Which Oakland Raiders Players Are Foundation Pieces?

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The Cornerstones

Dec 7, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders outside linebacker Khalil Mack (52) celebrates behind San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore (21) after a Raiders sack against the 49ers during the second quarter at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Khalil Mack

Starting with the best player on this football team, Mack has all the makings of not only a star player, but a superstar. You’ve probably seen by now, but Mack came in at #49 in the NFL’s annual top 100 players list. Considering the votes come from his peers, there is absolutely merit to Mack’s ranking.

Last season, Mack ranked 2nd in Pro Football Focus’ metrics amongst all defensive players, trailing only JJ Watt. He was a monster in run support and was effective with his pass rush, even though his sack numbers don’t jump off the page.

He’s reportedly up to nearly 270 pounds, which is about 20 pounds more than where he ended last season. Mack is primed and ready for the gruel of the long season, and likely will take the majority of his snaps with his hand in the dirt.

Ken Norton Jr. on Khalil Mack, from CSN:

"“Everybody is saying how good he is and he got four sacks. I thought to myself, ‘How many great players have four sacks?’ You have to get in double digits. So he has a lot of growth ahead. If they’re thinking he’s this good and he’s done so little, imagine when he actually does what he’s supposed to do.”"

Derek Carr

Carr flashed outstanding ability as a rookie, showing glimpses of a potentially special quarterback. His arm strength is obvious, he possesses ideal leadership characteristics and he understands the mental aspects of the game.

He struggled at times against pressure and his accuracy was a bit erratic, but there is plenty of reason to think that Carr can be a franchise signal caller.

In an abysmal offense created by Greg Olson, with very little talent surrounding him, Carr ended the year with 3,270 yards passing, 58.1% completion, 21 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

With Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree and Clive Walford now in town to catch passes and Rodney Hudson to anchor the offensive line, Carr will have much more help this season. Also, with Mike Tice leading the offensive line and a full season of Latavius Murray, the run game should be greatly improved as well.


Amari Cooper

Speaking of Amari Cooper…the AC/DC connection will be made early and often. The #4 pick is going to enter the season as the #1 WR and with high expectations, but he’s more than capable to live up to them.

Cooper is a special talent and his separation ability is off the charts. He’s a tremendous athlete that has bigger size than given credit for (nearly identical to Sammy Watkins), and he just celebrated his 21st birthday, so he still has room to grow.

Comparing Cooper to last season’s rookie wideouts, he’ll have plenty of opportunity to have a similar impact as Mike Evans, Odell Beckham and Sammy Watkins did in their rookie campaigns.

David Carr (yes, I mean David) couldn’t contain his excitement in an interview with www.120sports.com:

"“If you are an Amari Cooper fan, go out and buy the jersey because I’m seeing some routes this kid’s running, and it’s unbelievable the separation he’s getting,” David Carr said. “I understand it’s OTAs and it’s early, but he is so crisp in and out of his cuts… you gotta see this guy on film.” He also added: “He’s an unbelievable player. I can’t wait until August. There’s ten yards of separation on some of these routes, which is unheard of in the NFL.”"

Rodney Hudson

The only one of the foundation players who wasn’t drafted by the team, Hudson was added this season via free agency, and will anchor the offensive line for years to come. At just 25 years young, he graded out as the third best center in the NFL, according to PFF.

This also wasn’t just a one-year fluke of a great season:

Hudson should be one of the best centers in the league for the foreseeable future. Here is an article with several clips showing Hudson in action.

Gabe Jackson

It might seem like high praise to have Big Gabe listed as a foundation player, but Jackson just has this mean streak in him that I couldn’t knock him down into the lower tier.

He’s a classic road grader that simply is going to move you out of the way, and punch you in the mouth just because. He’s got great footwork, violent hands, a solid anchor and he’s got some quickness to boot, showing effectiveness when pulling and also getting out to the second level.

According to PFF, Jackson graded as the 4th best LG in football in pass blocking, with his run blocking being the area he needs to improve. Mike Tice will definitely be able to help with that, and could turn Jackson into a pro-bowler.

Here is Gabe holding his own against JJ Watt, who you may have heard of.

Next: Raiders Foundation Pieces: Quality Young Starters (Offense)