Combine Week: 10 Options at 24

It’s Combine week, my pals.

Before we know it, we’ll be hearing thousands of fans booing Roger Goodell as he announces the first selection of the 2017 NFL Draft.

To this point, I’ve previewed a handful of players in this class, recapped mocks from notable analysts, and even dropped my own, pre-Combine mock draft. The pieces are slowly starting to fall in place, so I figured it’d be a good time to share where my head is at when Oakland’s on the clock at 24.

My boy Nick spilled the beans, or rather, I outed myself on the latest podcast. Either way, my love for a certain running back (similar to last year, perhaps not quite at that level, however) is apparent:

Hordes of fans have expressed a level of concern for the Raiders, given where they’ll be selecting in a couple of months. 24 overall is certainly a little further down the board than many are used to. No matter, as there are plenty of options I personally really like, few of which should still be floating around.

These “rankings” are in order.

In addition, the player names and order in which they appear are subject to change. April’s not here yet, after all.

1) RB Christian McCaffrey — The heart wants what the heart wants. We’ll see concerns about McCaffrey’s weight from now until April (he threw up 10 reps on the bench while weighing in at 202), but the #tape consistently shows a player unaffected. In fact, he excelled. Just ask Barry. With the best vision, patience, and hands in a class stacked with running back talent, McCaffrey’s the easy choice at 24.

2) DL Malik McDowell“Character flags” and all that aside, you toss on the film and instantly see a kid that belongs in the top five or ten based on his work on the field. “He has a chance to be a dominant player in our league. I mean dominant. It hasn’t turned on for him all the way yet but if it does, he could be like Mario Williams…” – the ceiling is obvious. We’ve seen his name linked to Oakland in plenty of mocks, and will continue to do so. I’m not sure he makes it outside the top 15, but in the event he does, he’d solve a lot of the questions the Raiders have along the defensive line. Oh, and he’s only 20 years old.

3) DL Solomon Thomas — Similar to Christian McCaffrey in the sense that we’re dealing with a special talent that will be “handicapped” due to size/concerns at the next level. Solomon’s one of the better athletes, and a mismatch that I’m playing across the defensive front. It’s a coin-flip between McDowell and Thomas as far as these rankings go.

4) FS Budda Baker — Arguably the best safety in a class that boasts several Sunday players. For Oakland, I’m not quite sure how they’d view him. Baker’s at four on this list until we gain some clarity regarding Reggie Nelson’s future. Does he stay or go? Does Oakland look for a true free safety, or opt to play Joseph deeper and replace his presence in the box? Few variables here.

5) TE David Njoku — Might be the freakiest-freak in attendance at the Combine (and also the youngest?), this is a talent that every single franchise is looking to add to their roster. The buzz has been steadily growing for months now, and as such, I’m not even sure he makes it outside of the top ten let alone down to Oakland’s spot.

6) CB Jalen “Teez” Tabor — Still my CB1. A majority will have Marshon Lattimore wearing that crown, and assuming he (Lattimore) tests as well as many believe he will, I’d be perfectly fine with either here. In Tabor, however, you’re getting a premier player with all the attitude to match. You want him chirping on your side.

7) CB Sidney Jones — Speaking of good cornerbacks, there’s not a player that feels more McKenzie-ish than Sidney Jones. He’s going to check all the boxes, and if I were a betting man, I’d bet on Jones being the selection at 24 overall.

8) DL Jaleel Johnson — More help along the interior of the defensive line, no explanation needed. Could argue for Caleb Brantley in this spot, as well.

9) OT Cam Robinson — Probably the OT1. Cam’s definitely an LT, so I’m wondering how he’d fare on the right side for a season or two when he’d eventually slide over and replace Donald Penn. Protecting Derek Carr remains a priority, and while many are turned off by a tackle selection, it’s a necessity.

10) WR Curtis Samuel — Perhaps a name that’ll surprise a few, Curtis Samuel spent plenty of time lining up out of the back field. I firmly believe his natural position (and best fit at the next level) is wide receiver. Slot receiver, to be more specific. If Oakland passes or misses on McCaffrey, Samuel’s next in line to fill that role.

I know, I know…

“Ryan, where are the linebackers? We need linebackers. You have no idea what you’re doing.”

While I completely agree, I don’t believe the answer’s there at 24 when it comes to linebacker (and more importantly, value). As you can see, there a few players I value quite a bit higher.

Zach Cunningham makes a lot of sense, and he’s received consistent first round-talk as such, but there are some tackling concerns. Haason Reddick is the other name that comes to mind after a productive week at the Senior Bowl. I’d be content with either at 24, but simply have a hard time slotting them above any one of the aforementioned players/positions. Reuben Foster will not be there and Jarrad Davis is not a first round player, in my opinion.

Catch me on Twitter: @StillRyanFive