Jack Del Rio has been back to Denver only once since being hired as Raiders head coach. He got his affairs in order quickly after the initial hire and, roughly five weeks later, Del Rio has a new home and a new coaching staff to show for it.
He also has a greater understanding of his roster, a foundation that helps him figure out what his team needs in the draft and free agency. While he has watched a ton of tape, Del Rio will get a closer look at draft prospects starting at this week’s NFL scouting combine.
General manager Reggie McKenzie has a head start after reviewing reports and scouting college all-star games. The scouting combine at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianpolis is considered the unofficial start to draft season.
More than 300 of the best amateur football players will be evaluated during the week-long event, which has become increasingly popular for fans and media alike.
Athletes are put through tests of strength, agility and smarts. Away from the field, teams will meet with several prospects in person and get medical evaluations on most.
While the combine generates the heaviest volume of coverage, Del Rio insists that it’s just one piece of a larger puzzle. It doesn’t hold and additional weight over pro days, facility visits or college tape.
The Raiders had an excellent draft last year, and gained valuable information from the combine to add to their overall evaluation.
“I don’t know if I would get into a specific position that you would say, ‘Hey we need to address this position,’” Del Rio said. “We’ll clearly increase the talent level.”
Del Rio’s being coy. The Raiders certainly need help at receiver, defensive line, running back and in the secondary.
McKenzie prefers to build through the draft, leaving this as a valuable week to gather information and refine the Raiders draft board. Del Rio would rather draft and develop young players as well.
If players want to impress Del Rio and the Raiders, they should perform at every turn, including the combine. Several top players tend to skip certain exercises to put themselves in the best light. Del Rio would prefer players work out and be honest during meetings. The Raiders are experienced enough to know when they’re being fed an agent-orchestrated line.
While focus will be on quarterbacks as expected, the Raiders will pay more attention to other spots with Derek Carr already in the fray. How the Raiders use the No. 4 overall pick will be of chief concern to outsiders, but the Raiders will try to get an overall scope of this draft class.
Free agency doesn’t start until mid-March, but unofficial feelers will be extended to agents of coveted players as market values start to set.
It’s an important time for the NFL, and the Raiders will try to maximize their efforts in Indy while trying to improve this roster during a vital offseason.