Just as the Oakland Raiders had many wondering if they'd win another game in 2013, they put together a complete team effort in beating the Houston Texans, once again flashing the potential we hadn't seen in quite a few weeks.
It is games like these that prove just how close the organization is to becoming a playoff contender in the AFC, and even more so when one considers both the wealth of free agent and draft options the front office will have in this coming offseason.
Fortunately, due to the increase in salary cap space, the Raiders should not have trouble re-signing any of their key free agents, allowing them focus solely on adding talent, rather than replacing players as well.
Money will certainly be spent in free agency, but it is imperative that such spending is done wisely, avoiding any situations similar to those that got the organization into the salary cap struggles they are just now emerging from.
What the Raiders will continue to use as the main focus of their re-build is the NFL Draft, thus placing an increased value on their yearly selections.
Should the team maintain a level of play similar to Sunday's victory as they finish out the season, they will be drafting much closer to the middle of the first round instead of within the top five selections they were once projected to be in.
While the current Raiders' regime will certainly stick to the "best player available" draft philosophy, there are a few positions they would be wise to highlight.
The idea of the Raiders selecting a quarterback in the first round, or even at all in the 2014 draft, is far from a lock. However, at this point, is it still very possible.
Terrelle Pryor's athletic ability gives him an incredibly high ceiling as a prospect, and Matt McGloin's play in his first career start has a lot of people excited, but plenty of evaluation remains for the both of these players.
The Raiders will more than likely be out of the range to draft any of this year's top signal callers, like Teddy Bridgewater or Marcus Mariota, but looking toward the mid-rounds could present some value as well.
There, the Raiders could still find a very capable passer to add to their quarterback competition, and allow all three players to battle it out in training camp and preseason.
No, franchise quarterbacks are not always found in the mid-rounds, but nor are they guarantees at the top of the draft either.
Not selecting near the top of the first round should not keep the Raiders from adding players at the quarterback position, and creating increased competition should only help moving forward.
Whoever the Raiders' quarterback of the future turns out to be, he would benefit greatly from some added talent at the wide receiver position.
Both Denarius Moore and Rod Streater have proven capable of production throughout this season, and Andre Holmes flashed some vertical/big-play ability against the Texans, but adding a potential No. 1 target could open up this offense even more.
Clemson's Sammy Watkins, Texas A&M's Mike Evans and USC's Marqise Lee will be the top receivers in this draft, and could be available in the middle of the first round. With the skill set each player possesses, it is certainly possible one of whom is the top player on the Raiders' board when they select.
If not, this could be another position addressed in the mid-late rounds, again adding as much competition as possible.
As good as the Raiders' defense has been for the majority of the 2013 season, there is still plenty of room to grow. With the amount of talent they have the capability to add in a short period of time, that should be seen as a very good thing for the potential of this unit.
First and foremost, the Raiders must add both starting and depth players across the defensive line.
While they have been able to manufacture a pass rush quite impressively under the defensive schemes of Dennis Allen and Jason Tarver, this defense will be able to do that much more with upgrades made up front.
While the philosophy will always be to draft the best player available, look for the Raiders to do so while leaning in the direction of the defensive line at many points throughout April's draft.
If the Raiders can keep their current back seven in tact, while using several early picks on the defensive line, this defense will continue its progression easily into the NFL's top 10, and possibly beyond.
Overall, for as little talent as the Raiders were given credit for having throughout the roster, their offseason needs remain rather specific.
If they can address the passing game by determining who their quarterback of the future will be, as well as adding a potential No. 1 target at wide receiver, the offense should have the balance it needs to compete on a weekly basis.
On defense, stockpiling talent in the trenches will be key, as creating a more natural pass rush from four-man fronts would help out the secondary in coverage even more.
If the Raiders can come away with a solid draft, hitting on their early picks, and continuing their impressive trend of finding talent in the mid-late rounds, as well as undrafted free agents, there is no reason why they can not compete for the playoffs in 2014.
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