The Raiders will be on of the most interesting teams to watch in 2019.
Coach Jon Gruden is one of the loudest personalities in the league, and despite a shaky start he is safe for the foreseeable future with his $100 million contract. The team brought in Mike Mayock as a GM, another former television personality. It will be interesting to see how these two work together, if they can at all.
The front office isn't the only place for big personalities. The team acquired Antonio Brown after a very messy breakup with the Steelers, and how he and Derek Carr mesh will determine how far this team can go.
Derek Carr has shown flashes of greatness but will need to put it all together this year to prove he is the franchise quarterback the Raiders think he is. He is in as good of a position to do this as you can be after the team traded for Brown, one of the league's best receivers. They also have Tyrell Williams, who showed tremendous potential in 2018, and brought in J.J. Nelson who can fly. Rookie Hunter Renfrow was a steady target at Clemson, well see if he can be the same thing for Oakland.
At running back the team drafted Josh Jacobs with one of their first round picks and he should start immediately. His companion Doug Martin is a strong number two. The tight end position is a weakness for this offense. Darren Waller and Luke Willson will battle it out for the starting spot, but neither is a very strong option. The team should have focused more on this in the offseason.
Along the offensive line the Raiders made some big moves. They signed the monstrously large Trent Brown away from the Patriots, making him the highest paid lineman in football. They also brought Richie Incognito out of irrelevance, adding nastiness to the group (and the locker room). Along with Kolton Miller, Gabe Jackson, and Rodney Hudson, the Raiders could have one of the best o-line units in the league this year.
Defensively, the team is still trying to find its identity after trading Khalil Mack last offseason. The team reached for Clemson defensive end Clelin Ferrell at number four overall in the draft, but he should still be a strong contributor this season. After the team’s historically bad pass rush production in 2019, anything represents an upgrade and Ferrell has the potential to be a star. Maxx Crosby, the team's fourth round pick, has the toughness to be a strong edge player as well, but he will need to put on weight before he contributes regularly.
At linebacker the team has also made solid additions after having a historically weak unit in last season. Oakland brought in Brandon Marshall from Denver and Vontez Burfict from Cincinnati, who add maturity and experience to the group (and in the case of Burfict, even more locker room personality). At corner, the team hopes Gareon Conley can stay healthy, but he showed tremendous potential in the second half of last season. The team also drafted Trayvon Mullen from Clemson in the second round who should be a strong number two next to a healthy Conley.
At safety the team brought in ball hawk Lamarcus Joyner and drafted the versatile and hard-hitting Jonathan Abram from Mississippi State, both of whom represent a dramatic upgrade at the position. This defense has a good mix of young players with potential and veterans who can show them the ropes, it would be hard to imagine them being much worse than they were a year ago.
Grade: A | Expected AFC West Finish: 3
The Raiders traded for Antonio Brown, so they get an A for an offseason grade. He's a top 5 player in the league and regardless of the personality questions, he will help transform the offense. The team also made strong improvements on the defensive side of the ball. How Gruden manages the egos in the room will determine how good they can be. Unfortunately, they play in a division with two of the best teams in the AFC, so a playoff spot seems unlikely.
Graduate of Loyola Maryland and die hard Boston sports fan. "I rub it in pretty good when I win" - Tom Brady