With the growth of the online NFL draft community has come a growing passion to watch the NFL Combine. The annual gathering has become an institution for fans and one of the focal points of the offseason. This is an event that can dramatically alter the launching point for a player’s career. Each year, over 300 participants come through Indianapolis, but sometimes good prospects are not invited. Here are six prospects that were snubbed from this year’s Combine that every Raider fan should keep their eyes on.
Khalil Hodge, LB Buffalo
Ignoring the uncanny similarities to a recent former Raider who was traded several months ago, Khalil Hodge is a non power conference linebacker who has serious chops. As a three-year starter for Buffalo, Hodge recorded 184 solo tackles, 21 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, and 3 interceptions. Having played 38 total games in college, Hodge has the experience you want to see in a potential leader.
The three most standout attributes for Hodge are his athleticism, his flexibility, and his willingness to take on blockers and work through them. Hodge is a solid zone defender, although he will not look flashy trying to cover a skill position player in man defense. Overall, he is a well rounded defender that will get a mid round grade. Add to this that Hodge was the only defender the Raiders had a private meeting with at the Senior Bowl.
Tre Watson, LB Maryland
This is one of the linebackers that most non-college football fans or draft nerds have not heard much of. Watson was a transfer from Illinois and displayed a knack to find the ball while playing there. He took that skill to Maryland and ended his redshirt senior season with five interceptions. It was notable when Watson was snubbed by the Senior Bowl, but to also be snubbed by the Combine is quite bizarre. For a player who played a prominent role in a major college program to be overlooked twice in favor of part time players at massive programs is a serious disadvantage.
Watson may not jump off the tape when you watch him, but he simply has a nose for the ball. He is a confident tackler who will get his nose in every play. He also has a good feel for zone coverage and was asked to patrol the middle of the field frequently. Watson is not the greatest athlete nor is he necessarily sideline to sideline. Aside from not being a complete lunatic, Watson has a skill similar to Vontaze Burfict.
Devine Ozigbo, RB Nebraska
The Raiders offense has very little deception to keep the defense guessing due to the way it functions. Any mismatch it will produce has to be achieved through the personnel having very balanced skill sets as to not tip the offense’s hand to the defense. One running back who fits the mold of a versatile weapon the Raiders could use is Nebraska running back Devine Ozigbo. Standing six feet tall and weighing in at 230 pounds, the part time back completely changed himself before his senior season and it paid off.
The parallels to Arian Foster are numerous. They were both career part time backs, they both were not considered top end athletes, and both were effective in the run and pass games. Ozigbo played in a zone running scheme and showed patience when he ran with the ball. There is a lack of long speed in his game, but he makes up for it with balance and quick feet. Simply put, he has a knack and understanding of zone running and it shows. The Raiders could end up with a fantastic draft steal if he is available in round four or later.
Darrin Hall, RB Pittsburgh
Hall was the second half of a very good rushing attack for the Pitt Panthers in 2018. Similar to Ozigbo, Hall was splitting carries with other backs for his entire college career. Hall is more of a power back that is built thick and squatty. He is generally tight hipped and does not always find the holes in zone concepts. His hands are actually fairly consistent for a bigger back and he can be a useful checkdown target who can produce yards after the catch.
Hall has a natural instinct for pass protection and uses his size well in that regard. He is far from a size speed freak and tends to run upright. Schematically, Hill may be limited in the variety of schemes he can be successful in. All that said, as a late round pick if he can come into a camp and learn to diversify his approach to running the ball he could turn himself into a quality runner.
Penny Hart, WR Georgia State
The Senior Bowl was where Penny made a name for himself. During the week of practice a clip was posted of him absolutely roasting Nasir Adderly and Penny became a Draft Twitter darling. The 5’8″ 190 pound redshirt junior wide receiver is a frantic pinball with long speed. Having only recorded one reception for seven yards in the actual Senior Bowl game, Penny Hart was not able to garner enough attention to receive a Combine invite.
Hard lateral breaking routes are the specialty for Hart. He does his best work on square ins, square outs, and other routes where he has to anchor hard and break away from a handsy defender. Generally speaking he is more effective on intermediate versions of these routes and when he runs shallow crossers he is not as efficient. If a defender can get their hands on him early, he is wiped out of the play. Where Hart adds value is a returner. He has a decent amount of experience on both kick and punt returns which also shows in his yards after the catch.
Olamide Zaccheaus, WR Virginia
Very similar to Penny Hart, Zaccheaus is 5’8″ and approximately 190 pounds. He is also a dynamic playmaker and is the equivalent of the chicken being chased by Rocky in Rocky I. In 2018, he set the school record for receptions by hauling in 85 regular season passes. In total, Zaccheaus ended the season with 1,156 scrimmage yards. He was not involved in the return game as a senior, but as a junior he averaged over 20 yards per kick return.
Like many receivers of his size, the bulk of Zaccheaus’ production came in the short field, where he used his burst and short speed to his advantage. He is a very reliable receiver and is able to adeptly protect the ball after the catch. Calling him a speed demon would be to exaggerate his long speed, but he will win his matchups close to the line of scrimmage and prove to be a quality producer after the catch. Similarly to Hart, these receivers will find themselves falling to the last three rounds and in that spot they can prove to be solid value picks that produce decently year after year, despite the lack of size.