Raiders.com Mailbag: Looking Ahead To The NFL Scouting Combine And Free Agency

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What offseason?

Less than a month after the New England Patriots were crowned Super Bowl LI Champions, the NFL's focus is set to shift to Indianapolis and the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine.

With the Combine, and then free agency, rapidly approaching, you understandably had some questions about the Silver and Black, and now, we have answers.

Here is this week's Raiders.com Mailbag.

Darcus P: Who are Reggie and Co. targeting in the upcoming draft?

EP:That's the million dollar question, isn't it? From the minute a team plays its last game of the season, speculation immediately turns to next year, the draft, and what needs each team is going to address to make a legitimate run at hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. Well, the Oakland Raiders are no different, and even though it's just late February, the evaluation process for the upcoming NFL Draft is well underway. As far as what General Manager Reggie McKenzie ultimately decides to do at No. 24 is anybody's guess, even picking that far back in the first round, he'll certainly have a bevvy of playmakers still on the board who could make a positive impact on the Silver and Black in 2017. In his final press conference of 2016, Head Coach Jack Del Rio spoke about the need to for an improved interior pass rush, so that might be something the team addresses in the draft, but only time will tell. McKenzie has been on a hot streak in recent years as far as the draft is concerned, so one thing that I can guarantee, is that he and his staff will have a concrete plan heading into the three-day event.

Cannon M: What do you think is the most important element of the combine from a talent evaluation standpoint?

EP:I might be in the minority here, but to me, I think the most important elements of the combine are the interviews that the teams get to hold with the pro prospects. Are the drills an important measuring stick to see where certain guys stack up against other players at their position group? Certainly, but I think there's a misconception that they're the be all and end all as far as talent evaluation. I'd be more inclined to judge a player off what he did throughout his entire college career, in game action, and not in a handful of drills, but hey, that's just me. But I digress. Anyway, I think that the interview portions not only allow teams the chance get a better idea of who these college players are, but it also gives them a chance ask them any lingering questions they may have after the evaluation process. Forty-yard dash times and bench press reps are cool, but I think the interviews are a little more significant.

Jamés P: Why is the Combine in Indy every year?

EP:If you take a look at a map of the United States, Indianapolis is pretty close to being right in the middle. Let's not forget that 32 teams, from Florida, to Washington, are represented at the combine, so it makes sense to find a location that's as centrally located as possible. Also, the way that the city of Indianapolis is set up, makes getting around – particularly to Lucas Oil Stadium – pretty seamless. The folks in Indy have a really good handle on all things surrounding the combine, which makes sense since the event has been held there since 1987. Location, convenience, and precision, that's why the combine is held in Indianapolis.

**Vutavius K: Looking back on the season, what was your favorite moment? Mine was the 2-pt conversion.

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EP:In a 12-4 season that wasn't lacking for exciting finishes and big moments, I've been consistent in saying that there was one that stands out to me over all the others, the Raiders Week 15 win over the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. Not only did the 19-16 win over the Bolts secure the Silver and Black's first postseason appearance since 2002, but they did so in front of a crowd that was noticeably pro Raiders. I mean, let's be honest, Raider Nation completely took over Qualcomm Stadium, from booing the Chargers during player intros to the bellowing "RAI-DERS" chants all afternoon. Plain and simple, it was another home game for Derek Carr and Co., and to be blunt, I've never seen an away crowd take over a stadium the way that Raider Nation did on that beautiful San Diego day. Combined with the fact that the win secured a spot in the playoffs, it was a pretty good day.

Cami B: Mexico vs. the Patriots...why is this good for the Raiders?

EP:Myriad reasons. First and foremost, the Raiders are undefeated in regular season games in Mexico City... All jokes aside, one thing became abundantly clear during the team's visit to Estadio Azteca in November, the Silver and Black are no doubt a global brand. While there were unquestionably numerous Houston Texans jerseys in the stands during the Week 11 Monday night tilt, the Raiders were very well-represented. The NFL has been steadfast in their messaging that they want to grow the game abroad, and these international games are just one way they're attempting to do that. Besides, getting a chance to square off against the reigning Super Bowl champs in a loud, raucous environment, will be a lot of fun too.

Steven V: With the Academy Awards on Sunday and so many characters on the Raiders team…who would you nominate for best actor award?

EP:Great question. I think I'm going to have to give the nod to Head Coach Jack Del Rio on this one. I don't know, couldn't you just see "JDR" as a Coach Taylor-type of character, or perhaps a no-nonsense police officer? I could. While there are certainly a ton of players on the roster who I think could probably have strong careers on the big screen, I think Coach Del Rio might have them all beat, at least for right now.

Boss O: Which player do you have your eyes on to have a huge 2017 season?

EP:Running back DeAndré Washington. The former Texas Tech Red Raider came on strong over the second half of the season, and when all was said and done, No. 33 finished his first season in Silver and Black with 467 rushing yards, and 582 yards of total offense. As the season wore on, Washington showed that he has the ability to be a legitimate threat in the passing game as well, and now that he'll get the chance to have a full Offseason Workout Program under his belt, I'm excited to see what he'll physically look like when the 2017 regular season gets underway. Not much will change with Todd Downing calling plays as offensive coordinator, so I have a feeling we'll be seeing more of DeAndré Washington in 2017.

Freddy A: Do you think the Silver and Black will be big spenders in free agency? If so, what positions will they target?

EP:Big spenders? Maybe not. But smart spenders? Absolutely. ESPN's Adam Caplan loves to preach the mantra that good teams "build through the draft and supplement in free agency," and I'm certain that's how Reggie McKenzie and his staff plan on approaching the construction of the Raiders roster in 2017. While the Raiders have been big ticket spenders the past few offseasons, I don't think that'll be the case this year. One, the roster is much better than in years past, but two, with new deals for Derek Carr and Khalil Mack on the horizon, that's where a lot of the team's salary cap space will be allotted. That being said, I'm sure the Raiders will add a few new members to the team once the new league year beings, March 9 at 1:00 p.m. PT.

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