Projecting Oakland Raiders' Depth Chart After Peak of Free Agency

Dan WilkinsCorrespondent IIMarch 31, 2014

Projecting Oakland Raiders' Depth Chart After Peak of Free Agency

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez

    The Oakland Raiders have been among the NFL’s busiest teams in free agency, and the roster’s depth chart is starting to take shape as a result.

    The Raiders knew they had plenty of areas to address heading into this offseason, and signings have been made at positions of need accordingly. To name a few, the silver and black already look very different at quarterback, running back and on both the offensive and defensive lines. 

    Even with these wholesale changes, more free-agent additions are likely to come, and, of course, there's still the draft.

    Following the peak of free agency in the 2014 offseason, here is a look at the Oakland Raiders’ projected depth chart with the current players in place.

Quarterback

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    1. Matt Schaub
    2. Matt McGloin

    In Matt Schaub, the Raiders have found their veteran quarterback to start and lead the offense for the 2014 season. In fact, if he can get back to the level he played at prior to this past year, that could remain his role for several more seasons to come.

    Working under the assumption that Schaub’s down year in 2013 was the outlier in his otherwise impressive career, the Raiders are getting a significant upgrade at the position in many ways.

    Behind him is a young player in Matt McGloin with whom, if his rookie season as an undrafted free agent was any indication, the Raiders’ staff should feel fairly comfortable as a back up.

    While he did struggle with turnovers at times, as many rookies do, he showcased the ability to move the offense down the field.

    Of course, the possibility that the Raiders draft a quarterback this year, and even in the first round, is still quite in play. Even if that does happen, expect that player to sit and learn for at least the first season, while Schaub gets the starting job.

    With recent reports surfacing that Terrelle Pryor wishes to be traded, and that the Raiders are looking to do just that prior to the draft, it is unlikely he will be with the team much longer.

Running Back

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    Running back

    1. Maurice Jones-Drew
    2. Darren McFadden
    3. Latavius Murray

    Fullback

    1. Marcel Reece
    2. Jamize Olawale

    With the recent signing of former Jacksonville Jaguar Maurice Jones-Drew, the Raiders have done well to create what will be an intriguing competition in the backfield.

    With both Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden being highly talented, veteran players, odds are they will share the load at the running back position, where the coaching staff could opt to go with the hot hand in a given game.

    Behind them, Latavius Murray is a young back with potential to contribute. While he missed out on his rookie season due to injury, his intriguing combination of size and speed will make him a player to keep an eye on in 2014 and beyond.

    No matter who it is that gets the bulk of the carries in the Raiders’ backfield, the Jones-Drew signing has significantly improved the depth at a key position. Yet another veteran leader has been added, and that much more competition has been created in the process. 

    Of course, Marcel Reece remains the starter at fullback, and will be one of the more important players on the entire offense for the upcoming season. His versatility in lining up all over the field could allow Jamize Olawale to see some snaps as well.

Wide Receiver

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    1. James Jones
    2. Rod Streater
    3. Denarius Moore
    4. Andre Holmes
    5. Brice Butler
    6. Juron Criner

    Wide receiver was one of several positions that the Raiders needed to upgrade this offseason, and they got off to a good start by adding James Jones.

    Jones, as he showed in Green Bay, is a perfect fit in the West Coast offense, and just may be the reliable, veteran receiver this group has been missing. 

    Behind Jones, there are several young talents, led by Rod Streater and Denarius Moore. Both should continue to improve, not because of talent added to their position, but because Matt Schaub's presence at quarterback could make a big difference in their production.

    Although the Raiders have done well so far in upgrading this group, they may not be done just yet. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, there is a mutual interest between the Raiders and the now former Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver, DeSean Jackson

    Whether or not they are able to sign Jackson remains to be seen, but there is no doubting the massive impact he would have on this offense. Still with quite a bit of salary cap space at their disposal, the Raiders could top off an already extremely productive offseason by bringing in a dynamic, playmaking receiver still in his prime.

Tight End

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    1. Mychal Rivera
    2. David Ausberry
    3. Nick Kasa 

    After a productive rookie campaign that saw him become more become more involved in the offense every week, Mychal Rivera should head into next season as the starting tight end. He will have an opportunity to show what he is capable of becoming as a receiver.

    Should he continue to progress at the level he showed throughout the 2013 season, Rivera could very well become the type of foundational player that Dennis Allen envisions for the Raiders. 

    2013 was supposed to be the year that David Ausberry finally turned potential into production, but an injury ended his season before it even got started. With the kind of athletic ability that could make him a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses, Ausberry should get another chance to contribute this year. 

    While Nick Kasa likely sits third on the depth chart at this point, he also has the kind of physical tools to earn an increased role in 2014. The position is still relatively new to him, but Kasa is the best in-line blocker of the bunch, and his size and speed could have him develop into a downfield target as well.

    Overall, while the Raiders are without much experience at the tight end position, they do have quite a bit of potential. Whether or not that upside pans out remains to be seen, but with a significant upgrade now at the quarterback position, the team's tight end production could take off as soon as this upcoming season.

Offensive Line

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    LT

    1. Donald Penn
    2. Khalif Barnes

    LG

    1. Kevin Boothe
    2. Tony Bergstrom 

    C

    1. Stefen Wisniewski
    2. Tony Bergstrom

    RG

    1. Austin Howard
    2. Mike Brisiel 

    RT

    1. Menelik Watson
    2. Matt McCants

    Having let Jared Veldheer sign elsewhere, and then missing out on the big-money signing of Rodger Saffold due to a failed physical, the Raiders were staring at a messy offensive line situation early in the free-agency period.

    Since the Saffold fiasco, Reggie McKenzie and his staff have done a nice job of upgrading the unit, adding Donald Penn, Austin Howard and Kevin Boothe.

    What stands out about this group, more than anything else, is the versatility, as a number of linemen can contribute at different positions. Of course, this will not only allow the team to start its best five linemen, it allows the coaching staff to shift players around if injuries hit.

    The above lineup is likely dependent on second-year player Menelik Watson winning the starting right tackle job. Having been selected in the second round, he should have every opportunity to do so in camp.

    Overall, this year’s starting offensive line—and the depth behind it—is shaping up to be much improved over that of 2013.

Defensive Line

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    LE

    1. Justin Tuck
    2. Jack Crawford 

    DT

    1. Antonio Smith
    2. C.J. Wilson

    NT

    1. Pat Sims
    2. Stacy McGee

    RE

    1. LaMarr Woodley
    2. Ryan Robinson

    The defensive line was another position that the Raiders needed to address this offseason, and they have been able to do so with a number of key signings in recent weeks.

    With additions of Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley and Antonio Smith, the Raiders get multiple players with proven and consistent NFL production, as well as the kind of veterans a rebuilding team needs to establish a solid locker room. 

    The lack of a pass rush helped ensure that the entire defense struggled in 2013. But if these three new players can pressure the QB the way they have been capable of throughout their careers, that may no longer be an issue in 2014.

    The Raiders also added another former Packer in C.J. Wilson, who can play a number of positions across their four-man front.

    The nose tackle position should be one to keep an eye on, as second-year player Stacy McGee will be in line for an increased role after making steady progress during his rookie campaign. The Raiders were also able to keep a key contributor by re-signing DT Pat Sims. 

    Overall, this group, like several others on the roster, has improved in a big way. While the depth could still stand to be upgraded through either free agency or the draft, it would be no surprise to see the defensive line become a strength of this team with the veteran talent it now has in place.

Linebacker

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    SLB

    1. Sio Moore
    2. Kaelin Burnett

    MLB

    1. Nick Roach
    2. Kaluka Maiava

    WLB

    1. Kevin Burnett
    2. Miles Burris 

    The linebackers arguably the Raiders’ most consistent group of players in 2013, so the fact that the front office did little to upgrade this position point makes sense. 

    Veterans Nick Roach and Kevin Burnett were key contributors as three-down players throughout last season and could very well see an increase in production with the significant upgrades made on the defensive line.

    Sio Moore has been the best player so far from the Raiders’ 2013 draft class, excelling as a rookie in both his early-down role at strong-side linebacker, as well as showing flashes as a nickel pass-rusher. Getting another full offseason could do a lot for his development within this defense.

    Like with other spots on the roster, depth will key. Playing behind a solid starting unit, reserves Kaluka Maiava and Miles Burris can both step in as needed at any of the three linebacker positions and, like Kaelin Burnett, bring value to the special teams units. 

    The Raiders’ 2013 linebacker group remaining unchanged to this point can be seen as a vote of confidence in their play. And with other positions on defense improving significantly, this linebacking unit could become a stronger one as well.

Cornerback

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez
    1. Tarell Brown
    2. D.J. Hayden
    3. Chimdi Chekwa
    4. Chance Casey
    5. Taiwan Jones 

    Another veteran addition on defense, Tarell Brown represents an upgrade at the cornerback position for the Raiders.

    Brown should be the No. 1 corner across from second-year player D.J. Hayden, and if Hayden can get a full training camp under his belt, the two could form a solid starting tandem. 

    Further down the cornerback depth chart is where the most questions exist, as there is little experience at the position at this point. As such, expect finding at least one more cornerback to be a priority for the Raiders in free agency and/or the draft. 

    Current free agents Terrell Thomas and Carlos Rogers have experience playing the slot in nickel sets, and could be realistic targets for the Raiders as free agency continues. 

    Overall, the Raiders are likely comfortable with their current starters at cornerback but will have even more opportunities in the draft and free agency to address depth at the position.

Safety

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    Tony Avelar

    FS

    1. Charles Woodson
    2. Usama Young 

    SS

    1. Tyvon Branch
    2. Brandian Ross

    The safety position is one of few on the roster that remains unchanged to this point, but the group should still see improved play in 2014 for a number of reasons. 

    First and foremost, the healthy return of Tyvon Branch—who missed almost the entire 2013 season—will be important for not only the secondary but also the defense as a whole. 

    Branch is a key contributor as an in-the-box safety, and his presence in run support was missed more and more as the season went on.

    At free safety, Charles Woodson returns for another year after proving that he still has plenty left to offer. Playing a second season at what was last year a new free safety spot for him should help in a big way, as will the added contributions of Branch in the secondary. 

    For depth, the Raiders made an important re-signing of Usama Young. Young is a capable playmaker at either strong or free safety and, barring any further additions, could very well enter the season as the backup at both spots.

    With improvements elsewhere on defense, as well as the return of Branch, the safety group should improve in 2014.