Oakland Raiders: 5 best players entering 2017 NFL season

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 4: Quarterback Derek Carr
OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 4: Quarterback Derek Carr /
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If the Oakland Raiders are going to get back into the AFC Playoffs and do big things, they’ll have to lean on their five best players. So who are they?

After reaching the AFC Playoffs for the first time in 14 years, you better believe that the Oakland Raiders will be doing everything in their power to get back to them in 2017. The team had a slew of thrilling shootout victories in 2016, en route to a 12-4 record and the No. 5 seed in the AFC playoff picture.

However, that did not translate to any playoff success. The AFC South champion Houston Texans handled the Silver and Black 27-14 in the AFC Wild Card round in Houston. Both teams should have the rosters to compete for playoff spots again this fall.

For Oakland to get back to the AFC Playoffs and make splash while in them, the Raiders will need to lean in its best players. According to ProFootballFocus.com, here are the five best players on the Raiders roster heading into 2017. Where exactly are this team’s strengths?

5. player. 28. . Left Tackle. Utah State Aggies. Donald Penn

Though he is holding out for a new contract in the final year of his deal with the Raiders, there’s no way around it: Left tackle Donald Penn had one of his best seasons in the NFL out of Utah State. He made his second career trip to the Pro Bowl and his first in Oakland. As it stands now, Penn would make $5.8 million in 2017, plus incentives.

Pro Football Focus has Penn graded as the 12th best offensive tackle form 2016 at 86.3. While he was alright in pass protection at 81.8 (22nd), Penn was a complete road grader in run blocking. He garnered an 88.7 grade as a run blocker, fifth best in football among tackles.

Until a knee injury kept him out of the 2016 AFC Wild Card Game, Penn had not missed a game in his 10-year NFL career between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Raiders. To date, Penn has made 156 starts in 160 NFL appearances. His availability, above average pass protection and elite run blocking are obvious reasons why he is holding out.

That being said, Penn will be 34 this season and the one sack he did allow last year did break franchise quarterback Derek Carr‘s fibula. Though he was one of only four offensive tackles to surrender just one sack, it is misleading to his other pass protection numbers. His three hits allowed have him tied for 14th, 28 total pressures allowed also have him tied for 14th. 24 hurries allowed has him tied for 24th.

In short, Penn is worth a new contract extension because of his durability and run blocking alone. Age and good, but not great pass protection could make these negotiations difficult. That being said, Penn is a top-15 player across the league in his position group and the fifth-best overall player for the Raiders entering 2017.