Time for Oakland Raiders 2013 Draft class to develop


November 20, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders cornerback D.J. Hayden (25) before the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at O.co Coliseum. The Raiders defeated the Chiefs 24-20. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Oakland Raiders do not have any more time for the 2013 class to develop. With two season’s under their belt, it is time for the Raiders to get returns from Reggie McKenzie’s first full draft class.

Head Coach Jack Del Rio preached competition since he took the reigns. He is putting his money where his mouth is, as many of the Raiders’ top draft picks have been put on notice.

1. D.J. Hayden, Cornerback

Hayden has already lost some reps to second year player Keith McGill. However, I would argue it is more about Hayden’s availability concerns than his play. McGill is no spring chicken at age 28, so the organization has high expectations for him too. McGill may be the bigger corner fit for Ken Norton Jr.’s scheme, but Hayden should be able to beat him out. Either way, Hayden needs to develop into the no. 1 corner he was drafted for. Thus far, he has failed to even play a full season, so I do not think it’s fair to use his statistics against him.

"“This is not what the Raiders imagined when they drafted Hayden with the No. 12 overall pick in 2013,” ESPN Raiders reporter Bill Williamson wrote. “He is entering his third NFL training camp as the No. 3 cornerback. He can still win a job. But he was drafted to dominate, not to compete for a job in his third year.”"

Considering Hayden’s play in pads has been limited over the past three seasons, the Raiders should be happy if he contributes for all sixteen games. He needs as many reps as he can get. As he continues to adapt to the game speed, he should finally become a great starter.

2. Menelik Watson, Right Tackle

Over his first few seasons, Watson has played both tackle positions and even some guard. People forget that Watson does not have an extensive football career. What he lacks in toughness and instincts, he makes up for in athleticism. He has been hurt on and off, but he has had some flashes when he plays. He is in the thick of a competition with last year’s free agency acquisition Austin Howard.

When you haven’t played football your entire life, it is fair to suffer from lack of confidence. Watson has all the tools, but he has yet to put it all together. If he can beat Howard out for the right tackle position, then the sky is the limit for the former second round pick. He has the athleticism and size to match up with any pass rushers on the  right side. One thing is for sure, fans and staff are tired of hearing about his potential.

3. Sio Moore, Linebacker

Out of all these players, Moore is the only one who really hit the ground running with four sacks in his rookie season. Last year, Moore played well again but he will be rehabbing a hip injury entering this season. That considered, Ray-Ray Armstrong has been taking advantage of the extra reps.

If Moore struggles out of the gates, he could loose some reps in a deeper line backing corps. It features Armstrong, Malcolm Smith and rookie Ben Heeney, Moore still has enough skill and potential to beat-out those guys but he needs to get healthy before he falls out of favor with the coaching staff.

4. Mychal Rivera, Tight End

People are ready to write Mychal Rivera off due to the acquisition of Clive Watford. Still, Rivera has the benefit of being Derek Carr’s most reliable target last season. He eclipsed five hundred yards and four touchdowns. Rivera gets flack for being a poor blocker, but he is still one of the Raider’s biggest ex-factors.

He is a big target that should be a go-to for Carr in the Redzone. His big body and speed make him a mismatch against slower linebackers and shorter safeties. He will have his work cut out, as he will battle Watford, Marcel Reece, and Lee Smith for snaps on offense.

5. Latavius Murray, Running Back

The Raiders ranked dead last in running offense a season ago. The few highlights came from Murray. He used his big body and fast legs to provide the rushing unit with a spark. It was a surprise considering he battled injury early last season and the year before.

Murray looks like the early favorite to be the starter. If he gets injured again, the Raiders have brought in competition. That includes Roy Helu and Trent Richardson who will pounce if Murray fails to take advantage of the starting position.

Raider fans already understand the draft does not win games. That is why the team has been at the top of the draft for the past thirteen years.

What does win championships is development. The Seahawks proved that win they won a championship built around late draft selections including Richard Sherman and Russell Wilson.

One thing is for sure, it is time for the Raiders draft selections to start developing. Fans are tired of waiting for these players to contribute at key positions. Either way, the new coaching staff has already put them on notice. As we enter training camp, it will be the first step in a long journey of them proving themselves. If they do not get it right this season, it could be their last in silver and black.