Raiders Ranked No. 24: Why ESPN Got It Right

This past Monday, ESPN’s Bill Barnwell published his ranking of all 32 NFL franchise’s offensive weapons, and the Las Vegas Raiders came in very low at number 24. Obviously, this upset Raider Nation. After all, if there’s one thing the front office did in the draft, it fixed the team’s offense.

The team selected wide receivers Henry Ruggs III and Bryan Edwards, as well as versatile weapon, Lynn Bowden Jr. in the draft. Also, they added veteran speedster Nelson Agholor in free agency. All five offensive line starters returned. So did last year’s breakout studs, Hunter Renfrow, Darren Waller, and Josh Jacobs. Everyone’s healthy, everyone knows the system, how dare Barnwell insinuate this isn’t a top ten offense? Well… it’s actually pretty simple.

Ranked Raiders: Why ESPN’s Harsh Ranking Isn’t Wrong

First thing’s first. At the beginning of the article, Barnwell clarifies he’s only talking about this upcoming season. He isn’t talking about the upside this unit will have in the future. Rather, he’s focused on how he thinks players might perform in 2020.

“Long-term value doesn’t matter, so I’m strictly considering how each player is likely to perform in the 2020 season after accounting for their quarterback, line and coaching staff. The NFL can be a mystery, but I’m trying to use aging curves, recent history and the typical value produced by draft picks to estimate performance.”

While we love the potential this team has, we have to remember it’s meaningless until it becomes production. No franchise knows this better than the Raiders. Since 2000, they’ve picked in the top ten of the draft nine times. Moreover, they’ve picked offensive skill position players nearly half the time. JaMarcus Russell, Darren McFadden, Darrius Heyward-Bey, and Amari Cooper were all projected first-round picks. Nevertheless, the only one that really panned out plays for the Dallas Cowboys now.

I personally believe the 2020 Raider rookies have far more upside than the busts I just mentioned. On the other hand, I’m a fan of the team that is emotionally invested. I was also pretending Antonio Brown was going to show up until the moment the Raiders released him. Despite almost 20 years of evidence to the contrary, Raider Nation believes every year is their year.

Related: Raiders RB Lynn Bowden Jr. Ready to “Rock & Roll”

No.24 Doesn’t Look That Bad in Context

The Tennessee Titans, who have a decent quarterback in Ryan Tannehill, the playoff bracket-buster in Derrick Henry, and A.J. Brown (who can argue with Kyler Murray about who was the second-best rookie last season) on offense, are only two spots ahead of the Raiders. The Baltimore Ravens, who just set the record for rushing yards in a season with the unanimous league MVP in Lamar Jackson, are only four spots ahead. It’s not like the Raiders are in bad company towards the bottom of this list.

And for what it’s worth? The Cleveland Browns are number two. So it’s not like we’re dealing with power rankings here.

Silver (and Black) Lining

The good news is simple, ESPN’s Bill Barnwell doesn’t decide who does or does not win NFL games. The 22 men on the field at any given time do, and the Raiders have put a lot of gas in that particular tank. I have visions of Ruggs streaking down the sideline, Edwards pulling in a clutch 50/50 ball. I can also see Waller roasting linebackers while Renfrow works his magic on third down. All in all, the Raiders will be fun to watch on offense. I think Bowden adds an entirely new level to the check-down game, a point of contention for Raiders fans that could become a strength, and everyone knows the alpha of alphas is No. 28 in the backfield.

There is a lot to love about these new Raiders, and in the years to come, I believe they will be one of the league’s best units. However, until the lights of Allegiant Stadium turn on, until cleats hit the street, they might as well be create-a-players in Madden. I don’t blame anyone for being excited, I know I am. But it’s okay that not everyone is on board with the young Silver and Black, they will be soon.

And yeah, they’re ranked 24th in the NFL. But as a Raiders fan, that number brings me nothing but happy memories. Let’s see if that translates, just like the potential of the Raider rookies, this fall.

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Top Photo: Mark Brown/Getty Images

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