The Oakland Raiders are truly on the verge of a breakout season. They have selected well in the draft over the past few years, and are only one or two players away from emerging as an AFC contender. They improved to 7-9 in 2015 (most wins since 2011) and barely missed the playoffs, keeping in mind their division was very competitive.
Derek Carr, Amari Cooper, and Michael Crabtree all had breakout years. Consequently, the defense also played to a high level with David Amerson surging in the backfield, along with Charles Woodson. Khalil Mack had the second most sacks on the year in the NFL.
To put it lightly, this team has some of the most talented young players in the NFL, and with the proper development and coaching , they could dominate their division for years to come. Now they look to the offseason to improve upon their success.
Besides re-signing any well-performing veterans, and replacing a retiring Charles Woodson (hats off!), the Raiders need to look to the draft to secure a few good rookies that could help them take their division next year and and even make a Superbowl run.
While they did have some hot streaks in 2015, their offensive rankings were not enough to keep pace with the rest of the playoff teams. They were ranked 17th in points per game at 22.4 and 28th in rushing with 91.8 yards per game (NFL.com). In passing, they were ranked 16th. This is accurate to reflect a 7-9 finish. In order to open up the passing game, and create more opportunities to score, they need to boost their offensive capabilities in 2016.
With that said, the Raiders have some options. To improve the run, they can go for an Offensive Linesman in the draft, and try to pick up a good free agent running back, such as Matt Forte of the Bears, who can both rush and catch out of the backfield. Taylor Decker (OT, Ohio State) will possibly be available at the 14th slot.
If the Raiders opt to go Defense to match up better against Smith, Rivers, and Manning they would be able to create more pressure and turnovers. They also need someone in the backfield to fill Woodson’s position, who had 5 interceptions in his farewell season.
If none of the big name corners are available that late in the first round, they could go for Reggie Ragland, the big name OLB out of Alabama who just won the title. Well-coached and ready to lay waste in the division, Reggie would be a huge asset to pair with Khalil Mack.
In the second round, some mocks have Oakland selecting Mackensie Alexander, (CB, Clemson) who could possibly fill the gap created by Woodson’s retirement. Jayron Kearse, safety out of Clemson, would be another option if Alexander is unavailable that late. Both would fit well in Jack Del-Rio’s defensive schemes.
Whichever way they choose to go (offense or defense), one thing is for certain – Raiders fans are both hopeful and impatient after suffering one of the worst playoff droughts in the modern NFL era. They have not made the postseason in 13 years. With the right draft, they can enter the playoffs, and beyond.