One of the highlights of the 2019 season was the instant impact that was made from the rookie class. Mike Mayock absolutely crushed his first draft as a general manager.
Landing a future star in round one is much easier than finding a diamond in the rough in the mid to later rounds of the draft. Look no further than Maxx Crosby, a fourth round pick by the Raiders, and 106th player chosen overall to be exact. Crosby was only a two star recruit out of high school, and received only one scholarship offer and that was from Eastern Michigan University.
Crosby turned out to be one of the best value picks in all of the 2019 draft, finishing the season with 10 sacks, 35 solo tackles, 16 tackles for loss, and four forced fumbles. Because of his stellar rookie season, he finished second in defensive rookie of the year voting behind Nick Bosa of the 49ers.
With a solid foundation in place, Mike Mayock following up this years class with another talented group in 2020 will be the key to the organizations success heading into Las Vegas.
If he is looking to dip into the pool of small school prospects again, he may want to take a deep look at Kyle Dugger out of Division II Lenoir-Rhyne and Antonio Gandy-Golden from Liberty. Both play positions where the Raiders could use some help, Dugger a hybrid safety/linebacker and Gandy-Golden a wide receiver.
Both had very good showings at the Senior Bowl, which goes along way in the opinions of scouts because it can be hard to get a true evaluation based off a career where you are not facing potential NFL talent on a regular basis. The Senior Bowl is an opportunity for guys like Dugger and Gandy-Golden to show they belong.
In the latest edition of my podcast, Just Pod Baby, I was joined by Dane Brugler. Dane is a NFL draft analyst for The Athletic, and was in town all week for the Senior Bowl. Here is what he had to say about both prospects:
“Linebacker, safety from Lenoir-Rhyne, division II school. Just your classic late bloomer, didn’t get a lot of chances in high school to show what he could do. He goes to the division II level and just blossoms. He has the athleticism where he can cover in space, he’s twitched up, very good tackler coming down hill, he can run the alley, there’s so many different things you can do with him. I’ve talked to some teams that see him as a safety, some believe he is a linebacker but either way, you’re getting a big time player. I think he secured his status as a day two player.”
The Raiders defense is desperate for difference makers at all levels. Dugger stands 6 foot 2, 220 pounds and can be used as a chess piece to move all around in coverage, blitzes, or in run support.
“Antonio Gandy-Golden from Liberty, 6’4 216 pounds, you know to me Tee Higgins is a first round talent but I don’t see a huge gap between a guy like Tee Higgins and Gandy-Golden except you’re going to get Gandy-Golden a couple of rounds later. A very fluid athlete, he’s very natural at the catch point with his tracking skills and ability to finish. He’s a former gymnast and I think that shows on the football field and Gandy-Golden is going to be available in the third round, maybe the fourth depending on how these wide receivers shake out.”
In two seasons at Liberty, Gandy-Golden racked up ridiculous numbers, catching 149 passes for 2,421 yards and 20 touchdowns. Should the Raiders decide to add a capable wide receiver through free agency and hold off on receiver to address the defense in the early rounds of the draft it’s possible a guy like Gandy-Golden could be an ideal target in the mid to later rounds.
The next step for these two under-the-radar prospects is the NFL scouting combine. The event will be another opportunity for them to show how they stack up against the top prospects in the draft.