After the mega deal to acquire Davante Adams, the Las Vegas Raiders do not pick until the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft. But it was a necessary trade to keep up with the rest of the formidable AFC West. Derek Carr is widely regarded as the fourth-best quarterback in the division and needed more ammo to have any hope of keeping up with Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson, and Justin Herbert.
But the Raiders clearly now have the best wide receiver in the division with Tyreek Hill gone to Miami. While their fans have to keep quiet at Allegiant Stadium for two rounds of the NFL Draft, which is a minor bummer, it was worth the impending draft day silence to land Adams. Plus, the Raiders also made other notable offseason moves to increase their chances of contending in the division this season.
The Raiders Are Looking Better, Even In A Stacked Division
Nabbing Davante Adams Wasn’t The Only Impressive Move
With Adams added to the group, the Raiders will have the best receiving crew Carr has ever worked with, so it will not matter where he ranks among the division’s quarterbacks. He certainly will be able to compete with them at a high level. Having Adams, Darren Waller, and Hunter Renfrow gives Carr the potential to maybe deliver his finest season ever in 2022.
New general manager Dave Ziegler is working hard to build a long-awaited winner for starved Raider fans and the new Las Vegas fan base. The team can definitely trade punches with the other passing games in the division, and the offense also has the underrated Josh Jacobs, further balancing a promising offense for 2022. Jacobs has rushed for 21 touchdowns over the past two seasons, and he caught a career-high 54 passes last year.
On the defensive side of the ball, Chandler Jones was the obvious marquee acquisition of the offseason, and was a necessary pickup with Wilson arriving in the division to join Mahomes and Herbert. Having Jones and Maxx Crosby lead the pass rush will go a long way toward helping them be able to handle those standout quarterbacks better. Mahomes’ receiving corps has been weakened, and Wilson does tend to hold onto the ball for a while. He will create some big plays with his escapability, but he will also take drive-killing sacks.
Jayon Brown was another important pickup, and one who bolsters the linebacker corps. He is solid in coverage and can also rush the passer when needed. He can be a real “glue guy” for the Raiders on defense and could turn out to be one of the best acquisitions Ziegler has made outside of the splashy ones to bring in Adams and Brown.
Duron Harmon and Rock Ya-Sin can be two other additions that pay off well in a secondary that certainly needed to be patched up. Anthony Averett will also create much-needed competition at cornerback. There is optimism that the Raiders have improved at cornerback, but the group will be tested heavily with a lot of passing firepower in the division.
Landing immediate impact players cannot be counted on in the draft with no picks in the first two rounds, and with the salary cap situation and a dwindling free agent pool, this may be the nearly finished version of the Raiders defense we see in 2022. It looks like the unit should be better, but can it be good enough to hold off the aerial attacks of Kansas City, Denver, and Los Angeles?
The Raiders Are Facing More Than Just Three Premier Passers In the AFC West
Even without Hill, Mahomes is going to be a significant threat. He has already shown he can work well with other lesser wide receivers. Wilson is not “old” for an NFL QB, and he will have a potent group of playmakers in his first season with the Broncos. Herbert appears to be on the verge of becoming one of the best quarterbacks in the league.
The Broncos already have a stout defense, the Chargers have further loaded up, and Kansas City always does a good job of maximizing its defensive talents. The Raiders’ opponents are not just offensive forces. All three teams can be very tough to compete with on both sides of the ball.
One key for the Raiders will be Josh McDaniels faring much better as a head coach in his second chance to do so, and he will be returning to the AFC West in that role. McDaniels had an 11-17 record with Denver in 2009 and 2010, missing the playoffs because of key divisional losses in his first season with the team. He also dealt with controversies involving top players like Brandon Marshall and Jay Cutler.
McDaniels must still prove he is not one of those coaches who is destined for regular success as a coordinator but can’t win when promoted to head coach status. To be fair, it has been over a decade since McDaniels last ran a team, and he is an established winner otherwise. It’s not going to be easy for him to earn wins in the AFC West in 2022, but his chances have increased after the Raiders admirably elevated their outlook with some good offseason moves.
*Top Photo: Courtesy of KSNV