Raiders weigh wide receiver options 

click to enlarge Amari Cooper
  • Butch Dill/2014 AP File photo
  • Former Alabama receiver Amari Cooper (9) is considered the top pass catcher in the 2015 NFL Draft and is expected to be on the Raiders radar at the No. 4 pick.
In the old days, there might not have even been a question. In the era when Al Davis was in charge and speed was an overarching obsession in Oakland, the Raiders might have jumped at the chance to use the No. 4 overall pick in this week’s NFL Draft on West Virginia receiver Kevin White, who ran a blistering 4.35-second 40-yard dash at the scouting combine in February.

But these are not those Raiders anymore. These are the new Raiders, with Jack Del Rio in his first year as coach and Davis’ son, Mark, as the principal owner. And if they do choose a receiver with that pick, as is widely expected (assuming USC defensive lineman Leonard Williams doesn’t slide that far), they face a legitimate dilemma: Do they choose the taller, bigger and less polished White, whose stock shot up after his Combine performance? Or do they choose Amari Cooper, the smaller Alabama receiver with the more refined skills?

In truth, there isn’t that much of a difference in the numbers: Cooper ran a 4.42 40 at the combine, only slightly slower than White. Cooper also ran the three-cone drill — which tests agility and change of direction — faster than White, with a time of 6.71 seconds to White’s 6.92. And the 6-foot-1, 211-pound Cooper had the more prolific college career, and was such a prodigious talent that he stood out even on an Alabama roster replete with NFL prospects.

The 6-3, 235-pound White, meanwhile, played in a pass-heavy offense at West Virginia that sought to stretch the field, and he didn’t really blossom until his final season in college.

And so this pick could become a litmus test for the Raiders moving forward: Are they seeking polish or straight talent?

The latest rumors out of Oakland are that the Raiders coaching staff is enamored with Cooper’s far-reaching skill set, as well as his cooperative demeanor. As Alabama coach Nick Saban said recently, “He’s going to be a really good teammate wherever he goes.”

In the meantime, White has been publicly making the case to be the first receiver drafted.

“Amari Cooper is a great receiver, a great competitor, but I think I bring a lot more to the table,” White said in a recent television interview. “He’s at Alabama with Nick Saban. They have a whole bunch of other tools that help him out where he’s not getting double covered. A lot of attention is not just strictly on Amari Cooper. ... On West Virginia, it’s just ‘OK, let’s shut Kevin White down.’ They have a lot of attention toward me.”

Which opinion will win out in the Raiders’ war room tonight remains a question.

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Michael Weinreb

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Monday, Mar 19, 2018


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