Breaking Down Oakland Raiders Roster After the 2014 NFL Draft
There is no doubt the Oakland Raiders improved their roster after the 2014 NFL draft. They added players that can come in and start on day one, as well as players that will be important pieces within the next couple of years. The Raiders have been busy this offseason adding new players.
The Oakland Raiders' draft philosophy is to draft the best player available, regardless of position. It worked great this year because they were able to find some players that filled areas of need.
It was important for the Raiders to address the following positions: quarterback, cornerback, the interior of their offensive and defensive line and their pass-rushing abilities. That's what made this draft so good for general manager Reggie McKenzie, because he was able to address every one of those needs. McKenzie's first three draft classes should start having a major influence on the team's performance in the 2014 season.
McKenzie also did a nice job in free agency by adding veteran players that are capable of producing immediately. He was able to add players that have consistently produced throughout their careers without overpaying them or committing for too long. This team is ready to win now. Let's take a look at their roster.
The Oakland Raiders have improved at the quarterback position. They have brought in a veteran quarterback that has consistently played at a high level, a second-round pick that many think had the best arm in this entire draft class and retained a second-year player that was perhaps their most consistent passer last season.
Derek Carr is good enough to start immediately for the Raiders. The coaching staff may choose to play it safe and sit Carr for a year before putting him on the field. Carr can make that decision hard on the coaches by coming in and putting on a show during training camp and the preseason.
If the coaches choose not to start Carr, he could still see playing time if Matt Schaub doesn't pan out or if he is injured. Regardless of what Oakland decides to do with Carr, it now has a young quarterback capable of being a starter in this league.
Matt Schaub was a good pickup by the Oakland Raiders. They are in a win-win situation with Schaub. If 2013 was a fluke or a bad year for Schaub, then the Raiders have themselves a good quarterback in 2014. They could compete for a playoff spot this year if Schaub plays at the high level he is used to playing at.
If for some reason Schaub does not meet the team's expectations, the Carr era could start sooner than expected. Of course, that would not be a bad thing for this franchise. Schaub restructured his deal so the Raiders would not owe him any money after this year if he is cut.
Matt McGloin started six games for the Raiders last season, despite being an undrafted rookie free agent in 2013. While his numbers weren't impressive, the Raiders offense was a lot more explosive with him under center. He was able to get the ball out to the wide receivers and the Raiders offense put up more points.
Anytime your starting quarterback from the previous year is third on your depth chart the next year, it's good for the team. Look for McGloin to be a possible candidate to be cut when the Raiders trim down to the 53-man roster, as they may not want to carry three quarterbacks on their roster in 2014.
The Oakland Raiders running back group could be one of the best in the league in 2014 if they can stay healthy. With a more talented and bigger offensive line, this group should find more running lanes than Raiders running backs are used to seeing in recent years.
Darren McFadden is still a big and fast running back that has the ability to make a big play anytime he touches the ball. His biggest issues with the Raiders have been his health and the inconsistencies along the offensive line.
McFadden is a threat in the running and the passing game. He is expected to be the lead back and do most of his damage running outside of the tackles. This will be the best offensive line that McFadden has played behind in his career as a Raider.
Maurice Jones-Drew will be a great complement to Darren McFadden's running style. Jones-Drew's best game is running inside the tackles. If he is coming into this season healthy, then the Oakland Raiders could have the best running back tandem in the NFL, especially behind their new and improved offensive line.
Marcel Reece is a Pro Bowl fullback and is one of the Raiders' best offensive weapons. Reece is the most versatile fullback in the NFL. He is dangerous running routes out of the backfield, he is dangerous when he carries the ball and he provides mismatches all over the field. The Raiders need to figure out how to get Reece the ball more often.
If one or both of the team's top running backs go down with injury, Reece would get an opportunity to get more carries, which may be a good thing for Oakland.
Latavius Murray was a sixth-round pick for the Oakland Raiders in 2014. He is listed at 6'3" and 230 pounds and ran a 4.38 40-yard dash. He is a big back with breakaway speed. He missed the majority of last season due to an injury. The second-year player gives the Raiders quality depth at the running back position.
Other Players: Jamize Olawale, Kory Sheets, George Atkinson III
This group is filled with young talent and a lot of potential, but lacked consistency at quarterback in 2013. With the additions of Matt Schaub and Derek Carr for the Raiders, 2014 looks bright for this receiving corps.
Rod Streater is a great story for the Oakland Raiders. In 2012, he signed as an undrafted free agent out of Temple. The 6'3", 215-pound receiver should be the Raiders' top receiver this season. His route-running ability, size and dependable hands should make him a household name in 2014.
If he can get consistent play out of the quarterback position, he could make the Pro Bowl.
James Jones, the former Green Bay Packers receiver, gives the Raiders a quality veteran in their group. He had a 14-touchdown season in 2012 and should give the Raiders another weapon that is dependable. Jones should be the team's No. 2 receiver in 2014.
If Jones can produce half of his production from 2012 this season, then the Oakland Raiders should be fine on offense.
Denarius Moore is one of the young wide receivers on the Raiders roster with untapped potential. He has great playmaking ability and breakaway speed. While he may not have been an ideal No. 1 wide receiver in the past, there is no doubt he is one of the best No. 3 wide receivers in the league. Moore thrives in an offense that plays with a rhythm and has a quarterback that can get rid of the ball quickly. Moore should have a good year in 2014.
The 6'4", 210-pound receiver came on strong for the Oakland Raiders late in the 2013 season. Andre Holmes averaged 17 yards per reception and made some incredible plays for the Raiders. His big body also makes him a threat in the red zone.
He is a real threat to leapfrog Moore on the depth chart and be the Raiders' No. 3 wide receiver. Holmes showed he was able to use his size and attack the ball at its highest point. This is a trait that would make any 6'4" receiver desirable.
Other Receivers: Brice Butler, Juron Criner, Greg Jenkins
Tight End Position
The Raiders will have a good battle this offseason for the starting tight end position. Mychal Rivera showed he is a weapon on offense, especially in the passing game in 2013. Nick Kasa has the size you want from a tight end, but he was raw in 2013. David Ausberry missed the 2013 season, but he may be Oakland's most complete tight end. The Raiders will probably use all three tight ends differently in 2014, but one of them may find himself on the field a lot more.
Rivera was a weapon for the Raiders in 2013. If he can improve his blocking heading into 2014, he could be the Raiders' full-time tight end. The Raiders loved moving Rivera around in 2013; they'd line him up in multiple positions on offense and they found ways to get him the ball.
If Rivera can build on his 38-catch, four-touchdown rookie season, the Raiders will be able to put up more points this season.
Kasa was one of my favorite draft picks from 2013. He was raw last season, but he has the ideal size and athletic ability for the tight end position. This could be a big year for him as he could earn more playing time with his blocking ability. He's also capable of making plays in the passing game when given the opportunity.
At 6'6" and 265 pounds, Kasa gives the Raiders a big tight end and a big target in the red zone. He was targeted only five times last year and he only recorded one catch; that catch was a nine-yard touchdown reception.
Ausberry could be in danger of being cut in 2014. The Raiders added two undrafted rookie tight ends with good size and ability. Ausberry will need to stay healthy and make the most of his opportunities this season. He is one of the few players from the Al Davis era left on the current roster.
The Oakland Raiders offensive line could be the most improved unit on the team. Reggie McKenzie has made it a focus to get bigger, stronger and more physical along the offensive line. He's succeeded by adding several pieces this offseason.
Center: Stefen Wisniewski
The Raiders have one of the best young centers in the league in Wisniewski. He's been one of the Raiders' best offensive linemen the last two years. This will be his first time playing in an offensive line that's solid from left to right.
Wisniewski excels in the run game. If Oakland's rushing attack becomes one of the best in the league, Wisniewski may find himself getting some recognition toward the end of the season.
Tackle: Menelik Watson, Donald Penn, Khalif Barnes, Matt McCants, Austin Howard
One thing the Raiders love to do is have versatile offensive linemen. They're going to start their best five players along the offensive line. Penn and Watson are the two favorites to start at tackle. Penn should start on the left side while Watson covers the right.
Howard was one of the best right tackles in the league last season. He didn't allow many sacks and he played all 16 games. However, he may be moving to guard in 2014. McCants and Barnes have played multiple positions along the offensive line and should provide solid depth for Oakland.
Guard: Austin Howard, Gabe Jackson, Khalif Barnes, Tony Bergstrom, Kevin Boothe
Howard and Jackson are the favorites to start at guard in 2014. The interior of the offensive line should be stronger than it's been in a long time. Last season, the Raiders struggled with Mike Brisiel and Lucas Nix as their guards.
Howard and Jackson are a combined 669 pounds. When you add Wisniewski's weight, that's nearly 1,000 pounds of interior offensive line in the starting lineup. Boothe and Barnes give the Raiders solid backup options at guard. Meanwhile, Bergstrom may find himself fighting for a spot on the roster and he may not get one.
The Raiders' primary focus this offseason was improving the pass rush and the defensive line. They were able to do that by adding some key veteran players who were among the most productive pass-rushers in each of their respective positions.
Defensive Ends: Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley, Jack Crawford, Shelby Harris, C.J. Wilson, Khalil Mack
Tuck and Woodley will start at defensive end for the Raiders. Woodley's primary focus will be going after the quarterback. With his hand in the dirt, he doesn't have to worry about dropping back in coverage; this should make him more productive.
Tuck's ability to get after the passer and play the run well should give Oakland a good tandem at defensive end in 2014. Crawford, Shelby and Harris provide the Raiders with some depth. Mack could find himself playing with his hand in the dirt on some downs if Tuck is moved inside. That would maximize the Raiders pass rush.
The quality of the depth is concerning because we're not sure what Crawford, Harris and Wilson will bring to the table in 2014.
Defensive Tackle: Pat Sims, Antonio Smith, Stacy McGee, Justin Ellis, Justin Tuck
The Raiders' interior defensive line should be solid in 2014. Sims showed the ability to dominate against San Diego, but he needs to show up for all 16 games. Sims, McGee and Ellis should provide the Raiders with a good push in the middle. Their size and power will also help them occupy blockers and allow the linebackers to do their jobs.
Smith gives Oakland a defensive tackle with pass-rushing ability. Tuck will also most likely play on the inside on some passing downs. That will allow the Raiders to have all of their most efficient pass-rushers in at the same time.
The Raiders have a bright future at the linebacker position. In the last two years, they have added dynamic young players in Sio Moore and Khalil Mack.
The rest of the linebackers on the team are pretty solid contributors as well. Their front seven is getting better, but they still need a dominant middle linebacker. Nick Roach's production could see an increase because the Raiders have improved the interior of their defensive line.
Khalil Mack will come in and have an immediate impact his first season. He is a dynamic pass-rusher and a very well-rounded football player. He gives the Raiders a potential All-Pro with the ability to take over a game on defense.
Mack is expected to start on the strong side, but he will be moved around a lot by defensive coordinator Jason Tarver. They will want to put Mack in ideal positions to succeed.
Sio Moore will probably be moved to the weak side with Mack now on the team. He should see his role increase, as he showed an ability to get to the quarterback in 2013. Moore and Mack will make a fantastic duo on the outside for the Raiders and should help solidify their front seven for years to come.
Moore may benefit the most from the Raiders drafting Mack in the first round because it gives the Raiders another strong pass-rusher on the opposite side of the ball.
Nick Roach will be starting in the middle for the Raiders. He is a smart player and a leader for the Raiders defense. With the interior of the defensive line improving this offseason, he should have more opportunities to make plays for the Raiders.
As the defense around Roach gets better, his role and impact on the team will be more noticeable. Roach recorded 112 tackles last season, including 5.5 sacks.
Kevin Burnett had a solid season for the Raiders in 2013, but he may see his playing time go down with the addition of Mack. Burnett would give the Raiders solid depth at linebacker and he may find himself rotating with Moore on some packages.
I'm not sure how Burnett fits in the Raiders' plans now that Mack has been added to the team, but the Raiders will find the best way to effectively use him.
Other Linebackers: Miles Burris, Kaelin Burnett, Kaluka Maiava
The Raiders secondary should be much better in 2014. Two key starters will return after missing the majority of last season. The Raiders also added five new players in the offseason that will come in and compete for playing time and a job.
Cornerback: D.J. Hayden, Tarell Brown, Carlos Rogers, Chimdi Chekwa, Taiwan Jones, Keith McGill, Travis Carrie
The Raiders have a solid mixture of youth, size and athleticism at cornerback. Hayden, the Raiders' 2013 first-round pick, is slated to start at cornerback opposite Brown. Hayden looks much bigger heading into this offseason than he did last year. His near-death experience was well-documented, but you can tell by looking at his frame that it is much bigger and more prepared for the upcoming season.
Brown was a starter for the 49ers in 2013. He is a physical cornerback that tackles well. Last year, the Raiders secondary struggled at tackling and their cornerbacks were among the leaders in missed tackles. Rogers could be the starting slot cornerback, but he will face plenty of competition from younger guys on the depth chart.
The two guys to watch in 2014 are Jones and McGill. This will be Jones' second year playing the cornerback position. He has the speed and athleticism to excel at cornerback. Meanwhile, McGill is a big cornerback that can find himself playing more if he learns to use his body to his advantage and becomes more physical.
Safety: Tyvon Branch, Charles Woodson, Usama Young, Brandian Ross, Jonathan Dowling
The Raiders should be strong at safety in 2014 with the return of Branch to the lineup. Branch plays the run well and he is an effective pass-rusher as a safety. Despite Woodson's age, he can still be productive for the Raiders, especially if their front seven plays much better in 2014.
With Woodson and Branch as the starters, the Raiders should be able to boast a strong secondary that is opportunistic in the passing game and active against the running game. Young and Ross provide good depth at safety, and Dowling could be an interesting piece beyond the 2014 season.
The Raiders secondary has been torched by opposing quarterbacks the last two seasons. This will be the most talented unit as a secondary that they have put together, and it will be paired up with the best front seven that the Raiders have lined up in two years. The Raiders have the toughest schedule in the NFL in 2014, so the secondary will be tested early and often.
The Raiders special teams were a disappointment in 2013. They lacked a consistent return game and a consistent kicking game. Marquette King and Taiwan Jones are two of the young bright spots on this special teams unit.
Special teams also features Pro Bowlers Sebastian Janikowski and long snapper Jon Condo.
Kicker: Sebastian Janikowski
Janikowski is looking to bounce back after an unimpressive 2013 season that saw him miss field goals that he usually makes on a consistent basis. Janikowski still has one of the most powerful legs in the league, but he will need to show he is still the reliable kicker that the Raiders need him to be.
Janikowski can be a weapon for the Raiders, because he is usually pretty automatic for anything inside 60 yards.
Punter: Marquette King
Marquette King has a powerful leg and was among the leaders in average yards per punt. However, he was also among the leaders in touchbacks in 2013. His leg can be very useful for the Raiders in 2014 if he learns how to control the ball placement on the field. He had too many opportunities to pin the opposing offense inside the 20-yard line, but instead kicked the ball into the end zone.
If King learns how to master the ball placement, he could be the next great punter in Oakland Raiders history.
Returners: Taiwan Jones, Travis Carrie, Denarius Moore, George Atkinson III
The Raiders need to find some consistency in their return game. Jones, Carrie, Moore and Atkinson should see opportunities this training camp to earn the job as one of the main returners for the Raiders. Carrie and Atkinson are two players to watch closely. They could make the roster over other players because of their ability to return kicks, as well as provide depth at other positions.
If the Raiders can get consistent production from their return game, it shortens the field for the offense and will help provide more scoring opportunities for the team.