The wide receiver position was an area of need for the Las Vegas Raiders heading into 2020’s offseason. After addressing it in both the free agency and the draft, there currently seems to be a surplus of wideouts on the roster, and not all of them will make the final roster cuts.
The Raiders veteran WRs won’t give up their jobs without a fight
Other than Hunter Renfrow and Tyrell Williams, no other wideout had more than 150 receiving yards for the Raiders in 2019. The wide receiver unit as a whole held the team back since the running back position and the offensive line were areas of strength.
The talent at wide receiver was so scarce that just two of the seven receiving leaders for the Raiders last season were wide receivers. In a surprising twist, the Silver and Black have brought back pretty much all their receivers from last season.
A deeper look shows why the Raiders’ decision to keep them is not as crazy as it seems. Zay Jones joined the team halfway through the 2019 season, so his knowledge of the offense limited how much he could contribute. On the other hand, we have Rico Gafford, who was still making the transition from cornerback to wide receiver last year.
To his credit, Marcell Ateman is still with the Raiders after they drafted him in 2017 with a seventh-round pick. The Oklahoma State product has been a key special teams’ player even if he didn’t contribute much on offense last season. However, he’s done enough that the Raiders think he should compete for a roster spot.
GM Mike Mayock is ecstatic about Nelson Agholor and Zay Jones
Raiders general manager Mike Mayock has tried to upgrade the roster since he joined the team. He’s used pretty much any channel to do so. Last season, he sent a fifth-round pick to Buffalo in exchange for Jones. This past free agency, he signed USC standout Nelson Agholor.
Speaking to the press, Mayock praised both Agholor and Jones. The general manager believes the former Eagles receiver is as driven as they come and he should have a role for the Raiders in 2020. The general managerÂ also acknowledged the growth Jones has undergone with the team.
“[I] could not be more proud of Nelson Agholor and Zay Jones to start with. Nelson Agholor is on a mission and Zay Jones is also. They’re in as good as shape as any two players we have on our team. The route running for both of them has improved. Their concentration has been outstanding and I think our coaches have a plan for those guys. You start with those two guys and you say wow.
We can see a huge difference in Zay from last year to this year and I’m proud of the way he came to camp. Nelson Aghlor like I say, I did the Philadelphia Egles preseason games, I had a pretty good grade on him coming out of USC. I think I know what Nelly is and I think we’re seeing the best version of Nelly in this camp.”
The Raiders general manager also had praise for the team’s homegrown talent
Mayock also made sure to share his assessment of Gafford and Ateman. He says the former brings an element of speed to the offense while the latter has helped the Raiders however he can and not just at the wide receiver position.
“Then, on the top of it, you look at a guy like Rico Gafford, who got a little bit of a taste of it in the second half of last year and I think he liked it. He’s got one of those things you can’t coach, it’s call speed. I think Ateman has done a heck of a job. He can play special teams, he blocks, he’s a big strong kid.”
As a whole, the Raiders veteran wide receiver core might not be that talented. Nevertheless, Mayock likes the feisty nature of the group and says they won’t go down without a fight.
“The thing I like about our veterans is they’re grown men. They’re not giving up jobs easily, trust me. Tyrell was down for whatever period of time, but I think the rest of the guys see it as an opportunity.”
Even if Tyrell Williams ends up missing some games, the Raiders wide receiver group is good enough to withstand his absence.
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Top Photo: Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports