Patrick Graham’s excursion as a Senior Bowl head coach proved valuable not only for the defensive coordinator but for the Las Vegas Raiders organization as a whole.
The up-close insight Graham got on the prospects gave the Silver and Black invaluable intel, and not only that, but the draft picks spoke about the impact the Raiders coach had on them.
So, it was no surprise to see general manager Dave Ziegler make selections based on that excellent inside look at how the prospects prepare, take in the coaching, and carry themselves during their respective times in Mobile, Ala.
“It’s another kind of detailed exposure that you often don’t get if you don’t have a coach involved. I think we talked about it the other day, but just being able to really see how guys learn and really get to see how guys operate day-to-day in meeting rooms, at practice, and in interaction with their teammates,” Ziegler said during his post-draft press conference this past Saturday. “Those are all things that we looked at and all things that we got feedback on. It wasn’t just about the football performance. It was about how they treated each other, how they interacted, what their commitment was, and all those different types of things and different positions that they could play.”
“And so, it was a really valuable tool for us and something that we utilized and helped us in the decision-making process here over the weekend.”
Coaching the Senior Bowl has paid off for the Raiders
Las Vegas snared a pair of Senior Bowl participants on Day 2 of the draft in defensive tackle Byron Young (Alabama, No. 70) and wide receiver Tre Tucker (Cincinnati, No. 100). Then they selected a trio of prospects on Day 3: cornerback Jakorian Bennett (Maryland, No. 104), safety Christopher Smith II (Georgia, No. 170), and defensive tackle Nesta Jade Silvera (Arizona State, No. 231). For Young and Tucker, in particular, Graham, along with Matt Edwards, a defensive line coach for the Raiders, provided Ziegler with immense insight that wouldn’t have been available if Las Vegas didn’t have boots on the ground in Mobile.
“We were able to get a lot of intel from them—a lot of the character, the background, the classroom stuff. I think one thing that stood out about both of those guys was just their professional demeanor, their passion for football, and their ability to learn,” Ziegler said. “So, not a lot, I would say a lot of maintenance, that comes into some of the extra stuff that’s beyond the field with those guys, because you can’t learn that unless you’re their coach, like how they prepared, how they handled themselves, how they interacted with their coaches, how they took instruction. Both of those guys really excelled in those two areas at the Senior Bowl.”
Film don’t lie…
Not only that, but the Raiders had access to Senior Bowl film, another extremely valuable tool in the evaluation process all 32 teams embark upon that culminates in draft selections.
“We were able to watch a lot of the Senior Bowl practices and tape, so we’re able to kind of collab on what that looked like, and we felt both of those guys had good performances down there,” Ziegler noted. “But the most valuable stuff was the stuff that we couldn’t see at practice, which was behind the scenes, and both of those guys excelled in those two areas.”
Now does advanced, in-depth scouting guarantee success? Hardly.
Former Raiders head coach and taskmaster Jon Gruden coached the Senior Bowl in 2019, and that helped him net seven prospects from that game. That list included safety Johnathan Abram, cornerback Isaiah Johnson, tight end Foster Moreau, wide receiver Hunter Renfrow, wide receiver Keelan Doss, fullback Alec Ingold, and linebacker Te’Von Coney. Only Renfrow remains a Raider.
*Top Photo: Official Raiders YouTube channel