maybe he’s content to see the scouts do the best they can. Either way the cupboard is very empty in terms of getting new talent via the draft.
Davis’ final project was Terrelle Pryor. Oakland gave up a third round pick for Pryor’s rights in the supplemental draft. No telling what the future holds for Pryor. No telling what the draft will look like for Oakland. What we do know for sure is that the 40-yard dash won’t be the same any longer. It’s still the sexiest of all combine workouts but it is no longer an open competition for the right to be a Raider.