Oakland Raiders: Potential Upgrades At Every Position

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Dec 28, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith (82) catches a long pass to set up a touchdown against the Cleveland Browns at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Wide Receiver: Currently on the Roster – Rod Streater, James Jones, Andre Holmes, Brice Butler, Kenbrell Thompkins, Vincent Brown, Denarius Moore.

Like I mentioned at the beginning of this article, the wide receiver position is one of the most talked about needs for the Oakland Raiders. “The Raiders don’t have a true number one deep threat receiver.” Is what everyone is saying. Well, neither do the Seattle Seahawks. The Patriots also haven’t had a true number one receiver since Randy Moss.

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I believe the biggest challenge to the passing game the Raiders faced last season, was the under production from their own running game, caused by an offensive coordinator who would abandon the run far too early in games if the Raiders would fall behind. The play calling got so predictable, that I would know what type of play the were going to run while watching the game on TV, I can only imagine what the opposing defensive coordinators were thinking.

What successful teams like the Seahawks or the Patriots have, is an intimidating ground game (and by the way, Lynch is not coming to Oakland so get past it). Tom Brady doesn’t carry that team to the Super Bowl by himself, the Patriots usually make their Super Bowl runs when they have a strong ground game to support the passing game (Having a Gronk doesn’t hurt either though).

I already brought up the fact that when the run game was working for the Raiders last season, they won three games, against strong opponents which proves the fact that what the roster needs is depth on the offense more than they need a star wideout.

I know I’m in the minority here, but I don’t think the Raiders’ receiving corps are as bad as people think. With more consistency in who’s playing, Rod Streater coming back from injury, and a full off season with Carr as the known starter, I believe the Raiders can have a very well rounded, productive group of receivers. Thompkins and Streater are two guys who could be coached into being number one receivers in my opinion.

That being said, there are upgrades to the position out there, and I do believe Derek Carr and the Raiders offense will improve greatly with the addition of a receiver who can step in and properly fill the roll of a number one. Someone who can stretch the field, and instantly be a deep threat.

The addition of a receiver like that, compounded with a feared running game will give the Raiders exactly what they need. I’ve talked in length about the free agent options coming up at the receiver position, and who the Raiders could potentially get in a previous article, so I won’t go into as much detail.

The most practical Free Agent upgrades available are Jeremy Maclin, Torrey Smith and Randall Cobb. Maclin and Smith being the two most likely to hit the market, and as it turns out are the two who I feel could step into the number one position the easiest. Both are already known for being deep threats, and both have a very similar, but different situation going on.

Maclin signed a 1 year “prove it” deal last year with the Eagles, and he proved it. Had the Eagles not had so much quarterback trouble, Maclin would have been setting franchise records in Philly. Maclin is looking for a big pay day, and he should get one. If Maclin is willing to come to the Raiders, Reggie should pay the man and get him to the Silver and Black the day free agency opens. Maclin took that one year deal, betting on himself after a bit of a slump in production the previous year, and bounced back by being the 14th ranked overall receiver by pro football focus.

Torrey Smith is coming off of a pretty lack luster year in 2014, behind the 1000 yard season of the other Baltimore receiver, Steve Smith. Torrey Smith still lead the team in TD’s with 11, and averaged over 15 yards per catch. Torrey may be looking to follow in Maclin’s steps and take a 1 year, “prove it” contract of his own to rebound his career.

If so, Reggie may be able to employ his services for a relatively low cost. When it comes to being a deep threat, Smith is who I’d take. He ranked 15th in the league in deep routes. He knows how to get separation from defenders, and he can make the big time catch.

Let’s look real quick at the draft prospects. There are three guys I’m looking at right now, that I’d love to have on the Raiders, if they go receiver in the first round. Amari Cooper, DeVante Parker, and Kevin White. With the number 4 pick in the first round, most likely at least two, possibly all three of these players will be options for the Raiders.

Cooper is the most polished rout runner, and has an incredible talent for breaking tackles and turning short routs into big gains. DeVante Parker, is big and fast while also being projected to have a 4.4 forty time, and is one of those guys you count on to win the jump ball to make himself the total package.

Kevin White is interesting because he doesn’t stand out as being the best at anything, but he’s 2nd best at everything. If Cooper is the best route runner, White is the second. If Parker is the best at getting the jump ball, White is second. Cooper or White are the only ones I’d say could possibly be worth the 4th overall pick in the draft, depending on how it plays out.  If a trade down is made, then Parker should be the choice.

Other guys to possibly look for, Devin Smith out of Ohio State is a guy not many people are talking about, but he’s an absolute burner. He’s the biggest vertical threat at the position in this draft, he’s the guy Al Davis would pick for sure. Dorial Green-Beckham is probably the most NFL ready receiver coming up in the draft, but he didn’t play all last season due to transferring schools, and has some off the field issues that need to be worked out. He essentially practiced all last year. He’s 6’5″ tall, really strong, solid route runner and pretty darn fast as well.

Next: Offseason Upgrades: Tight End