The 2018-19 season is fast approaching and with the Oakland Raiders releasing their first depth chart of the season, here is part one of my predictions on who will make the 53-man roster.
Quarterbacks: Derek Carr, Connor Cook, EJ Manuel
Unless Connor Cook or EJ Manuel put on a horrific display in the preseason, I don’t see anything happening here. All three will likely make the 53-man roster but when the 46-man game day roster comes out each week, whoever has the best preseason showing will likely get the nod for the backup role as the Raiders typically don’t dress three quarterbacks on gameday.
Running Backs: Marshawn Lynch, Doug Martin, Jalen Richard, DeAndre Washington, Chris Warren III, James Butler
Heading into this season Marshawn Lynch and Doug Martin each have one-year deals on their respective contracts and they will headline a three-man running attack along with Jalen Richard.
Both Richard and DeAndre Washington flashed in 2016 but the ‘Downing Effect’ was evident in 2017 and these two saw a decline in production. I’m expecting the Raiders move on from Washington and stick with Richard.
Between Chris Warren III and James Butler, I believe this will be a battle for one of the ten practice squad spots or an audition for a new team; similar to Elijah Hood’s situation last year. Butler, a 5-foot-9, 210-pound running back is similar to the styles of Martin and Richard. If Oakland does keep a running back on their practice squad, I don’t see them keeping a mirror image of two guys already on the active roster. My prediction here is Warren III who is 6-foot-2 & 246-pounds, will make the practice squad, unless of course, another team plucks him off waivers.
Fullbacks: Keith Smith, Ryan Yurachek
Unless Keith Smith gets hurt in training camp or preseason, I believe this is his spot. The reports from camp suggest he will be a big help in getting the Raiders ground game back on track.
Ryan Yurachek played tight end in college but signed as a fullback in Oakland. With a unique skill set, I think he has the potential to sign with another NFL team.
Wide Receivers: Jordy Nelson, Amari Cooper, Martavis Bryant, Seth Roberts, Ryan Switzer, Johnny Holton, Isaac Whitney, Keon Hatcher, Marcell Ateman, Saeed Blacknall, Griff Whalen, Dwayne Harris
Aside from Jordy Nelson, Amari Cooper, and Martavis Bryant, the rest of this receiving corps is widely up for grabs. Seth Roberts had a massive statistical decline in 2017 and continued to show a knack for dropping the ball. Johnny Holton had electric moments on deep routes last season, but would often have ball security issues in his limited snaps.
Ryan Switzer and Dwayne Harris will likely be battling to make the team as the kick/punt returner on special teams. Isaac Whitney and Keon Hatcher will look to make the jump from last years’ practice squad while rookies Marcell Ateman and Saeed Blacknall look to latch on to their first NFL team. Whalen is a veteran wide-out but will be facing an uphill battle with a crowded group competing for a roster spot.
I see the Raiders keeping Nelson, Cooper, Bryant, Switzer, and Ateman on the 53-man roster. As far as the practice squad is concerned, I think Hatcher and Whitney will stay put.
Tight Ends: Jared Cook, Lee Smith, Derek Carrier, Pharaoh Brown, Marcus Baugh, Paul Butler
Jared Cook led Oakland in receiving yards in 2017 and was second in receptions, his spot is safe. Lee Smith has been a proven force in the run blocking game for the Raiders, and I expect that trend to continue this season. The inexperience of Pharaoh Brown, Marcus Baugh and Paul Butler at the NFL level is why I think Derek Carrier rounds out the tight end group.
Carrier is a familiar face to Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson as the two spent time together with the Rams organization in 2017. Aside from having familiarity with the system, Carrier will play a role on special teams as well. Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that Carrier played 242 snaps on special teams while only 185 on offense.
Brown spent last season on the practice squad and I see the same happening this season unless an injury opens up a roster spot. As it stands now, I don’t see Baugh or Butler making the team.
Offensive Line, Center: Rodney Hudson, James Stone, Cameron Hunt
Rodney Hudson is arguably the league’s best center, he’s staying around. I think James Stone will end up as Hudson’s back up in 2018 simply based on his experience at the position.
Stone was utilized in Atlanta during the 2014 season after the starting center got injured and their offense was able to keep humming along with no setbacks. Stone was also a member of the Raiders practice squad in 2017. Hunt, however, has no NFL experience and lined up at guard while playing college football in Oregon.
Offensive Line, Left Guard: Kelechi Osemele, Jon Feliciano, Jordan Simmons
Osemele remains the starter and Feliciano has been a reliable filler after starters have gone down with injuries in the past. I think Simmons remains on the team, but on the practice squad as he was there last season as well. However, if Donald Penn declines to take a pay cut and is traded or released, I could see Simmons potentially making the active roster.
Offensive Line, Right Guard: Gabe Jackson, Oday Aboushi, Denver Kirkland
With Gabe Jackson anchored as the starter, this will be a battle between Oday Aboushi and Denver Kirkland. Aboushi has worked with offensive line coach Tom Cable before as the two were previously in Seattle together.
Kirkland, however, has been a plug-n-play guy as needed during his time in Oakland so far. In March, Gruden also claimed Kirkland is a candidate to start at right tackle despite being listed as a guard on the depth chart. With roster spots at a premium, I think Aboushi gets cut.
Offensive Line, Left Tackle: Kolton Miller, David Sharpe, Jylan Ware
Left of the current depth chart is Donald Penn as he is still listed on Oakland’s PUP list. Coming off of surgery and a less productive 2017 season compared to his stellar 2016 year, I expect Penn to take the pay cut and remain a Raider.
As a first-round pick and the left tackle of the future, Kolton Miller is a lock for the active roster. David Sharpe, while listed as a left tackle, is getting reps at right tackle per Matt Schneidman of Mercury News. Once Penn is back I expect Sharpe to be moved around the o-line, with Ware being cut.
Offensive Line, Right Tackle: Breno Giacomini, Brandon Parker, Ian Silberman
Giacomini has already received high praise from Gruden being touted as “tough as hell.” If he’s not the starter, I expect the 32-year old veteran to remain on the team to help develop the younger guys. Parker was a third-round draft pick by Oakland in last April’s draft and will likely be used as additional depth. From this group of players, I think Silberman gets axed.
The best scenario for the right tackle position would be that Penn is fully healthy and reports to play and solidifies the left tackle spot and Kolton Miller moves over and starts on the right side.
Raider Nation, who do you think I got right or wrong? Let us know!