Early Projections for the Raiders' Final 53 Man Roster
Now that the Raiders have added players in the 2013 NFL draft, as well as the undrafted free agents which followed, we can begin to project what their final 53-man roster may look like heading into the regular season.
Of course, those who are now on the roster are not the only candidates. With some glaring holes remaining, we can safely assume the Raiders will continue to add players via free agency between now and the end of the preseason.
However, at this point, we must project a final 53 based on who is currently on the roster, while at the same time taking note of what positions may still be addressed in light of which later on.
Here is a post-draft projection for the Oakland Raiders’ final 53-man roster.
Even though Matt Flynn is the likely starter at quarterback heading into the 2013 season, it will certainly be the most closely followed positional battle throughout training camp.
Terrelle Pryor has the athletic ability to be a difference maker, and especially so in the seemingly transitioning NFL game that we have seen over the past few seasons. There may be some work yet to be done as a passer, but don’t rule him out.
Adding a third candidate to the competition in Tyler Wilson has value in more ways than one. The Raiders likely project him as a future starter, but if he wins the job in camp just like Russell Wilson did in Seattle last year, we’ll know it was well earned among competition.
Running Back (4)
Marcel Reece (Fullback)
Darren McFadden is the starter at running back, and the hope is of course that he can remain healthy throughout the 2013 season. The difference this year is the depth that the Raiders may now have behind him.
Rashad Jennings is coming off a down year with the Jaguars, but that is likely why the Raiders were able to pick him up for the contract they did. Undoubtedly, he will be looking to prove he can get back to the form of his first two seasons that saw him average over five yards per carry.
Latavius Murray, a sixth-round pick out of Central Florida, gives the Raiders a very interesting third option in the backfield. A big back with breakaway speed, Murray has all the tools to succeed in the NFL.
Of course, Marcel Reece is the starter at fullback, and remains one of the Raiders' best weapons on offense. The defensive mismatch that Reece can be coming out of the backfield is something that new offensive coordinator Greg Olson must take advantage of consistently.
Wide Receiver (6)
After a breakout rookie season, Denarius Moore was up and down in 2012. For him to succeed, the key will be for the coaching staff to both utilize his rare ability as a downfield target and get him the ball in space.
Losing a starter in Darrius Heyward-Bey does hurt heading into this season, but the hope is that the return of a healthy Jacoby Ford and development of Rod Streater and Juron Criner can help carry the group.
Butler and Vernon aren’t certainties to make the final roster, but their promising potential as well as the lack of depth at the position gives both they and any other possible free-agent additions a great chance.
Tight End (3)
The tight end position is likely the most unpredictable on the entire Raiders roster.
Having spent two draft picks on the position in Nick Kasa and Mychal Rivera, one would assume that they were not very happy with what they already had to work with.
Having said that, both players will likely make the final roster, and the Raiders should continue to give David Ausberry and his superior athletic ability a chance to become the tight end they envisioned him being.
Offensive Line (8)
Going back to a man/gap run-blocking scheme will help this offensive line in a big way. Jared Veldheer and Stefen Wisniewski will start at left tackle and center respectively, but the rest of the group is likely open for competition.
With Menelik Watson drafted in the second round, he is the early favorite to start at right tackle. Doing so would likely slide Khalif Barnes inside to one of the two guard positions, which could help both him and the offensive line overall.
Like several other position groups, the lack of depth here leaves a wide-open possibility for an undrafted free agent to make the final roster. That could very well be Jon Wetzel, a productive tackle at Boston College.
Defensive Line (9)
The defensive line is the most likely position group for the Raiders to continue to target in free agency, especially after some veterans around the league are cut after training camp.
If a defensive tackle is added, he can add to a rotation of Vance Walker, Pat Sims, Christo Bilukidi and Stacy McGee. If a pass-rushing defensive end is added, we could see the versatile Lamarr Houston move to that interior line group as a three-technique defensive tackle instead.
Again with this group, beyond a few solid starters and the hopeful resurgence of a healthy Andre Carter, the depth is thin. Expect a lot defensive linemen to make the final roster, several of which may not even be with the team as of yet.
Thanks to a productive draft and free-agency period, the linebacker position has become one of the deepest groups on the Raiders’ roster.
Kevin Burnett and Nick Roach are two of the three projected starters, and the third will likely come down to a preseason competition between Kaluka Maiava and third-round draft pick Sio Moore.
Forced into an early starting role in 2012, Miles Burris will now likely be able to continue his development in a backup role while contributing on special teams as well.
Keenan Clayton and Kaelin Burnett round out the group for even more depth and likely roles on special teams units.
Heading into the offseason, the cornerback position was easily the weakest on the Raiders’ roster. After free agency and the draft, that may not be the case anymore.
In Tracy Porter and Mike Jenkins, the Raiders signed two capable starters that will be looking to prove themselves on one-year contracts. Both signings are low risks with potentially high rewards.
The somewhat surprising pick of D.J. Hayden in the first round could do even more for the strength of the secondary altogether, as he is projected as a day one starter. Having checked out fully healthy by all 32 teams, several draft experts even had him as this year’s top overall cornerback.
Now, with these key additions, players like Joselio Hanson, Phillip Adams and Brandian Ross take on backup roles and thus making the position much deeper overall.
Tyvon Branch and Usama Young are the Raiders’ projected starting safeties heading into 2013. Behind them, there remain a lot of questions.
Reggie Smith was out of football last year, and while he has the potential to make a return and provide some depth while contributing on special teams, that is far from a given.
Coye Francies could have a similar projected role to that of Smith, but he struggled to get much defensive playing time in 2012 despite the high amount of injuries in the secondary.
As a result, depth at the safety position is almost certain to be addressed via free agency throughout training camp and leading right up to the start of the regular season.
Through a decade of struggles as an organization, the one consistently strong area of the Raiders’ roster has been the specialists.
In Sebastian Janikowski, the Raiders still have one of if not the NFL’s top kicker. Heading into a contract year, they should certainly try to lock him up long-term.
Having let Shane Lechler leave via free agency, the Raiders are counting on Marquette King to take over his role. He undoubtedly has all the necessary physical tools to be a successful NFL punter, so developing consistency will be the key moving forward.
Jon Condo is among the best long snappers in the NFL, made clear by his two trips to the Pro Bowl.