For one reason or another, the Oakland Raiders don’t have a lot of franchise cornerstone-caliber players.
First-round picks—guys expected to fill those roles—who have spent time on their roster have generally not panned out. The team released (via profootballtalk.nbcsports.com) linebacker Aaron Curry (selected No. 4 overall in 2009 by the Seattle Seahawks) and seems to be on the same path (via espn.com) with Rolando McClain (No. 8 in 2010), albeit for entirely different reasons.
Quarterback Carson Palmer (drafted No. 1 in 2003 by the Cincinnati Bengals) is 32 years old. The team will likely be headed in a different direction at the position sooner rather than later. 29-year-old Matt Leinart (chosen No. 10 in 2006 by the Arizona Cardinals) hasn’t gotten an opportunity to show whether he is the QB that Oakland may ultimately wish to choose.
Defensive lineman Richard Seymour (New England's No. 6 in 2001) is 33.
Running back Darren McFadden (No. 4 in 2008) hasn’t played more than 13 games in any of his five seasons, so the team will have to depend on another player to be its featured back. Another high first-round pick, wideout Darrius Heyward-Bey (No. 7 in 2009) has played 15 games twice but is still in pursuit of his first 1,000-yard season.
There are a few bright spots Oakland has acquired with a mid-round draft pick or with no draft pick at all. Safety Tyvon Branch (No. 100 in 2008) has played all 16 games in the three full seasons since his rookie year. He logged over 100 total tackles in each of those seasons and is on pace to do so again this year.
You normally would prefer that your safeties don’t get 100 tackles in a season, but when the Raiders don’t stop the run (28th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game), somebody has to.
On the offensive side of the ball, fullback Marcel Reece (undrafted) has been a revelation this season. We already knew he could block—he’s a fullback with four years of experience on an NFL roster at a time when some rosters don't even have a fullback—but he can make plays out of the backfield as well.
When McFadden and backup Mike Goodson went down to injury against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Reece caught eight passes for 95 yards and a TD. Since (five games), he’s rushed 58 times for 271 yards and caught 21 balls for 200 yards.
Another undrafted skill-position player, wide receiver Rod Streater, might be an Oakland mainstay after 196 receiving yards and a touchdown in his last two contests. He had an impressive preseason and has played in every game for the Raiders this year.
If he continues to improve into his sophomore season and beyond, Streater could become Oakland’s No. 1 wide receiver.
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