The 2018 Reese’s Senior Bowl will take place on Jan. 27 in Mobile, Alabama. The annual game is a showcase of some of the nation’s best talent, nationally televised via the NFL Network. For scouts, it is another opportunity to get an evaluation on a player that can potentially help their roster. For Oakland Raiders fans, it is a chance to get an early eye on some players they can help a roster filled with holes.
Despite a personal endorsement from head coach Jon Gruden, it’s not certain whether or not running back Marshawn Lynch will return for a second season with the Raiders. In the seventh round of the 2017 draft, Oakland selected North Carolina running back Elijah Hood, who did not take an offensive snap this season. Dual backs Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington both saw a decline in production in 2017, combining for 10 fumbles.
The 2018 draft class is stacked with solid rushers, and Akrum Wadley is sure to be a day two steal. Wadley combines speed and elusiveness with pure athleticism, making him a threat in the backfield and on special teams. Wadley can potentially be a replacement for Richard on returns, and has the size and rushing ability to earn snaps immediately.
Rashaad Penny (RB – San Diego State)
San Diego State back Rashaad Penny continues to shoot up draft boards and become an intriguing name with the draft approaching. Penny was one of the nation’s leading rushers, due to his versatility. Penny will works as the back in Oakland, combining vision and patience between the tackles with the burst to get free in open field.
James Washington (WR – Oklahoma State)
The Raiders have issues at the wideout position, from top to bottom. Amari Cooper needs a shot of confidence, Seth Roberts is unreliable, and Michael Crabtree may be on his way out. Oakland needs a dynamic wideout who can take the pressure off Cooper.
If nothing else, they need a receiver versatile enough to push Roberts out the equation. In return, this allows them to rotate Cooper from slot to outside. Oklahoma State wideout James Washington is one of the biggest question marks of this draft. He has been criticized for his short arms and inability to get space. Nevertheless, his route running, hands, and speed are not to be taken for granted.
Washington has tremendous burst, and an incredible ability to create in open-field. Giving Derek Carr a reliable deep threat, can open up Gruden’s offense. However, Washington can be so much more, with a playing style reminiscent of Steve Smith, an undersized burst of energy. The most important trait Washington possesses is great hands, especially for an Oakland team consistently leading the league in drops.
Marcell Ateman (WR – Oklahoma State)
It is no coincidence that both receivers on this list are wideouts from Oklahoma State. Cowboys quarterback Mason Rudolph enjoyed the best targets in the country to throw to in James Washington and Marcell Ateman. The Oakland Raiders have not had a jump ball threat since Randy Moss. Ateman is a 6’4 behemoth, lengthy with good body control and route running. In the red zone, he is the perfect prospect to receive the fade just in case Michael Crabtree leaves.
Brandon Parker (OT – North Carolina A&T)
The 2017 season showed many flaws on both sides of the field, but the offensive line was a major issue. Offseason signee Marshall Newhouse was serviceable at right tackle, but certainly not a long-term solution. Injuries ended 2016 Pro Bowler Donald Penn’s season early, raising questions about the future for the 34-year-old.
The Raiders certainly are not shy about taking players from lesser-known schools, especially HBCU. Some of the Raiders hall of fame talent has went to HBCU, namely lineman and former coach Art Shell. A&T tackle Brandon Parker is a name that is gaining a lot of traction this winter, after a stellar career as an Aggie. In four seasons at left tackle, Parker did not allow a sack. Parker has solid technique and good footwork, along with the strength to move the league’s best edge rushers. While Oakland just selected Jylan Ware and David Sharpe last season, Parker can be a day three steal that pays off.