The Oakland Raiders have returned to the bottomless pit of hopeless despair. The team’s 4-6 record isn’t indicative of the team’s rapid descent from last season. In hindsight, it seems like the Raiders’ 12-4 record and first trip to the playoffs in 14 years was merely a façade. One of the league’s premier offenses in 2016 is now struggling, and a bad defense has gotten surprisingly worse. The Raiders not only have an extremely incompetent coaching staff incapable of making an adequate gameplan, but they have glaring holes on both sides of the ball. Here is a meticulous evaluation of the offensive side of the ball, addressing needs according to performance, age and contracts.
Left Tackle – The Raiders have gotten more than imagined out of Pro Bowl tackle Donald Penn. And it was evident he knew it, as his holdout for a new deal made national news this summer. Penn’s given up just four sacks since 2015, but at 34, it’s obvious his window is closing. He’s already adapted a mentor role, taking 2017 picks David Sharpe and Jylan Ware under his wing.
Mitch Hyatt (Clemson) – Clemson junior Mitch Hyatt is quietly ascending up draft boards. He’s faced the best of the best on the edge, from Boston College’s Harold Landry, to NC State’s Bradley Chubb – and he’s more than held his own. Hyatt is equally solid in pass protection and against the run, bolstering a Clemson running game that is rushing for 217.5 yards per game. Hyatt possesses all the tools, and unlike Ware and Sharpe, he’s NFL ready right now. If the Raiders are going to spend a first round pick on a lineman, this is the guy.
Desmond Harrison (West Georgia) – The Raiders have two projects at tackle, so what good is another? Well, Georgia State tackle Desmond Harrison is quietly creeping up mocks as a day-one talent coming from a D-2 school. At 6’7 300 pounds, Harrison has NFL size, but has great footwork and athleticism. Harrison’s hard work has paid off, being named First Team All Gulf South Conference. With the abundance of compensatory picks the Raiders are due for, using one on a promising tackle wouldn’t hurt until they can find out their future in terms of the outside of the line.
Tight End – Raiders tight end Jared Cook is on pace to have a career year, currently in the top-10 in all categories for tight ends. But Cook is 30, and has just one year left on his deal. Blocking tight end Lee Smith is an upcoming free agent, and third-year tight end Clive Walford has yet to have a significant impact. Derek Carr needs a reliable, athletic tight end that can create yardage after the catch as well as block. This draft may be an opportunity to finally get that staple type of player.
Mark Andrews (Oklahoma) – Sooners tight end Mark Andrews is by far the best tight end in this class. Combining size with freakish athletic ability and route running, Andrews will surely go off the board in round one. The question is whether Oakland deems the offense needs addressing that early.
Ian Thomas (Indiana) – Hoosiers tight end Ian Thomas is everything the Raiders need. Great hands, great speed, blocking ability and he’s actually able to track a ball. After an underwhelming junior year, Thomas has broken out this season, and could be a steal mid-draft.
Slot Receiver? – The Raiders receivers as a whole have struggled with drops over the past few years. In the slot, Seth Roberts has been as inconsistent as they come, with his best trait being his run blocking ability. And his backup Cordarrelle Patterson rarely sees the field on offense. Whether the Raiders choose to assess this position between Roberts and Patterson is to be determined, but they have the means to get a receiver in this draft and should do so.
Michael Gallup (Colorado State) – Rams wideout Michael Gallup is a big play receiver who can create yardage after the catch in short yardage or snag the deep ball. At 6’1 200 pounds, Gallup has the power to get off a jam and solid route running ability. Gallup has solid hands, and the quickness to play either the slot or outside, allowing the Raiders to rotate him inside and outside with Amari Cooper for different looks.