Many who have cheered on the Silver and Black through the last five years are hoping that continues, and the team focuses on other pressing needs in the upcoming NFL draft.
The Raiders’ offense and defense have grown this season into what appears to be a future contender in the AFC, but a number of areas must be addressed.
There are three ways to do this: Free agency, the draft and development. But question marks hover around several of the team’s players.
Those are just a few.
With the Raiders’ passing offense ranking near the bottom of the league statistically, it’s easy to imagine general manager Reggie McKenzie will want to take a crack at Mike Evans, Marquise Lee or Sammy Watkins. After all, the NFL has become an offense-oriented league.
The top three receivers in the 2014 draft class have stood out for the past few seasons, though the team might benefit from another key position: defensive tackle.
Louis Nix, who plays defensive tackle for Notre Dame, is one of those players made of a certain ilk. One that plays a role for the Fighting Irish that almost mirrors what Justin Smith has done for the San Francisco 49ers.
He’s one key reason Manti Te’o was so statistically superior to many other middle backers. Perhaps he could do the same for the Raiders.
Nix also has displayed a sort of uplifting, leadership-centric personality, which can be seen from his YouTube videos which he titles “Chocolate News,” after his own nickname “Irish Chocolate.”
He is one of only three defensive tackles projected to be taken in the first 32 draft selections.
If McKenzie decided to go that route, or with another defensive tackle, some receiving help could be had on days two or three of the draft. We’ve all heard of Famous Jameis Winston — whether it be for good or bad — but how much has America talked about the guys on the other end?
Enter Kelvin Benjamin. A six-foot-four phenom who resembles Calvin Johnson in many ways. He can climb the ladder and get to the ball with ease, run routes with precision and has incredible speed given his size.
While the NFL combine could change the rankings and evaluations drastically — as we all saw with Tavon Austin — Benjamin is currently projected by many to be taken in the second or third round.
There are a number of teams that have drafted wide receivers with their top selections over the last two years (Jacksonville, Minnesota, Houston, St. Louis) and others have more significant needs.
This is something Oakland may be able to capitalize on.
One prospect, who has yet to be ranked by anyone, is Ty Montgomery of Stanford. Montgomery is the team’s deep-threat, a speedy receivers in an average frame.
Montgomery has returned kicks for the past three seasons and has two scores in 26 tries, this season. He also has another five touchdowns on 46 receptions for 662 yards.
Earlier this season, Oregon Ducks defensive Coordinator Mark Banker called Montgomery “Brandin Cooks on steroids,” not insinuating that he is actually using PED’s.
Banker seems to like Montgomery so much that he had no problem throwing his own guy under the bus, though it’s also not clear that was his intention.
Back to the defensive side of the ball, Oakland has only Charles Woodson as a notable in the secondary. Dion Bailey, safety out of USC, originally played for the Trojans as a linebacker.
Bailey has picked four passes to date in 2013, his most recent holding the line against Stanford on third and goal. USC eventually won that game on Bailey’s clutch play.
One important detail beyond the Raiders whopping spending capital is the fact that the team will need to use more than 87 percent of the expected $124 million or face a fine. Signing seven new players to rookie contracts will hardly close the estimated $60 million gap.
But those moves would only close the margin to about $48 million with large, front loaded, contracts.
Several unrestricted free agents will be hitting the market during the March free agent signing period, notably Jeremy Maclin, Aqib Talib, offensive guard Jon Asamoah, defensive tackle Henry Melton among several others.
Oakland will be in prime position to build a more than formidable roster. As for now, the current roster still has some work to do.
With the Raiders essentially out of contention for the second wild card, don’t make the mistake of thinking the season is over as well.
The Oakland Raiders, despite head coach Dennis Allen’s Week 1 statement that there are no moral victories for the team, are in line for just that.
The roster is young. The coaches are young. Even owner Mark Davis is young, relatively speaking.
Moral victories at this point in the season make the team, well, a team. The youthful athletes in Silver and Black need to know that they’re playing winning football.
The coordinators have led the roster to more than what was expected nationally, maybe even locally. Even they might benefit from some wins, especially following a few games that were decided by five points or less. If they finish at the bottom of the AFC West, it doesn’t matter.
The Raiders need to keep fighting through the rest of what’s become a difficult season. Because that’s what football — and winning teams — are all about.