Mostly agree with your rankings; with the optimism bias from being a cardinals fan personally, I'd argue you could make a 1 star increase at each position, but their current rankings are also fair. I very much disagree with the 1 star ranking at special teams however, as we have a pro bowl gunner in Justin Bethel being joined by some high upside athletes in the kick coverage team and kick return game. Probably the best coverage unit in the game, which coupled with a punter who is below average (don't think he's as bad as stats show- his hangtime is rediculous, and it seems the staff went with him for this reason. I'd choose a distance leg with our coverage team, butI digress). In short, I'd say 3 stars is fair. A perfectly average special teams unit, whose only limitation really seems to be Drew Butler's distance and the uncertainty of a new long snapper (but both seem pretty reliable this far)
QB Matt Leinart, RB Mike Goodson, FB Owen Schmitt, G Mike Brisiel, DE Dave Tollefson, OLB Philip Wheeler, CB Shawntae Spencer, CB Ronald Bartell, CB Patrick Lee.
Early Draft Picks:
OT/G Tony Bergstrom, DE/OLB Miles Burris, DE Jack Crawford, WR Juron Criner.
QB Jason Campbell, RB Michael Bush, WR Chaz Schilens, TE Kevin Boss, OT Stephon Heyer, G Bruce Campbell, C Samson Satele, DE/OLB Kamerion Wimbley, DE Trevor Scott, DE Jarvis Moss, DE Quentin Groves, DT John Henderson, ILB Darryl Blackstock, CB Stanford Routt, CB Chris Johnson, CB Lito Sheppard.
2012 Oakland Raiders Offense:
And everyone thought Al Davis was the one who made the crazy trades. New owner Mark Davis and former head coach Hue Jackson surrendered a 2012 first-round pick and a 2013 second-round selection for Carson Palmer. It seemed like half-desperation, half-insanity at the time; Palmer was very mediocre in 2010 and appeared to lose zip on his passes because of all of the injuries he's incurred over the years, beginning with that devastating hit to the knee in January 2006 versus Pittsburgh.
However, Palmer performed pretty well in the second half of 2011. He completed 60.7 percent of his passes and maintained an impressive YPA of 8.4. He threw more interceptions (16) than touchdowns (13), but three picks came in relief of Kyle Boller when he wasn't ready to play, and another four took place at Lambeau as he was trying desperately to keep up with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, who were unstoppable at the time.
Palmer has two terrific receivers to work with. The more famous wideout is Darrius Heyward-Bey, who has ironically out-performed San Francisco's Michael Crabtree thus far; it was Crabtree who laughed at the Raiders for selecting Heyward-Bey over him in the 2009 NFL Draft. Heyward-Bey can laugh now, coming off a season in which he caught 64 balls for 975 yards despite not doing much until October. The other receiver, Denarius Moore, seems to be Palmer's favorite weapon; Palmer has gushed about Moore to the media repeatedly, saying that the sky is the limit for him. Moore accumulated 618 yards and five touchdowns in 13 games as a rookie last year.
The Raiders don't have a pass-catching tight end, so Palmer will have to rely more on his other receivers and running backs. Of course, the most prevalent player of the bunch is Darren McFadden, one of the most explosive athletes in the NFL. McFadden has the potential to lead the NFL in rushing and all-purpose yards, but unfortunately cannot seem to stay healthy. He played in only seven games last year after missing 10 contests between 2008 and 2010. If McFadden goes down again, Oakland won't have the luxury of turning to Michael Bush, who signed with the Bears. McFadden's new backup is Mike Goodson, who ran well at times for the Panthers, but was plagued by fumbling issues.
Palmer tossed 10 of his 16 picks last year when under pressure, so the offensive line will have to keep him clean. The Raiders surrendered just 25 sacks in 2011 (third fewest in the NFL), primarily because of left tackle Jared Veldheer. Penalties were a problem for the second-year lineman (12 infractions), but he allowed just four sacks, all of which occurred in a four-week period. He closed out the season on a very strong note, yielding just three pressures in the final four contests. There's no reason why Veldheer shouldn't be able to improve and become a perennial Pro Bowler.
Oakland is also strong at center. Stefen Wisniewski proved why he deserved to be a second-round prospect heading into the 2011 NFL Draft, as he performed exceptionally well for a rookie last year. He'll play next to right guard Mike Brisiel, acquired via free agency. Brisiel, formerly of the Texans, has issues with penalties, but blocks pretty well.
The two areas of concern up front are at left guard and right tackle. The former position will be a battle between 35-year-old Cooper Carlisle and third-round rookie Tony Bergstrom. Carlisle was actually cut and re-signed this offseason to save money, which goes to show how little Oakland values him. Bergstrom could easily win the job, but that won't necessary be a good thing. Meanwhile, Khalif Barnes and 2011 third-rounder Joe Barksdale will fight for the right tackle gig. Barnes is completely helpless, but Barksdale didn't look much better in limited action last year.
2012 Oakland Raiders Defense:
The Raiders just keep losing defensive players. Nnamdi Asomugha defected for Philadelphia in the summer of 2011. This spring, the Raiders had to make several financially based cuts. They jettisoned their best pass-rusher, Kamerion Wimbley (seven sacks) and their top cornerback, Stanford Routt. They also failed to re-sign defensive end Trevor Scott and watched run-stuffing defensive tackle John Henderson retire. Oh, and to make matters worse, former top-10 overall pick, inside linebacker Rolando McClain, has been sentenced to 180 days in jail for being found guilty of assault, reckless endangerment and wrongful discharge of a firearm.
Oakland's stop unit is essentially a skeleton crew. The team notched 39 sacks last year (15th in the NFL), but where is the pass rush going to come without Wimbley? Left end Lamarr Houston and Richard Seymour were both consistent in terms of getting to the quarterback in 2011, but can Houston continue to do so now that opposing offenses won't have to focus on Wimbley? And what about Seymour? He was great last year, but he turns 33 in October. His best days are definitely behind him.
A lacking pass rush will only put more pressure on a secondary that has lost its top two cornerbacks in consecutive offseasons. The Raiders signed Shawntae Spencer and Ronald Bartell as replacements, but the coaching staff will secretly be hoping that young players like DeMarcus Van Dyke and Chimdi Chekwa will be able to pass them on the depth chart because neither veteran is very good, to put it nicely. Spencer couldn't even crack San Francisco's rotation last season, while Bartell missed all but one game for the Rams in 2011 because of a neck injury. Unfortunately, Van Dyke and Chekwa played sparingly last year and neither looked very impressive.
It's unknown who will start at middle linebacker if McClain indeed has to serve 180 days in jail. Philip Wheeler, who is decent in run support, was signed to play strongside linebacker. Top-five bust Aaron Curry, meanwhile, will continue to patrol the weak side. He was simply mediocre there in 2011. Fourth-round rookie Miles Burris may have to step in if McClain isn't permitted to play.
The Raiders are at least still strong in the middle of their defense. Well, that is true only if McClain plays and Seymour's talents don't erode. The other defensive tackles, Tommy Kelly and Desmond Bryant, are very solid in terms of rushing the passer and stopping the run, respectively. The safeties are also very good. Michael Huff and Tyvon Branch will be asked to do more, given the decline of the pass rush and the cornerback position.
2012 Oakland Raiders Schedule and Intangibles:
Continuity is key in the NFL. Think about which teams have been most successful over the years. The Patriots, Steelers, Eagles, Giants, among others have consistently made the playoffs because they've kept the same coaching staffs for a long time. The Raiders, meanwhile, seem to switch coaches every single year. They've had Bill Callahan, Norv Turner, Art Shell, Lane Kiffin, Tom Cable, Hue Jackson and now Dennis Allen patrolling the sidelines since 2003. That's ridiculous. It's unclear why Jackson was let go, but the front office needs to learn to make up its mind when it comes to maintaining a coaching staff.
Speaking of coaches, it seems like none of those men have been able to do anything about Oakland's penalty problem. Calling it a "problem" is a bit of an understatement. The Raiders committed 283 infractions in 2011, which led the NFL by a wide margin. Consider how the other AFC West squads performed in comparison. The Chiefs had 218 penalties. The Broncos were guilty of 200, while the Chargers were whistled for only 183. Penalties cost the Raiders several wins last season. Allen must fix this issue. If he doesn't, his team has no chance of making the playoffs.
The Black Hole seems like an intimidating place to play, but the Raiders are a sub-.500 team (63-73) as hosts since 1995. They were 3-5 at home last year, with four of the defeats being by double digits.
Sebastian Janikowski signed a 4-year, $16 million contract two offseasons ago and definitely lived up to it, hitting 31-of-35 attempts in 2011, including 7-of-10 from 50-plus.
Though former teammate Terdell Sands punched him in the face, Shane Lechler is the best punter in the NFL. He averaged an unbelievable 50.8 yards per kick, which is even more impressive because it includes 27-of-78 punts inside the opponents' 20.
Jacoby Ford was banged up last year, so he didn't contribute as much as the Raiders wanted him to on special teams. He did manage to return a kickoff for six though. Unfortunately, Oakland surrendered three special-teams scores.
The Raiders have a chance to start 2-0. They host the Chargers on Monday Night Football and then travel to Miami six days later. It gets tough after that though. Four of the next five opponents are the Steelers (home), Broncos (road), Falcons (road) and Chiefs (road). Oakland could be out of it if it doesn't take advantage of its winnable games.
2012 Oakland Raiders Analysis: The Raiders have lost too much personnel, both in the front office and on the field, to contend for the divisional crown in 2012. In fact, they could have one of the worst records in the league if Carson Palmer regresses and Darren McFadden spends most of the year on the sidelines.
The future is much more important for the Raiders than the present. For Oakland to make the playoffs for the first time since 2002, it'll have to rebuild wisely and maintain some continuity. Thus, unless he proves himself to be completely inept, Dennis Allen should be given a chance even if he has two consecutive bad seasons. The Raiders need stability more than anything.
Goals Entering the 2012 NFL Draft: The Raiders don't draft until the final pick of the third round, so all they can do is acquire depth and hope some of their selections turn out to be starters.
2012 NFL Draft Accomplishments: It's difficult to grade this draft because Oakland didn't pick until No. 95. I did like what the Raiders were able to do with some of their selections. They obtained two promising pass-rushers in Miles Burris and Jack Crawford, acquired a versatile lineman in Tony Bergstrom, and found a fifth-round steal in Juron Criner.
The Raiders' trades must be factored into this grade. Carson Palmer's longevity is a concern, given how many injuries he's sustained over his career. Terrelle Pryor, meanwhile, was widely considered a reach with a third-round supplemental selection. The second was used to take Joseph Barksdale and Taiwan Jones, but it's still not clear how they'll pan out.
2012 NFL Draft Individual Grades:
95. Tony Bergstrom, OT/G, Utah: B Grade
The Raiders needed help on the offensive line. Tony Bergstrom, who can play multiple positions up front, definitely fits the range. He's also good for Oakland's scheme.
129. Miles Burris, DE/OLB, San Diego State: B- Grade
Miles Burris was a fifth-round prospect, but this is close enough to his range. The Raiders lost some pass-rushers in free agency, so they had to find some replacements.
158. Jack Crawford, DE, Penn State: B+ Grade
I had a strong feeling the Raiders would draft Jack Crawford. They really liked him as a fifth-round prospect - this is the exact correct range for him - and as I wrote earlier, they had to find multiple pass-rushers this weekend.
168. Juron Criner, WR, Arizona: A Grade
Juron Criner could have easily been picked on Friday. He was No. 95 on the consensus board. The Raiders don't really need a receiver, but you can't go wrong with this sort of value.
189. Christo Bulukidi, DT, Georgia State: D Grade
Georgia State's first drafted player! The Panthers are coming into Division 1-A, so this is nice for them. However, he's No. 752 on the consensus board. I don't know if anyone else would have selected him.
230. Nathan Stupar, LB, Penn State: B- Grade
The Raiders love their Penn Staters. Nathan Stupar was set to be a priority UDFA, so taking him in the middle of Round 7 isn't so bad. There would have been better selections, however.
When Hue Jackson made that emotional speech after beating the Texans a few days following Al Davis' death, who would have thought that he would be fired a couple of months later? But that's the Raiders for you. Al is gone, but the madness continues.
Raiders sign FB Owen Schmitt
Raiders sign OT Ed Wang
Raiders sign QB Matt Leinart
Raiders sign WR Duke Calhoun
Raiders re-sign S Matt Giordano
Raiders sign DE Dave Tollefson
Raiders sign LB Philip Wheeler
Raiders acquire RB Mike Goodson from Panthers for OT/G Bruce Campbell
Raiders announce retirement of DT John Henderson
Bears sign RB Michael Bush
Raiders re-sign OT Khalif Barnes
Raiders sign CB Patrick Lee
Colts sign C Samson Satele
Titans sign DE Kamerion Wimbley
Raiders re-sign G Cooper Carlisle
Raiders sign CB Shawntae Spencer
Patriots sign DE Trevor Scott
Raiders sign CB Ronald Bartell
Raiders sign G Mike Brisiel
Jets sign WR Chaz Schilens
Chiefs sign TE Kevin Boss
49ers sign RB Rock Cartwright
Raiders cut DT John Henderson
Raiders cut G Cooper Carlisle
Bears sign QB Jason Campbell
Raiders cut DE/OLB Kamerion Wimbley
Raiders tender FB Marcel Reece
Raiders tender DE/DT Desmond Bryant
Raiders cut TE Kevin Boss
Raiders cut CB Chris Johnson
Raiders cut S Hiram Eugene
Raiders franchise S Tyvon Branch
Chiefs sign CB Stanford Routt
Raiders cut CB Stanford Routt
Nose Tackle: The Raiders will be moving to a 3-4 defense. What they need most is a nose tackle who can stuff the run. There will be plenty of those available in free agency.
Two Rush Linebackers: Kamerion Wimbley has been released, and Oakland already didn't have anyone capable of starting on the other side. Matt Shaughnessy doesn't project well into the 3-4. Drafted Miles Burris and Jack Crawford
Two Interior Linemen: Center Samson Satele is a free agent. If he's not retained, Stefen Wisniewski could slide into his spot, with Bruce Campbell taking over at left guard. In that case, the Raiders would need to bring in a guard to compete with Campbell. On the other side, Cooper Carlisle, 35 in August, isn't the player he once was. Signed Mike Brisiel; re-signed Cooper Carlisle
Two Cornerbacks: Stanford Routt has been cut. Chris Johnson probably won't be back next year. The Raiders cannot have someone like Lito Sheppard playing tons of snaps next season. Signed Ronald Bartell, Shawntae Spencer and Patrick Lee
Right Tackle: Khalif Barnes will be hitting the market in March, but that's not an issue because he stinks. The Raiders may want to bring in a veteran to compete with Joseph Barksdale for the position. Drafted Tony Bergstrom; re-signed Khalif Barnes; signed Ed Wang
Strong Safety: Tyvon Branch is a key free agent who will need to be re-signed. Michael Mitchell was predictably awful when on the field in 2011. Franchised Tyvon Branch
Tight End: The Raiders signed Kevin Boss to a big contract last offseason. They just cut him recently.
Inside Linebacker Depth: The Raiders are currently thin behind Rolando McClain and Aaron Curry at inside linebacker. Signed Philip Wheeler
Defensive End Depth: Oakland will need defensive end depth behind Lamarr Houston and Richard Seymour in their new defense. Signed Dave Tollefson
Running Back: Michael Bush is a free agent. If he leaves, a capable power runner will be needed. Signed Mike Goodson
2012 NFL Free Agent Signings:
Mike Brisiel, G, Texans. Age: 29. Signed with Raiders (5 years, $20 million)
Mike Brisiel is a solid guard in a zone-blocking scheme. He pass protects well, though penalties are an issue.
Ronald Bartell, CB, Rams. Age: 31. Signed with Raiders (1 year, $3 million)
Ronald Bartell can be a decent cornerback when healthy, but he missed all but one game last year with a neck injury. He's a health risk, but he's been cleared by the doctors. He's worth a shot.
Phillip Wheeler, OLB, Colts. Age: 27. Signed with Raiders (1 year)
Phillip Wheeler is a pretty solid two-down weakside linebacker who thrives in run support. The Colts should re-sign him.
Shawntae Spencer, CB, 49ers. Age: 30. -- Signed with Raiders
Dave Tollefson, DE, Giants. Age: 30. -- Signed with Raiders (2 years, $2.5 million)
Matt Leinart, QB, Texans. Age: 29. -- Signed with Raiders
Owen Schmitt, FB, Eagles. Age: 27. -- Signed with Raiders
Patrick Lee, CB, Packers. Age: 28. -- Signed with Raiders (1 year)
Oakland Raiders Free Agents:
Salary Cap: TBA.
Marcel Reece (RFA), FB, Raiders. Age: 27. Tendered by Raiders
Marcel "Matchup Nightmare" Reece is one of the top fullbacks in the NFL. He does everything really well.
Kamerion Wimbley, DE/OLB, Raiders. Age: 28. Signed with Titans (5 years, $35 million)
Kamerion Wimbley, a perfect fit for either the 4-3 or 3-4, has 16 sacks in the past two years. He's also a force against the run.
Tyvon Branch, SS, Raiders. Age: 25. Franchised by Raiders
Tyvon Branch is a talented strong safety who has many good years left ahead of him. The Raiders can't afford to let him get away.
Michael Bush, RB, Raiders. Age: 28. Signed with Bears (4 years, $14 million)
Michael Bush will be overrated on the market. He wore down as the season went along, and he didn't even start the whole year or anything. That's a big red flag.
Samson Satele, C, Raiders. Age: 27. Signed with Colts
Samson Satele missed one game with a concussion last year, but otherwise had another solid season.
Stanford Routt, CB, Raiders. Age: 29. Signed with Chiefs (3 years, $19.6 million; $4 million signing bonus)
One of the most overrated players in the NFL, Stanford Routt is often discussed as a Pro Bowl-caliber cornerback, but he definitely shouldn't be. Routt has good coverage skills, but is often penalized. He was whistled for 17 infractions in 2011 alone (it easily could have been a lot more), which led all players at his position.
Jason Campbell, QB, Raiders. Age: 30. Signed with Bears
Look up the definition of mediocre in the dictionary, and you'll probably find a picture of Jason Campbell. Campbell has been really consistent in his two years with the Raiders, completing about 60 percent of his passes and throwing slightly more touchdowns than interceptions.
Desmond Bryant (RFA), DE/DT, Raiders. Age: 26. Tendered by Raiders
Desmond Bryant is pretty good in run support. He has the versatility to play in any defense.
John Henderson, DT, Raiders. Age: 33. Announced retirement
John Henderson is a force versus ground attacks, but he'll be lucky to get two sacks in a season.
Kevin Boss, TE, Raiders. Age: 28. Signed with Chiefs (3 years, $9 million)
Kevin Boss is a decent end zone target (16 TDs last three years with Giants) and a solid blocker.
Chris Johnson, CB, Raiders. Age: 32.
Trevor Scott, DE, Raiders. Age: 28. -- Signed with Patriots (1 year)
Jarvis Moss, DE, Raiders. Age: 28.
Quentin Groves, DE/OLB, Raiders. Age: 28. -- Signed with Cardinals
Cooper Carlisle, G, Raiders. Age: 35. -- Re-signed with Raiders
Khalif Barnes, OT, Raiders. Age: 30. -- Re-signed with Raiders
Lito Sheppard, CB, Raiders. Age: 31.
Stephon Heyer, OT, Raiders. Age: 28. -- Signed with Jets
Darryl Blackstock, ILB, Raiders. Age: 29.
Chaz Schilens, WR, Raiders. Age: 26. -- Signed with Jets
Matt Giordano, S, Raiders. Age: 29. -- Re-signed with Raiders
Hiram Eugene, S, Raiders. Age: 31.
Rock Cartwright, RB, Raiders. Age: 32. -- Signed with 49ers (1 year)
T.J. Houshmandzadeh, WR, Raiders. Age: 34.
Kyle Boller, QB, Raiders. Age: 31.
2012 NFL Free Agent Rankings Coming Soon
Divisional Rival History: Denver Broncos: The Raiders swept the Broncos in 2010, winning the two matchups by a combined score of 98-37. Oakland triumphed again in the opener this year, but Tebow Time did them in later on. Kansas City Chiefs: The road team has somehow won nine of the previous 10 meetings. Aren't Arrowhead and the Black Hole supposed to be intimidating places to play? San Diego Chargers: The Chargers won 13 in a row in this rivalry prior to 2010. The Raiders have won three of four since, but the one loss knocked them out of the playoffs this past year.
Features to be Posted This Offseason:
2012 NFL Draft Grades (Pick-by-Pick NFL Draft Grades as well - Live on Draft Day!)