INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana — With the 2023 NFL Combine officially in the books, the NFL Draft is steadily approaching for the Las Vegas Raiders and the rest of the league. We’re less than two months out from decision time for head coach Josh McDaniels and general manager Dave Ziegler in what will be a vital draft for the future of the franchise.
We now have more information on several prospects who fit the Raiders’ needs, so who stood out and made some money last week, and who might be sliding down the Silver and Black’s draft board?
WINNER: Anthony Richardson
I’m sure by now you’ve probably heard a million times about how Anthony Richardson crushed it in Indianapolis but leaving him off of a winners list just be wrong. He was that impressive.
Measuring in at 6’4” and change and 244 pounds, it’s almost unbelievable that he ran a 4.43-second 40-yard dash. That’s the fourth-fastest time for a quarterback in combine history, trailing Michael Vick (4.33), Reggie McNeal (4.40) and Robert Griffin III (4.41). For comparison’s sake, RG3 is the biggest of those three at 6’2” and 223 pounds; two inches shorter and 21 pounds lighter than Richardson.
The Florida product also turned heads with his explosiveness, recording a 40.5” vertical — best ever for a QB at the event — and a 10’9” broad jump. Individually, those two marks earned perfect scores on the RAS scale, a common theme throughout his workout.
He earned an elite grade in literally every measurement, per RAS, and walked out of Lucas Oil Stadium with a perfect 10 RAS score. The only other signal callers to do that are Cam Newton and Daunte Culpepper.
Richardson looked good in the position drills, too. He showed off the large cannon that’s attached to his right shoulder and impressed with some touch on his short throws. The latter was something he struggled with in Gainsville so the growth was good to see.
However, one could argue that the Raiders are losers in this scenario because if they want to drat A-Rich, the price just went up.
LOSER: Christopher Smith II
Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham is known for using versatile safeties in his scheme, but the Raiders currently lack the personnel for his defense to function the way it’s supposed to, making the position a significant draft need.
Heading into the combine, one player on Graham’s radar likely was Georgia safety Christopher Smith as below is what Bleacher Report’s defensive backs scout, Cory Giddings, had to say about the Bulldog.
Overall, Smith is one of the best and most consistent safeties in this year’s draft. He can do just about everything that is asked of him, and he will fit into most schemes in the NFL. He will need to continue to work on his top-end speed, especially in coverage. But the way he plays the run will help him make an immediate impact for whichever team drafts him.
Giddings points out Smith’s lack of long speed might be an issue at the next level and that was apparent last week. Smith ended up running a 4.62-second 40-yard dash while weighing in at 192 pounds. To put it simply, being small and slow (relatively speaking) isn’t exactly a great combination.
Perhaps even more concerning is that Smith is under 5’11” and has just a 33-inch vertical to make up for his lack of height. He left Indianapolis with a 2.97 RAS score, the lowest mark of any safety who completed the athletic testing drills.
WINNER: Jack Campbell
It’s draft season so that means the Raiders need a linebacker as it’s become an annual tradition over the last several years. One could argue that no player at the position did more to help their draft stock and kill narratives than Iowa’s Jack Campbell did last weekend.
Heading into the combine, some people questioned Campbell’s speed and athleticism. While his 40-time (4.65) was good but not great, he earned an elite grade in just about every other category.
A 37.5” vertical, 10’8” broad jump, 4.24-second shuttle and 6.74-second three-cone were good enough to earn a 9.98 RAS Score. That’s the highest number of any linebacker in this draft class, and he did that will measuring in just under 6’5” and 250 pounds. In other words, he has “old-school” linebacker size with “new-school” linebacker athleticism.
My comparison for Campbell heading into the combine was a healthy Leighton Vander Esch, and they posted nearly identical numbers with Vander Esch earning a 9.96 RAS Score. The Boise State product was a top 20 pick back in 2018 and the Hawkeye might be on his way there with testing numbers like these.
LOSER: Henry To’oTo’o
From a linebacker who impressed to one who struggled. In Henry To’oTo’o’s defense, he did show some good speed in the 40-yard dash with a time of 4.62 seconds. However, my concern with him has always been his lateral movement skills and that was confirmed by a 4.4-second shuttle time which earned a 4.71 out of 10 on RAS’ scale.
To’oTo’o was also underwhelming when it came to his explosive testing. His 32-inch vertical earned a 4.26 score and while his 9’8” broad jump was better, his 5.72 grade still leaves something to be desired. It doesn’t help that the Alabama product lacks NFL size for the position too, measuring in right at 6’1” and 227 pounds.
All of that resulted in a 6.03 RAS score overall, which was the third-worst of any linebacker who tested in Indianapolis, and he’s getting a boost from his 40-time. As a group, the backers were really impressive at the combine overall so I wouldn’t be surprised if To’oTo’o’s draft stock takes a major hit after his performance last weekend.
WINNER: Julius Brents
He’s just shy of 6’3” at 6’2 3/4” and posted elite agility grades with 4.05-second shuttle and 6.63-second three-cone times. That combination of height and change of direction skills is rare for a cornerback, and he posted a 41.5-inch vertical as well. Given his long arms and ability to jump through the roof, he should have no problem swatting away passes at the next level.
Brents also dropped jaws with an 11’6” broad jump to further show how explosive he can be. He wrapped up the weekend with a 9.82 RAS score which was the fourth-highest at his position as he continues to climb up draft boards.
As of March 8, NFL Mock Draft Database’s consensus big board has the Wildcat projected to be a third-round pick, but that will change as he’s getting some Day 1 love in a few post-combine mock drafts.
LOSER: Clark Phillips
We knew heading into Indianapolis that Clark Phillips isn’t the biggest guy in the world, so the fact in measured in at 5’9” isn’t much of a surprise. His best projection at the next level is as a nickel or slot corner where height isn’t as much of an issue. However, his lack of change of direction skills is very concerning.
Phillips sat out of the three-cone testing but recorded an ugly 4.32-second shuttle time. That earned a 3.73 score on RAS’ scale and could make his scheme fit at the next level even more difficult.
To cover on the inside, defensive backs have to be shifty and be able to get in and out of cuts quickly. A lot of offenses have slot receivers run option routes where the direction they end up going is based on the defender’s leverage to make the defender wrong; i.e. running an out route versus inside leverage. Also, there’s a lot more ground to cover laterally the closer you are to the middle of the field.
So, if Phillips lacks the height and overall size to play on the outside and doesn’t have the agility to match the Hunter Renfrows of the world, it’s going to be hard for him to find a home in the NFL.