The Oakland Raiders were not a good football team last year — that pretty much goes without saying. And so with this in mind, if you want some hope for 2019, you’d expect there to be some turnover. Well: good news.
As we look towards mini-camp and everything that leads up to the first game of the season, my guess is that the 53-man roster will feature upwards of twenty new faces compared to last year. Now, whether or not all these new guys can gel quickly is another question — but for now I think it’s more than enough reason for optimism.
So, while we’re still a long way away from Week 1, here’s the way I’d expect the depth chart to shake out once the games start counting for real…
QB: Derek Carr, Mike Glennon
Look, I’m guessing no one has more hope for Nathan Peterman than me at this point in his career, but I’d be surprised if he is anything more than a practice squad project next year. Plus, keeping three quarterbacks on this roster seems like a stretch.
RB: Josh Jacobs, Doug Martin, Jalen Richard, Chris Warren III
It’d be a weird one for Jon Gruden, but I wonder if they move away from keeping a fullback? Keith Smith was a massive disappointment last year and can be cut with no consequences — so maybe they try Warren (last year’s preseason darling) as a fullback? The big news, of course, is the loss of Crowell to a season-ending injury — but this was quickly atoned for with the addition of Martin. I think Warren offers the Raiders a different look in the backfield than Richard does, which is why he gets the nod over DeAndre Washington.
WR1: Antonio Brown, Ryan Grant
WR2: Tyrell Williams, Dwayne Harris
Slot WR: Hunter Renfrow, JJ Nelson
Yeah, I really do think fifth rounder Hunter Renfrow is a starter when all is said and done this preseason. With Grant and Nelson coming off the bench, this will be the deepest WR core in years.
TE: Darren Waller, Derrick Carrier, Luke Wilson, Foster Moreau
Waller was the happiest guy on draft weekend as he’ll finally get a chance to be the guy. Is he ready? If not, I could also see him not making it out of preseason — but based on what they’ve seen so far, Gruden and Co. must like the guy. Moreau is a potential practice squad candidate, but with the overall youth movement I think he gets a little longer leash — something that seemed to be confirmed with the cutting of Lee Smith. With a bunch of unfamiliar faces here, this should be a fun battle to watch all spring.
LT: Kolton Miller, Brandon Parker
LG: Gabe Jackson, Chaz Green
C: Rodney Hudson
RG: Denzelle Good, Denver Kirkland
RT: Trent Brown
Jon Gruden confirmed that this is all set except for left guard — and Good looked fine at guard to close the year last season. Now, did the Raiders feel good enough about him to prevent them from drafting a guard? Or did the draft just not fall in a way that led them to doing so? Parker, while a brutal third round pick, pencils in as a decent swing tackle.
DE1: Arden Key, Benson Mayowa, Maxx Crosby
DE2: Clelin Ferrell, Josh Mauro
While this group isn’t great looking on paper, it’s full of youth and energy. Can Arden Key make the jump in year two? Can Ferrell add some stability? Will the seventh rounder Bell make the team? Lots of questions to be answered.
DT1: Maurice Hurst, P.J. Hall, Eddie Vanderdoes
DT2: Justin Ellis, Johnathan Hankins
One of the strengths of the Raider defense is here. I think Hurst and Hall are ready to make a jump this year — especially with some actual talent on the outsides and behind them. Hard not to love the depth, too, with Ellis, Hankins and former second round pick Vanderdoes (who might not make it out of the spring) floating around as well.
OLB1: Tahir Whitehead, Te’Von Coney
MLB: Vontaze Burfict, Jason Cabinda
OLB2: Brandon Marshall, Marquel Lee
The Raider linebacking core has been a nightmare for almost a decade now (at least it feels that way), and while the Raiders still didn’t invest draft capital here, there’s more optimism than normal. Marshall and Burfict don’t offer long-term help, but they’re far better (and younger) than Derrick Johnson was last season. Between the two of them, they should offer some consistency and stability to a group that is desperate for it. This won’t be one of the league’s best units, but hoping for “league average” isn’t crazy. (Coney is an undrafted free agent from Notre Dame, and I’ll throw him in as my surprise come Week 1)
SS: Johnathan Abram, Karl Joseph
FS: Lamarcus Joyner, Erik Harris, Curtis Riley
Does Karl Joseph make it to Week 1 as a Raider? Seems unlikely, but who knows. As a rotational guy he would add some nice depth to a unit that has struggled. At free safety, I thought Joyner was the team’s best offseason signing — giving them flexibility to play him in the back or at slot corner when needed. Abram, the team’s third first-round-pick this year could become the enforcer we’ve been hoping Joseph would turn into.
LCB: Gareon Conley, Isaiah Johnson
RCB: Daryl Worley, Trayvon Mullen
Nickel CB: Nevin Lawson, Nick Nelson
Is this the year Conley ascends? How much do the Raiders get from Mullen (their second-round-pick) and Johnson (a developmental, but high-upside fourth rounder) as rookies? With a full training camp, does Nick Nelson solidify himself as an NFL player? This group isn’t perfect, but there’s potential for sure.
Kicker: Daniel Carlson
Punter: AJ Cole
Punt returner: Dwayne Harris
Kick returner: Dwayne Harris
Long snapper: Andrew DePaola
Carlson was a steal last year and gives the Raiders some real hope heading into this year after becoming the guy the Vikings thought they were getting in the fifth-round last year. Cole was an undrafted free agent this year, who I’m predicting will beat out the incumbent — Johnny Townsend. Townsend was the Raiders’ 5th round pick from last year, and was a nightmare.
Harris remains the team’s primary returner — although Antonio Brown, JJ Nelson and others could definitely challenge him there. Long snapper? Sure.
Nathan Peterman, Marcell Ateman, Nicholas Morrow, Alec Ingold, Keelan Doss, David Sharpe, Quinton Bell, Ronald Ollie
Some names to consider (they’d have room for two more). I think they definitely keep a QB, while Ateman and Morrow would be ideal guys to sneak onto this squad. Bell was the team’s 7th round pick this year, but is believed to be more of a project than anything else at this point. Ingold, Ollie and Doss are both undrafted free agents.