So much is made about the star-studded talent that comes out of the SEC conference, but the PAC-12 has produced some of NFL stars over the years as well. The Bay Area in particular has seen a handful of players go on to do big things at the professional level, and a few in this year's draft class are gaining traction as the 2019 NFL Draft approaches.
UC Davis wide receiver Keelan Doss and Stanford running back Bryce Love have experienced different journeys, but both are among the popular names at the 2019 NFL Combine, and each has met with the Raiders in one capacity or another in Indianapolis.
Doss was a member of the Oakland Raiders North roster during the Senior Bowl a little over a month ago, and made a positive impression on a lot of people while there. While UC Davis isn't necessarily known for grooming elite football talent, Doss' tape speaks for itself, and his production is hard to ignore. The 6'3", 209-pound wide receiver is able to stretch the field, has proven to be an excellent route runner, and he's confident he can excel on any team in the NFL, but the idea of becoming a Raider would be overwhelming for the Alameda, Calif., native.
"If I got drafted by the Raiders that would be a dream come true scenario, that'd be crazy," he said during his media availability Friday. "Gaining attraction, I know I can do this, so I mean I guess when I see other people kind of catch on it's a good feeling, but it doesn't sway my opinion of myself. I just try to go out there and be the best me I can be."
The Senior Bowl allowed Doss to gain a slight advantage on a lot of players here in Indianapolis; the opportunity to meet, practice, and learn from the Raiders coaching staff helped him get a foot in the door. Interviews can be stressful, but the interactions shared with Head Coach Jon Gruden and Co., made it easy for Doss to prepare for the Combine, and after growing up as a fan of the Raiders it made the experience mean a little more.
"It was cool, it was awesome," he said. "Growing up, I watched [Gruden] a lot because I'm in the Bay Area. I'm from Alameda, so just being able to be around him and see him in person, and talk to him was really cool."
On the other hand, Bryce Love grew up in North Carolina, and didn't watch Gruden and the Raiders as closely, but his Stanford running backs coach, Ron Gould kept him informed on all things Silver and Black.
"Well [that's] funny because my coach [Ron Gould] actually coached Marshawn [Lynch], so he's always telling us stories about him and what not," Love said when asked how closely he's watched the Raiders. "We follow him, the Raiders are his favorite team, so we're always hearing about the games. From Marshawn I'd say just running with physicality. Still working to add more of that to my game."
Love has been an interesting player to observe throughout the Combine and the offseason as he recovers from an ACL injury. In 2017, Love was considered a Heisman Trophy candidate after posting more than 2000 scrimmage yards, but he and Stanford struggled to replicate similar production in 2018; however he's one of the more intriguing prospects here at the Combine. During his media session, he revealed that he met with the Silver and Black earlier this week. Obviously just because a player meets with a team doesn't mean they'll draft him, but both Doss and Love are playmakers at their position, and will be worth keeping an eye on during the Draft in late-April.
Whether you support Stanford, UC Davis, or any of the other Bay Area team's, you have to root for guys that come from our own backyard. Hopefully they'll both become successful players at the next stage of their career.