Going into this upcoming 2013 NFL season, the Oakland Raiders roster is full with youth and newcomers. There are sure to be a number of new faces taking the field for the Raiders, hoping to contribute and make a key impact this year. Out of all the positions filled with youth, the wide receiver position figures to boast the youngest group of players.
There has been a black cloud over the Raiders franchise for the past decade as they have failed to have a winning record since 2002. The lack of production at wide receiver has been among a number of issues for the team in the last ten years. In 2004, they elected to draft offensive lineman Robert Gallery instead of All-Pro receiver Larry Fitzgerald. In 2007, they drafted quarterback JaMarcus Russell, bypassing receiver Calvin Johnson, who is considered one of the top 3 receivers in the NFL today. Gallery retired from the NFL in 2012, and Russell is trying to make a comeback after being out of the league since the end of the 2009 season. Calling those two picks “bad decisions,” is a true understatement.
The Raiders have drafted some promising receivers within the past five years including Darrius Heyward-Bey, Louis Murphy and Chaz Schillens. None of them met expectations and failed to make major impacts during their tenures with the team.
Today, the Raiders currently have 13 receivers on their roster. They are hoping to find a group of receivers that will steadily produce for them over the long term. However, out of the 13 receivers, only one them has been in the league for more than four seasons and that’s Josh Cribbs. Six of them are either in their first or second season in the NFL.
Even though the Raiders have a plenty of options at wide receiver, there are four guys who are projected to have the top four spots on the depth chart and see major playing time this season. Those four guys are Denarius Moore, Jacoby Ford, Rod Streater, and Juron Criner, who were all on the roster last season. Even with a young and unproven group of receivers leading the way in 2013, the franchise is optimistic about each of their potential.
Denarius Moore is expected to be the No. 1 guy on opening day. Raiders Head Coach Dennis Allen is high on Moore and views him as the team’s go to guy at receiver.
“I’d say he’s the guy that’s got the most experience out there right now. He’s a guy that we’re counting on being our No. 1 receiver,” said coach Allen.
Moore was a fifth-round pick out of Tennessee in 2011. In 13 games as a rookie, he finished with 618 yards and five touchdowns. In 2012, he didn’t make as big a jump as he expected too statistically. In his sophomore season, he tallied 741 yards and seven touchdowns as he played inconsistently and dropped some balls. Moore is hoping to break the 1,000-yard mark in his third season.
Rod Streater seems to occupy the No. 2 spot right now. Streater came into the league as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2012. Last season he showed flashes, but he often disappeared at times during games. He ended the year with 39 receptions, 584 yards, and three touchdowns. Along with Moore, he is hoping to make a significant stride this upcoming season and show his full potential as an impact player consistently.
“I think we have a chance to be a good group,” Streater said. “There are a lot of good athletes in this group. We all are trying to get better together.”
Even with Moore and Streater leading the pack, this group of receivers has a lot more to offer down the line. Heading into his fifth NFL season, Jacoby Ford has shown that he’s a threat as a No. 3 option. Unfortunately, Ford has had injury problems. He missed almost half of last season with foot injuries. If he can stay healthy, his explosive big play ability, reliable hands, and quickness makes him a sure fire option to step up if either Moore or Streater were to go down with injury. At most, the slot position seems to be his place on the field.
Juron Criner, a fifth-round pick in last year’s draft, showed his value as he displayed his phenomenal pass catching ability during training camp last summer. Criner ended up not making much of an impact during the regular season. At 6’3, Criner could become the perfect compliment to the speedsters Moore and Ford. He’s three inches taller than Moore, and six inches taller than Ford. We’ll see how things turn out in training camp for him.
Along with the top four guys, the rest of the wide receiver depth chart includes Brice Butler, Duke Calhoun, the before mentioned Josh Cribbs, Andre Holmes, Greg Jenkins, Sam McGuffie, Tray Session, Conner Vernon, and Isaiah Williams. Cribbs figures to also contribute to the team this year as well, but more so on special teams rather than at wide receiver.
Depending on how you look at things, wide receiver can be perceived as a strength or weakness on this team. There isn’t a proven guy at the position, but there is potential amongst the group that ultimately makes the sky the limit. The promise at the receiver position is there, but it remains to be seen if that promise translates into wins rather than loses.