Oakland Raiders: Five dark horse players to make the 2014 roster

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Dec 1, 2012; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Wisconsin Badgers defensive backs Shelton Johnson (24) and Marcus Cromartie (14) place roses in their mouths after defeating the Nebraska Cornhuskers during the Big Ten championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Wisconsin defeated Nebraska 70-31. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Shelton Johnson, Safety 

Oakland’s safety positions are settled at the top as Tyvon Branch should top a depth chart alongside Charles Woodson with Usama Young filling the third spot, but the fourth spot should be definitely up for grabs as a group of unproven youngsters will all be battling for a chance to crack the 53 man roster as the “In Case of Emergency” safety this season. Something that last year’s injuries showed could be needed as Branch’s injury in addition to several injuries to cornerbacks forced defensive backs lower in the depth chart into action early and often.

Former Wisconsin safety Shelton Johnson is an interesting name that will be trying to be that safety to cling to one of the last spots on the 53 man roster this summer as the Badgers product will look to use his experiences on the Raiders practice squad in 2013 to grow into a full-time job with the team on the full roster for 2014 when he steps onto the field this preseason.

Johnson, like many UDFA’s who hit practice squads, was at one point in time a very promising NFL prospect. In fact in his Junior season when the Badgers had one of their best years in the history of the school, Johnson was one of their top defensive backs. Johnson had 54 tackles combined for the Badgers that season, six for losses in addition to four interceptions that had him pegged as a player to watch heading into his senior season of 2012 with the Badgers.

Unfortunately Johnson failed to impress in 2012, defending four passes compared to seven in 2011 and didn’t create a single turnover as his production dipped along with his draft stock as NFL front offices took him off their boards before the Raiders brought him in as a UDFA.

Due to aforementioned injuries, Johnson received some playing time late on in 2013 with the Raiders and actually earned his first turnover with the team in Week 16 on the road against the Chargers when he got his first career fumble recovery in Oakland’s 26-13 loss. Other than that Johnson had three solo tackles as he went from practice squad to the 53 man roster in December of last season.

This year Johnson will be looking to build on the experience of getting onto the football field, and that experience should give him an edge over 2014 seventh round safety selection Jonathan Dowling from Western Kentucky. Should the former Badger have a strong preseason, there is a good chance we can see him hovering around the bubble of the 53 man roster come the final half of August.