The Las Vegas Raiders' new coaching staff is starting to take form as the Raiders are reportedly reaching an agreement with Chris Ash to be their defensive backs coach.
However, there has also been a report Jason Simmons is taking over the unit. The Raiders haven’t confirmed anything yet. There is a chance both Ash and Simmons are coming to Las Vegas.
Las Vegas Raiders are expected to hire Carolina Panthers defensive passing game coordinator and defensive backs coach Jason Simmons to coach their secondary, according to league sources @PFN365— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) February 8, 2022
Assuming Ash is joining the Raiders’ staff, his background as a college coach could pay draft dividends.
Ash most recently served as the safeties coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars this past season, however, his background has primarily been in the college ranks. His first job in coaching was at his alma mater, Drake University, back in 1997, and he’s had stops at Iowa State, San Diego State, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Ohio State, Rutgers and Texas ever since.
While his roles have varied by location, Ash was Rutgers’ head coach from 2016 to 2019 and Texas’ defensive coordinator and safeties coach in 2020.
With the NFL Draft coming up in a few months, the reported Raiders' new coach might have some strong connections to a couple of draft prospects in this year’s cycle that could give us some names to keep an eye on between now and late April:
Bo Melton, WR, Rutgers
Melton’s freshman season at Rutgers was in 2017, meaning he part of Ash’s first full recruiting class in New Brunswick. That has to count for something as far as a connection goes and the wideout certainly made the coach look good for bringing him in.
During his five seasons in college, Melton racked up 164 catches for 2,037 yards and 11 touchdowns, while adding 165 yards and two scores on the ground and providing some value as a returner. He also earned All-Big Ten honors, was a two-time team captain and was named to the Biletnikoff Award watch list twice.
Despite all of that collegiate success, the Rutgers star is viewed as a sixth- or seventh-round pick, according to NFL Mock Draft Database. That’s primarily due to his size — he measured in just short of 5’11” and weighed 182 pounds at the Senior Bowl — which limits his effectiveness in contested catch situations.
However, he has plenty of traits that stand out in a positive light, as Olver Hodgkinson of Pro Football Network points out in a scouting report on the Scarlett Night:
“Melton’s athletic ability isn’t solely predicated on long speed. The Rutgers WR can accelerate with impressive suddenness. You can routinely see him deceiving defenders with a jogging pace that explodes into a sprint that leaves them yards behind. Additionally, he possesses decent lateral agility and change-of-direction ability. He uses these tools to separate as a route runner, but he also becomes a dangerous weapon after the catch.”
Melton shined down in Mobile, showing off some of the speed and quickness referenced above. He also has some versatility as Jordan Reid, draft analyst at ESPN, told NJ Advance Media that he “wouldn’t be surprised if [Melton’s] a running back on some teams’ boards.”
The Raiders need a deep threat a could always use someone with the versatility to catch passes out of the backfield, so maybe that, plus a connection to Ash is enough to make him a Raider in the near future.
Josh Thompson, CB, Texas
While Ash’s tenure at Texas only lasted about one and a half seasons — he joined their staff as an analyst after getting fired mid-year from Rutgers in 2019 — he did play a role in getting cornerback Josh Thompson prepped for the NFL.
Thompson went from allowing a completion percentage of 77.1 percent before Ash’s takeover as defensive coordinator to just 55.3 percent in 2020. The corner also registered his highest PFF coverage grade (67.2) under the Raiders’ new coach’s tutelage, up nearly nine points from the previous season.
The former Longhorn also racked up 108 total tackles, two interceptions and five pass breakups in college. He has solid size for an NFL corner, measuring in at 5’ 10 7/8” and 199 pounds at the Senior Bowl, and could be an asset in a zone-heavy scheme according to NFL Draft Bible:
“Thompson is the ideal size at the outside cornerback position that many teams desire. Also, he is a good athlete overall with solid deep speed. Thompson is best at press coverage, where he shows off light feet and fluid hips to make smooth transitions and can stick with bigger receivers who aren’t highly nuanced road runners. Thompson shows flashes of effectiveness when asked to move sideways in the zone, particularly to cover three. He understands his assignment in the deep third and is excellent at reading receiver No. 2 by your side and be aware of any vertical groove/path fades you may need to defend.”
Thompson has a seventh-round or unrestricted free agent designation on him, per NFL Mock Draft Database, so he’d be another potential late-round pickup in Las Vegas. Regardless, his connection to Ash could very well mean he’ll be donning the Silver and Black soon.