2018 NFL Offseason: Oakland Raiders

Oakland Raiders (Last Year: 6-10)

2018 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
RB Doug Martin, FB Keith Smith, WR Jordy Nelson, WR Martavis Bryant, TE Derek Carrier, DE Tank Carradine, DT Ahtyba Rubin, OLB Tahir Whitehead, OLB Kyle Wilber, ILB Derrick Johnson, CB Rashaan Melvin, CB Shareece Wright, CB Daryl Worley, CB Leon Hall, S Marcus Gilchrist.
Early Draft Picks:
OT Kolton Miller, NT P.J. Hall, OT Brandon Parker, DE Arden Key, CB Nick Nelson, DT Maurice Hurst. Raiders Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
FB Jamize Olawale, WR Michael Crabtree, WR Cordarrelle Patterson, OT Marshall Newhouse, DE Aldon Smith, DT Denico Autry, ILB NaVorro Bowman, CB T.J. Carrie, CB David Amerson, CB Sean Smith, S Keith McGill, K Sebastian Janikowski, P Marquette King.

2018 Oakland Raiders Offense:
The Raiders appeared as though they were going to contend for the Super Bowl two years ago. They finished 12-4, but Derek Carr broke his leg toward the end of the season. Following a quick playoff exit, the Raiders were looking good early in 2017 when Carr suffered another injury. He missed just one game, but he told the media after the season that the back problem he sustained in a loss at Denver affected him the entire year. This would explain his diminished stats; he went from a 28:6 touchdown-to-interception ratio in 2016 to just 22:13 in 2017.

Carr will be 100 percent heading into 2018, but that’s not the only reason for optimism. The new coaching staff will also help tremendously. Jon Gruden was hired, and he in turn brought in Greg Olson to run his offense. Olson is one of the top quarterback gurus in the NFL. He’s had the magic touch with Marc Bulger, Josh Freeman, Blake Bortles, and most recently, Jared Goff. Carr will benefit greatly from Olson’s presence, and he could certainly have his best year yet.

Carr won’t be the only one who will be hoping for better health this upcoming season. Amari Cooper saw his yardage total plummet from 1,153 to 680 in just two fewer games because he was hampered with a back problem throughout the year. Cooper should be able to bounce back as well, and Gruden said he envisions the young wideout to be the “main vein” of the passing attack. Cooper will play alongside newly acquired Jordy Nelson and Martavis Bryant. Michael Crabtree is gone – he signed with the Ravens after being released to save $7.7 million – so it remains to be seen if the two new receivers can match his production. Nelson has slowed down because of injuries, and he was so bad last year that he was eventually benched. Gruden, however, has historically gotten the most out of declining veterans, so it’s conceivable that Nelson could have one more strong season. Bryant, on the other hand, has the opposite issue. He has all the ability in the world, but hasn’t been able to put it together mentally yet. There’s also a chance he could be suspended.

Oakland’s offensive line will also have to rebound off a down 2017 campaign. Left tackle Donald Penn was out of shape entering the season, and he eventually developed a foot injury. This prompted the Raiders to spend their first-round pick on UCLA tackle Kolton Miller. Many draft experts considered Miller to be a reach, but considering that legendary general manager Ozzie Newsome planned to draft Miller with the 16th-overall selection, it’s difficult to call that a correct assessment. Miller was believed to be a candidate to start at right tackle, but he’s been getting reps on the blind side in OTAs. Miller has the ability to start at left tackle, which should push Penn over to the right side, provided he’s healthy. If not, the anemic Breno Giacomini will start once again unless third-round rookie Brandon Parker can win the job.

The interior of Oakland’s front is the strength of the offense. This was a slightly problematic area last season because right guard Gabe Jackson also endured an injury. Jackson is very talented and figures to rebound. He’ll continue to start with left guard Kelechi Osemele and center Rodney Hudson, two of the better players in the entire NFL at their respective positions.

The blocking unit seems set to be improved, so that bodes well for Marshawn Lynch and Doug Martin’s outlook. Lynch rushed for 4.3 yards per carry this past season, and that figures to improve. Lynch won’t be able to handle the entire workload because he’s 32, so Martin will see a healthy amount of carries. Martin has enjoyed two great seasons, but has also been a part of four brutal years as well. Martin has done well when motivated for money, and that will certainly be the case in 2018 because he signed a 1-year “prove it” contract.

2018 Oakland Raiders Defense:
While Oakland’s offense endured countless injuries last year, the defense was just outright anemic. There were problems on every level of the stop unit, particularly in the linebacking corps and secondary. Fortunately for the Raiders, both areas figure to improve in 2018.

The defensive backfield will feature two brand new cornerbacks. Gareon Conley, a first-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, will be one of the starters. Conley barely played last year because of a shin injury, but has the talent to clamp down on opposing receivers. He’ll start across from Rashaan Melvin, who was signed away from the Colts this offseason. Melvin was excellent 2017, so he figures to be a huge upgrade for the Raiders as well. Fourth-round rookie Nick Nelson could be a factor, too. Considered a second-round prospect by some, Nelson dropped into the fourth frame because of a pre-draft injury.

Rounding out the secondary are safeties Karl Joseph and Reggie Nelson. The latter is the weak link of the group, given that he’ll turn 35 in September. Joseph has great ability as a former first-round selection, but hasn’t quite taken the next step yet. Joseph has played well in run support, but more has been expected from him in coverage.

The linebacking corps also features two new starters. Tahir Whitehead was signed over from the Lions. Whitehead isn’t good in coverage, but he’s been tremendous in run support. He wasn’t going to fix Oakland’s inability to defend tight ends and pass-catching running backs, but Derrick Johnson might be able to. Johnson, in his advanced age (36 in November), has gotten worse as a tackler, but he still played extremely well in coverage last year. He could be motivated to prove the Chiefs wrong after they let him walk this offseason.

If the secondary and linebacking unit can play better this year, that’ll be enormous for the Raiders, whose defense has been considered a “Khalil Mack and 10 other guys” type of group. That hasn’t been entirely true because Bruce Irvin is a solid edge player, while Justin Ellis has done a good job of clamping down on the run in the interior. However, Mack’s presence will definitely help the new corners and linebackers. Meanwhile, third-round rookie Arden Key has the ability to help Oakland’s edge rush right away if he can stay out of trouble.

Ellis is the best player on Oakland’s defensive interior. The rest of the unit will need some good fortune with its health. Mario Edwards is a decent lineman, but has yet to play a full NFL season since being a second-round pick in 2015. Eddie Vanderdoes, meanwhile, was having a strong rookie campaign last year before tearing his ACL in Week 17. It remains to be seen if Vanderdoes will be ready by Week 1. The Raiders may have to count on P.J. Hall and Maurice Hurst, chosen in the second and fifth rounds, respectively, in the 2018 NFL Draft, to contribute right away.

2018 Oakland Raiders Schedule and Intangibles:
The Black Hole seems like an intimidating place to play, but the Raiders are a sub-.500 team (84-98) as hosts since 1995. They were 4-3 at home last year, which seems irrelevant now, considering that the Raiders will be moving to Las Vegas soon.

Sebastian Janikowski won’t be the Raiders’ kicker heading into a season for the first time since 2000. Giorgio Tavecchio is the replacement, yet was just 16-of-21 last year. He was 3-of-4 from 50-plus, so that’s a good sign at least.

Marquette King was released because the Raiders didn’t appreciate his celebrations. This forced Oakland to spend a fifth-round pick on Florida punter Johnny Townsend.

Oakland had mediocre special teams last year, despite Cordarrelle Patterson’s presence. Patterson is gone, so newly acquired Ryan Switzer will return punts.

The Raiders start with the Rams, but their schedule after that isn’t too bad, as five of their next six games are against the Broncos, Dolphins, Browns, declining Seahawks and Colts.

2018 Oakland Raiders Rookies:
Go here for the Raiders Rookie Forecast, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie will become a solid starter.

2018 Oakland Raiders Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2018 Oakland Raiders Analysis: It’s easy to forget that the Raiders were considered one of the favorites to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl heading into last year. Their entire season was derailed by countless injuries, particularly those to Derek Carr, Amari Cooper and Donald Penn. Most of the Raiders are healthy now, so it’s fair to expect a much better output from them in 2018, especially with a superior coaching staff now in place.

Projection: 10-6 (2nd in AFC West)

2017 Projection: 12-4. 2016 Actual Result: 6-10.
2016 Projection: 9-7. 2016 Actual Result: 12-4.

NFL Draft Team Grade: B- Grade

Goals Entering the 2018 NFL Draft: The Raiders have to find a new receiver and a right tackle, but their primary needs are on defense. They need help at every level. Their interior defensive pressure is lackluster; their linebacking corps is in shambles; and a No. 1 cover corner must be obtained.

2018 NFL Draft Accomplishments: Everyone seems down on the Raiders’ draft, but I am not. Kolton Miller is the primary complaint, as the consensus is that he was a reach at No. 15. However, the Ravens were also targeting him with the 16th pick. Just because most mock drafts had Miller in the 20s doesn’t mean that he was a reach. Addressing a big need at tackle with a talented prospect is never a mistake.

Oakland made better picks in the third, fourth and fifth rounds. Arden Key is a first-round talent, but fell to the third frame because of character concerns. He presents some great upside as a potent edge rusher across from Khalil Mack. Meanwhile, Nick Nelson and Maurice Hurst were great picks on Day 3. Hurst, like Key, was a first-round prospect who fell, albeit for a different reason. Hurst has a bad heart, but the upside was well worth it in Round 5.

It wasn’t all positive for the Raiders; they reached a bit with Brandon Parker atop Round 3 and then wasted a pick on a punter. They also dealt a third-round choice for the perennially disappointing Martavis Bryant.

That said, I think Oakland had a fine draft. It could’ve been better for sure, but the team made some nice picks and filled needs. Many other teams had worse hauls than the Raiders did.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

15. Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA C+ Grade
Meh. This is kind of a reach but not an overly egregious one. Kolton Miller is an athletic tackle who should be able to start on the blind side one day. In the meantime, he can play right tackle, and he’d be a big upgrade over what the Raiders had there last year. Miller won’t have to wait long to start on the blind side, given Donald Penn’s age and health concerns.

I’m not a fan of this pick, but I don’t hate it. The Raiders really wanted Mike McGlinchey. He was snatched off the board one pick earlier, so the Raiders did the right thing and moved down, so I think they should be credited for that.

57. P.J. Hall, DT, Sam Houston State B Grade
The Raiders tried to sign Ndamukong Suh, but failed to pry him away from the Rams. They really needed a defensive tackle, and Hall is an explosive interior presence. The consensus was that Hall would be a third-round prospect, but it’s the end of the second frame right now, so I wouldn’t say this is a reach, or anything. This is a decent pick.

65. Brandon Parker, OT, North Carolina A&T C- Grade
The Raiders already selected one offensive tackle, so why move up for another one? I don’t get it. I don’t mind the position, as the Raiders needed to add two tackles with Donald Penn injured and in decline, but this trade up didn’t seem necessary at all.

87. Arden Key, DE, LSU B+ Grade
Arden Key is a first-round talent. He’s a great athlete who should be able to develop into a stellar player if he stays clean. The “staying clean” part of it is a problem, however, as Key has both off-the-field and medical problems. Still, in the third round, why not take a gamble?

110. Nick Nelson, CB, Wisconsin A Grade
This seems like a great value pick for the Raiders. Nick Nelson was seen as a second-round prospect before he hurt his knee during the pre-draft process. However, teams were optimistic about his ability to return soon, so Nelson should contribute for the Raiders in the near future, filling a big need at cornerback.

140. Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan A+ Grade
Wow! What a great pick. This might just be the best selection in all of Day 3. The Raiders are getting a first-round prospect, an interior disruptor who will put lots of heat on opposing quarterbacks. Hurst fell because of a scary heart condition, but the fifth round is a great time to take a chance like this. What else could the Raiders do, take a special-teams scrub?

173. Johnny Townsend, P, Florida MILLEN PUNTS BALL INTO THE BACKSIDE Grade
The only thing worse than taking a punter in the fifth round is reaching for a punter in the fifth round. The Raiders wanted JK Scott, so they panicked and selected a worse punter, all because they didn’t like their punter’s antics. Dumb.

216. Azeem Victor, LB, Washington B- Grade
Azeem Victor was seen as a second-day prospect once upon a time. Several suspensions and a DUI later, he’s now a sixth-round pick. Victor did not play well last year either. Unless he turns his life around, he won’t last very long in the pros. I don’t mind this risk here, but this pick will probably amount to nothing.

228. Marcell Ateman, WR, Oklahoma State A Grade
I had Marcell Ateman slotted to the Raiders’ Bay Area rival 49ers in the fifth round, so I like the value here in the seventh frame. Ateman can’t separate very well, but he’s largely framed and has nice ball skills. He could easily stick in the pros.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

Season Summary:
The Raiders entered this season as one of the Super Bowl favorites, but injuries to Derek Carr and the offensive line, as well as a porous defense, were the reasons for their downfall. They’ll have a chance to bounce back in 2018 if they have better luck with health and make improvements to their defense.

Offseason Moves:
  • Raiders sign ILB Derrick Johnson
  • Raiders sign CB Daryl Worley
  • Raiders sign KR Dwayne Harris
  • Raiders cut P Marquette King
  • Raiders sign OT Breno Giaocomini
  • Raiders sign OLB Emmanuel Lamur
  • Patriots acquire WR Cordarrelle Patterson from Raiders
  • Raiders sign OLB Kyle Wilber
  • Raiders sign DE Tank Carradine
  • Raiders sign CB Rashaan Melvin
  • Raiders sign CB Shareece Wright
  • Raiders sign OLB Tahir Whitehead
  • Raiders sign S Marcus Gilchrist
  • Raiders sign WR Jordy Nelson
  • Raiders sign RB Doug Martin
  • Raiders cut OT Marshall Newhouse
  • Raiders cut CB Sean Smith
  • Raiders re-sign NT Justin Ellis

    Team Needs:
    1. Three Linebackers: The No. 1 thing the Raiders must do this offseason is bolster an incredibly weak back seven. The linebacking corps got a jolt when NaVorro Bowman was signed, but he’s an impending free agent. If Bowman isn’t retained, an entirely new linebacker unit will be needed. Signed Derrick Johnson, Tahir Whitehead, Kyle Wilber and Emmanuel Lamur

    2. Two Cornerbacks: Of Oakland’s top two cornerbacks from 2017, one was injured for most of the year (Gareon Conley), while the other is hitting free agency in March (T.J. Carrie). If Carrie isn’t re-signed, two new corners will be needed so the team can move on from the disappointing duo of Sean Smith and David Amerson. Signed Rashaan Melvin, Daryl Worley and Shareece Wright

    3. Two Offensive Tackles: The Raiders were so successful in 2016 because they had an elite offensive line. They need to repair their blocking unit. The primary concern in that area happens to be the tackle situation. Donald Penn turns 35 this offseason, while right tackle has been a big need for years.

    4. Two Defensive Tackles: The trenches need to be addressed on the other side of the ball as well. Both Justin Ellis and Denico Autry, two important linemen on the roster, happen to have expiring contracts in March. Re-signed Justin Ellis

    5. Running Back: The Marshawn Lynch experiment didn’t pan out as planned, so the Raiders could consider spending a second-round pick on one of the many talented runners who will be available. Signed Doug Martin

    6. Wide Receiver: The Raiders only have Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper as viable receivers, so they could stand to add another wideout just in case one of them gets hurt or happens to struggle again. Signed Jordy Nelson

    7. Edge Rusher: It wouldn’t hurt Oakland to add another edge rusher to play behind or rotate with Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin. Signed Tank Carradine

    8. Tight End: Jared Cook looks great once in a while, but he’ll disappoint his team more often than not. He needs to be replaced. Signed Derek Carrier

    9. Backup Quarterback: E.J. Manuel is an impending free agent, so the Raiders will need a new backup behind Derek Carr. They could probably do better than Manuel anyhow. Re-signed E.J. Manuel

    10. Interior Offensive Line Depth: Oakland could use better backups in the interior of the blocking unit.

    11. Kicker: Will Sebastian Janikowski leave via free agency? If so, a new kicker will be needed.

    12. Punter: Marquette King has been cut, so the Raiders need a replacement.

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2018 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Rashaan Melvin, CB, Colts. Age: 28.
      Signed with Raiders

      Rashaan Melvin came out of nowhere to become Indianapolis’ top cornerback in 2017. Melvin doesn’t have much of a track record of success, but he’s only 28 and could continue to play well.

    2. Marcus Gilchrist, S, Texans. Age: 29.
      Signed with Raiders

      Marcus Gilchrist is coming off the best season of his career, which is a surprise because he tore his patellar tendon the prior December. Gilchrist could have a couple more solid years remaining in the tank if his knee issue doesn’t resurface.

    3. Doug Martin, RB, Buccaneers. Age: 29.
      Signed with Raiders

      It’s a shame what Tampa Bay’s partying lifestyle did to Doug Martin’s career. Martin, a first-round pick from the 2012 NFL Draft, had 1,400-yard rushing seasons in 2012 and 2015, but has been in the 400s in every other year. Martin has suffered through injuries and lethargy, and he was highly ineffective this past season, averaging a career-worst 2.9 yards per carry. Martin may have checked out forever, but I’d give him a chance with a 1-year “prove it” deal to see if he can bounce back.

    4. Tahir Whitehead, OLB, Lions. Age: 28.
      Signed with Raiders

      Tahir Whitehead was Detroit’s best linebacker in 2017, though that’s not saying much. Whitehead was great in run support, but struggled a bit in coverage.

    5. Derrick Johnson, ILB, Chiefs. Age: 35.
      Signed with Raiders

      Derrick Johnson turns 36 around Thanksgiving, but he still played well this past season despite coming off one of his many injuries. Johnson is decent in coverage, so he could still start for a team for maybe another year or two.

    6. Jordy Nelson, WR, Packers. Age: 33.
      Signed with Raiders (2 years)

      Just two weeks ago, new Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst said Jordy Nelson is “still a really good player in my eyes.” Well, either Gutekunst is blind, or he was just saying this to ramp up trade value for Nelson. The Packers cutting Gutekunst is shocking at first, but quite understandable after some thought. Nelson looked done last year, doing nothing when Aaron Rodgers was out of the lineup. Nelson actually failed to eclipse 100 yards in any game. At 33, he has slowed down, but still might be able to have one more half-decent season with a talented quarterback.

    7. Tank Carradine, DE, 49ers. Age: 28.
      Signed with Raiders

      Tank Carradine isn’t much of a pass-rusher, but he’s excellent against the run. He would probably be best as a left end in the 4-3.

    8. Shareece Wright, CB, Bills. Age: 31. — Signed with Raiders
    9. Kyle Wilber, OLB, Cowboys. Age: 29. — Signed with Raiders
    10. Daryl Worley, CB, Eagles. Age: 23. — Signed with Raiders
    11. Derek Carrier, TE, Rams. Age: 28. — Signed with Raiders (3 years)
    12. Keith Smith (RFA), FB, Cowboys. Age: 26. — Signed with Raiders
    13. Emmanuel Lamur, OLB, Vikings. Age: 29. — Signed with Raiders
    14. Dwayne Harris, WR/KR, Giants. Age: 30. — Signed with Raiders

    Oakland Raiders Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Marquette King, P, Raiders. Age: 29.
      Signed with Broncos

      Marquette King might be known most for his on-field dancing celebrations, but he’s actually one of the top punters in the NFL; he ranked sixth in net average last year. He’s also just 29.

    2. NaVorro Bowman, ILB, Raiders. Age: 30.
      NaVorro Bowman has a very checkered injury history, and he’d be a risky, long-term signing for that reason. However, he’s an impactful player when healthy. Oakland’s run defense improved by leaps and bounds after Bowman signed in mid-October.

    3. Justin Ellis, NT, Raiders. Age: 27.
      Re-signed with Raiders (3 years, $15 million)

      Justin Ellis provides nothing as a pass-rusher – he has yet to register a full sack in his career – but he’s a monstrous run-stuffer. He won’t be 28 until after Christmas.

    4. T.J. Carrie, CB, Raiders. Age: 28.
      Signed with Browns

      T.J. Carrie has made great strides from when he was a seventh-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. He was Oakland’s best cornerback this past season when Gareon Conley wasn’t in the lineup. That’s not saying much, but Carrie played well. He’s improved his game each year, and he should continue to get better.

    5. Michael Crabtree, WR, Raiders. Age: 30.
      Signed with Ravens (3 years)

      Michael Crabtree is better than Jordy Nelson at this stage of their careers, so it’s unclear why Oakland cut him to make room for Nelson. Crabtree is younger and still create separation. He’s also a potent target in the end zone, scoring 25 touchdowns in the past three seasons.

    6. Sebastian Janikowski, K, Raiders. Age: 40.
      Signed with Seahawks (1 year)

      Adam Vinatieri has kicked incredibly well into his mid-40s, so perhaps that’s good news for Sebastian Janikowski, who turns 40 in March. The bad news is that he’s coming off a back injury that caused him to miss all of 2017, so we’ll see if he can continue to be a great kicker.

    7. David Amerson, CB, Raiders. Age: 26.
      Signed with Chiefs

      David Amerson stopped trying after getting a $34 million contract a couple of years ago. He barely played this past season and was torched whenever he was on the field. He’s only 26, however, so he could bounce back.

    8. Denico Autry, DT, Raiders. Age: 28.
      Signed with Colts (3 years)

      Denico Autry could never be a starter because he’s too much of a liability against the run, but he’s a pretty potent pass-rushing specialist. He registered five sacks in limited snaps in 2017.

    9. Reggie Nelson, S, Raiders. Age: 34.
      Re-signed with Raiders (1 year)

      Reggie Nelson was once considered one of the top safeties in the NFL. He had many dominant seasons in Cincinnati. However, those days are long gone, as Nelson is now a liability in coverage. He turns 35 in September.

    10. Aldon Smith, DE, Raiders. Age: 28.
      What a shame. Aldon Smith ruined his career by constantly getting into legal trouble, and that once again proved to be the case on March 3 when he was involved in a domestic violence incident. Smith followed that up by fleeing from police. He has since checked into rehab. All of this prompted the Raiders to finally cut him. It’ll be surprising if he ever plays again, but given that he’s just 28, he still has time to turn his life around.

    11. Lee Smith, TE, Raiders. Age: 30. — Re-signed with Raiders
    12. E.J. Manuel, QB, Raiders. Age: 28. — Re-signed with Raiders
    13. Marshall Newhouse, OT/G, Raiders. Age: 29. — Signed with Bills
    14. Marshall Newhouse, OT/G, Raiders. Age: 29.
    15. Demetrius McCray, CB, Raiders. Age: 27.
    16. Denver Kirkland (RFA), G, Raiders. Age: 24.
    17. Sean Smith, CB, Raiders. Age: 31.

    NFL Free Agent Tracker:
    Top 90 | QB | RB | FB | WR | TE | OT | G | C | DE | DT | OLB | ILB | CB | S | K/P | FA Grades | FA Rumors

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