The Oakland Raiders and general manager Reggie McKenzie have done a good job improving the team this offseason. Between free agents and the trade for quarterback Matt Schaub, the Raiders have added 13 new faces to the roster this year and the majority of them will be starters who represent upgrades to the positions they are being brought in to play.
But even with the addition of a group of very solid football players, the Raiders are missing a lot. They still have issues with depth all over the roster and also have more than a couple starting positions that are in need of an upgrade. But of all the questions that surround the Raiders team, one stands out above all:
Where are the impact players?
Well, the Raiders really don’t have any. Guys like Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley were impact players at one time, but neither is playing at the same level they used to. Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew have the potential to be that guy, but between injuries and advanced age, they too are no longer that guy.
James Jones and Tarell Brown are probably the two best players signed by the Raiders this offseason but while both are very good, neither is a difference maker. Even quarterback Matt Schaub who has gone to two Pro Bowls and once led the league in passing yards was never the impact player. He was always surrounded by a great run game and one of the better receivers in the league in Andre Johnson.
This is not meant to bash any of those players. They are all very good players who will bring a lot to the Raiders next season. But where is the JJ Watt that can completely change the momentum of a game with a big play? Where is the Calvin Johnson who is damn near impossible to shut down completely? Where is the RIchard Sherman who makes you regret ever throwing the ball his way?
The Raiders are still missing the stud. The super star who is considered to be an elite talent in the league. The team is better but it still needs players who are capable of singlehandedly changing the complexion of a game. A guy who defensive and offensive coordinators spend sleepless nights worrying about.
Luckily for the Raiders, they are in a prime position to get that kind of player in this year’s NFL Draft. With a class as deep as this, the Raiders can potentially pick up more than one of those kind of players. And they will need to if they want next season to be a big improvement on the past two 4-12 years. The Raiders cannot afford another DJ Hayden who does not come in and make an impact right away. And they certainly cannot afford another major bust like the long list of busts in recent Raiders history.
The draft provides a major opportunity to get that player the Raiders need the most. If they fail to get a great player in the draft, the Raiders could be in for another disappointing season.