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Raiders’ draft prospect visits not always what they seem

Updated April 6, 2023 - 12:40 pm

As the Raiders work their way through the draft evaluation process, they have been extremely prominent at the various Pro Days unfolding across the country. In particular, those involving the top quarterback prospects.

It’s one of the many tools they are utilizing as they go about building a draft board they hope leads to a much-needed infusion of young talent.

In fact, over the next couple of weeks expect a steady stream of draft prospects to make their way to the Raiders’ Henderson practice facility as part of the 30 private visits NFL teams are allowed with draft prospects.

Kentucky quarterback Will Levis was a visitor Monday. Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson is on the docket as well. In addition, the Raiders expect to host Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter at some point.

They join the previously reported or confirmed top 30 visits of Alabama safety Brian Branch, Maryland offensive tackle Jaelyn Duncan, Boston College wide receiver Zay Flowers, Penn State cornerback Joey Porter Jr., Louisville offensive tackle Trevor Reid, Georgia cornerback Kelee Ringo and Florida State safety Jammie Robinson.

All of this begs the question of what exactly a “top 30” visit actually means.

In some ways, it’s fairly self-explanatory. Each NFL team is allowed to bring draft prospects to its facility for extensive visits. This is in addition to the 18-minute formal meetings teams are allowed at the NFL scouting combine, and the unlimited number of 10- to 15-minute informal visits they are allowed in Indianapolis.

It also doesn’t interfere with the visits teams are allowed to host for college prospects at their nearby schools. For the Raiders, that includes players from Southern California, UCLA and UNLV, among other area schools.

The purpose of the more exclusive meetings fluctuates. And depending on the team, it could foretell a genuine interest that turns into an actual relationship, or, as we’ve seen over the years, a ploy to create the illusion of interest to create trade leverage on draft day.

When genuine interest is involved, teams will often formally meet with a prospect in Indianapolis, but then follow up that visit with a much more intense meeting at their facility.

Sometimes it is to reaffirm initial impressions. Or, thanks to the full day allotted to them, to dig even deeper into things like personality, football passion and positional knowledge. If there are any health concerns, it’s also an opportunity to do a more extensive injury check.

The private meetings are sometimes designed to defuse any red-flag concerns. For instance, if there are questions about a player’s character or work ethic that arose during a team’s normal fact-finding exercise, they will bring the prospect to their facility to get to the root of the issue.

The interaction during a full-day visit can go a long way in either easing the concerns or escalating them.

In Carter’s case, there are red flags that have been raised over the last month after he was charged with reckless driving and racing in connection with a crash that killed a teammate and a recruiting staff member.

Carter was sentenced to one year of probation, a $1,000 fine and 80 hours of community service after pleading no contest to the charges. He wasn’t deemed responsible for the crash that killed teammate Devin Willock and staff member Chandler LeCroy, but his role in the incident and other issues have raised concerns.

Among them was when Carter recently showed up at Georgia’s pro day 10 pounds overweight and unable to get through drills.

Carter was in consideration as the first pick overall before the recent issues.

Since then, his draft stock has plummeted. So much that he might actually fall to the Raiders, who pick seventh overall.

On paper, Carter fits exactly what the Raiders need as an explosive force on the interior of their defensive line. On the other hand, with so many holes to fill on defense — and owning such a high pick — they can’t afford to waste their draft position on a player they can’t confidently rely on.

That makes his visit to Henderson later this month incredibly important.

“I don’t rush to judgment on any of those things,” Raiders coach Josh McDaniels said recently when asked about his approach to evaluating a prospect with red flags. “I think sometimes when you do that you end up making a mistake.”

Contact Vincent Bonsignore at vbonsignore@reviewjournal.com. Follow @VinnyBonsignore on Twitter.

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