Projecting Oakland Raiders' Starting Lineup Pre-2014 NFL Draft
While this marks the current regime’s third offseason, this one has seen more turnover than any other thus far.
With plenty of salary cap space at their disposal, the Raiders were able to bring in quite a few established veterans in free agency, improving the roster’s overall talent significantly.
As a result, although the draft is still ahead, the depth charts have begun to take shape. Here is a look at the Raiders’ projected starting lineup pre-2014 NFL draft.
As much as Matt Schaub struggled throughout the 2013 season, the fresh start he will get in Oakland could be just what he needs.
No, he is not the Raiders’ long-term answer at the quarterback position but nor does he have to be.
The Raiders need to show a lot of improvement in a short period of time and a proven, veteran leader at the position is the best way to do that.
The acquisition of Schaub should not keep the Raiders from adding a young quarterback in the upcoming draft, as they still need to address the future of the position.
However, Schaub will be the Raiders’ starter at least for the 2014 season, and their passing offense could take a big step forward from that of 2013 as a result.
Maurice Jones-Drew / Darren McFadden
Marcel Reece (FB)
After the free-agent signing of veteran running back Maurice Jones-Drew and re-signing of Darren McFadden, the Raiders are set to have quite the talented backfield tandem.
At this point, it would be impossible to predict which of the two will start, but it might not matter.
Jones-Drew and McFadden should see a relatively even split of carries, keeping one another fresh and complementing each other’s running styles.
Of course, Marcel Reece is the starter at fullback, but his talent and versatility gives him the ability to contribute all over the field in a number of ways.
As is the case every year, the key for the Raiders’ backfield will be to stay healthy. If they can do just that in 2014, they should be able to carry the offense throughout.
The Raiders’ receiving corps got a big addition this offseason with a veteran in James Jones, but the young talent in Rod Streater and Denarius Moore shouldn’t be overlooked either.
At times, the two have flashed their playmaking ability and have done so with inconsistent play at the quarterback position.
If Schaub can get back to his pre-2013 level of play, we can expect the production from the receiving corps to increase accordingly.
With the talent at the position in this year’s draft, adding another receiver to the group is a very real possibility as well, giving the unit more depth overall.
Again, the overall production of the receivers will depend a lot on the play from the quarterback spot, but this group is one to watch for the Raiders in 2014.
A fifth-round selection in 2013, Mychal Rivera saw his role consistently increase throughout his rookie campaign.
Heading into 2014, he should be the Raiders’ starter at tight end and could become a productive target in the passing game.
To see the most snaps at the position, he will need to continue to establish himself as a capable in-line blocker, but another full offseason and training camp should help that process.
A talented player at a position becoming increasingly valued in the NFL, Rivera has an opportunity to become one of the Raiders’ better draft selections in recent years.
LT Donald Penn
LG Kevin Boothe
C Stefen Wisniewski
RG Austin Howard
RT Menelik Watson
Although the Raiders lost Jared Veldheer to the Arizona Cardinals in free agency, they have otherwise done well to address the offensive line as a whole.
Joining Stefen Wisniewski and Menelik Watson, free-agent additions Donald Penn, Austin Howard and Kevin Boothe should all be slated to start in 2014.
Now, the group looks to have a good mix of experience and youth, and the hope is that offensive line coach Tony Sparano can turn this unit into a strength of the team overall.
Beyond the starters here, the Raiders do have some capable depth as well, so the theme throughout training camp should be competition in finding the five best players to get on the field.
LE Justin Tuck
NT Pat Sims / Stacy McGee
UT Antonio Smith
RE LaMarr Woodley
The Raiders addressed their defensive line and pass rush issues in a big way this offseason, bringing in three proven veterans through free agency.
Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley and Antonio Smith have all been a part of winning teams and dominant defensive units.
While that experience and leadership of each will no doubt be important, these three will be relied upon heavily for their production on the field even more so.
If they can continue to play at the high level they have proven capable of throughout their careers, the Raiders’ defensive front will be in good shape for 2014.
Add in the contributions of Pat Sims and Stacy McGee at nose tackle, as well as a focus on adding depth throughout the draft, the defensive line will be another group key to the Raiders’ success.
SLB Sio Moore
MLB Nick Roach
WLB Kevin Burnett
The linebackers represent one group that has seen no change thus far in the offseason, and that can be attributed to their solid play throughout the 2013 campaign.
At this point, Sio Moore, Nick Roach and Kevin Burnett are all slated to be in the starting group once again.
While possible, the only thing that may change those plans is if the Raiders end up selecting Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack at fifth overall in the upcoming draft.
In that situation, some reshuffling would have to happen at the two outside linebacker spots, but the Raiders’ depth at the position would instantly become stronger as a result.
LCB Tarell Brown
RCB D.J. Hayden
SCB Carlos Rogers
Upgrading at cornerback was certain to be a primary focus for the Raiders heading into this offseason, and they acted accordingly with two veteran free-agent signings in Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers.
With a full offseason and training camp, second-year pro D.J. Hayden should be able to earn a starting spot across from Brown, while Rogers should get the majority of his work as a slot corner in the nickel.
Brown and Rogers add plenty of much-needed experience to the Raiders’ cornerback group, as both played key roles in the 49ers’ dominant defenses of recent seasons.
While continuing to add to the position will be key for the Raiders in the draft, this group should make for a significant upgrade over that of last season.
FS Charles Woodson
SS Tyvon Branch
Although Charles Woodson is getting toward the end of his Hall of Fame career, his play in 2013 proved that he still has plenty left to offer on the field.
Another year of work at what was a relatively new free safety spot should be beneficial to him in the upcoming season, as should the return of strong safety Tyvon Branch.
Both players are key to the Raiders’ success in the defensive backfield and upgrades made in the front four could free them up even more to make the plays they are capable of.
Another safety could be added in the draft to prepare for when Woodson eventually retires, but he and Branch make for a solid tandem at the position in 2014.