Gruden has dramatically changed Raiders receiver corps

Gruden has dramatically changed Raiders receiver corps

The Raiders receiver corps has undergone an overhaul. It started back in mid-March, when the Silver and Black acquired Jordy Nelson and cut Michael Crabtree the same day.

Head coach Jon Gruden didn’t stop there. He sought upgrades throughout the depth chart in a relentless pursuit -- Eric Decker and Ryan Grant made Alameda free-agent visits -- that continued through the NFL draft.

That's when he shipped a third-round pick to Pittsburgh for Martavis Bryant. Then he drafted Oklahoma State’s Marcel Ateman in the seventh. Ryan Switzer came west from Dallas just after that pick, acquired for defensive tackle Jihad Ward.

And, just like that, Gruden shook up the entire position group. It’s possible only Amari Cooper will be the only member of last year’s crew to survive this twister. A few more incumbents could make the cut, but nothing’s given now.

“We’ve got a competitive situation here at wide receiver,” Gruden said. “So I like that.”

Gruden loves the newest front-line addition. Bryant brings a new dimension to the Raiders offense, with raw speed to scare opposing defenses. He’s a big target who can be effective at all depths, and should draw attention that creates space for Cooper and Nelson.

Gruden knew that after covering Bryant in Pittsburgh many times as a broadcaster. Those facts are being reinforced over the last week working directly with him.

“Let me tell you, he brings a different dynamic,’ Gruden said.” He’s 6-foot-4 and he plays it. He’s 4.4- (second 40-yard dash) fast and he plays it. We just have to get him wired into the offense and Jordy Nelson’s experience and versatility has really been impressive that it’s allowed us to do some things in just a few days that is pretty cool. We like our receivers, and we think Martavis will make you think twice about doing some things.”

Barring injury, Cooper, Nelson and Bryant will be primary targets. That pushes Seth Roberts into a different role, and he’ll be challenged there, too. Switzer was an impactful college slot receiver, a major reason why Dallas used a fourth round pick on him last year. He was primarily a returner as a rookie, and never fit into Dallas’ offensive plans.

He’ll get a chance to earn an offensive role while working for a return job.

“I liked Switzer a lot at North Carolina,” Gruden said. “He’s a fourth-round draft choice. He was Mitch Trubisky’s go-to guy. (Washington head coach Jay Gruden) doesn’t like Switzer. He took an 83-yard punt home against him last year. That’s what he can do. We want a lot of competition for the punt returner job. Dwayne Harris is very good at it. Jalen Richard has done it before. Switzer is outstanding and can also return kickoffs. I think he’s got some nasty quickness in the slot.”

Harris should be part of the receiver corps, though primary focus will be on special teams. Ateman will battle for an offensive role with Roberts, Johnny Holton and Isaac Whitney, guys who played some last year. No spots are certain beyond the top three, and guys must be sure-handed, disciplined route runners to earn a remaining spot on this team.

NFL rumors: Marshawn Lynch to retire for second time in three seasons


NFL rumors: Marshawn Lynch to retire for second time in three seasons

Marshawn Lynch came out of retirement in 2017 to play for his hometown Oakland Raiders. A specific opportunity coaxed him away from exotic vacations and adventures and back to the grind of preparing for NFL football games. He wanted to play at home before his home team was permanently relocated to Las Vegas.

Asked directly during a rare, always epic press conference with local media whether he missed football while away, his answer was simple and direct.


He returned to play in the town that helped raise him, one that he champions at every turn through charitable works.

Lynch won’t make one last ride. ESPN reported Wednesday morning that he will retire a second time. There’s no word whether Lynch will make a formal announcement, as he did after Super Bowl 50 by tweeting a photo of shoes thrown over a telephone wire.

He was physically capable of returning for the team’s final season in Oakland, a source said in March, recovered from groin surgery that cut his 2018 season short.

The door was never fully closed on a possible re-signing because owner Mark Davis loves Lynch. So does head coach Jon Gruden. But actions speak louder that sentiment in this business and the Raiders started moving on from the legendary runner this offseason.

They signed Isaiah Crowell in late March to join Jalen Richard, DeAndre Washington and Chris Warren III, and are strongly considering running backs high in this week’s NFL draft.

Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock said they wouldn’t make a decision on Lynch until after the draft, but over time that seemed like a hedge in case drafting a runner didn’t work out.

Lynch eliminated that prospect with his second retirement, ending his Raiders tenure after parts of two seasons. He has 1,502 yards total offense and 10 touchdowns on 332 touches during his time in silver and black, with some iconic moments within. The obvious was him going hyphy on the sideline after a dominant 2017 victory over the New York Jets in his first game in Oakland as a Raider. There also was the long run that helped beat the New York Giants. He was dominant as ever last season, especially in a violent exhibition against Cleveland where he had 130 yards on 20 carries. He suffered a groin injury in a Week 6 loss to Seattle, had surgery to repair it and largely rehabbed on his own.

He just turned 33 years old and the Raiders are trying to get younger at most spots, making it fairly clear the team would move in a different direction.

[RELATED: Gruden reportedly loves Kyler, not Carr as draft nears]

If this is it, Lynch will finish his NFL career with 2,441 rushes for 10,379 yards and 84 touchdowns and 391 receptions for 2,214 yards and nine TDs. He was one of the toughest, most elusive runners of his generation over spells with Buffalo, Seattle and Oakland, especially during his salad days with the Seahawks.

He averaged 4.85 yards per carry in the playoff with nine touchdowns. A 10th likely would’ve secured a second Super Bowl victory for Seattle, but a pass was called instead and the Patriots won at the last minute.

Raiders seven-round NFL mock draft: Pick projections for each round


Raiders seven-round NFL mock draft: Pick projections for each round

The Raiders are scheduled to make eight selections in this NFL draft. Half of them are expected to come in the first 35 overall. That will likely change during the annual selection process, which begins Thursday night in Nashville.

Raiders trades are expected either in the first round or beyond to acquire more Day 2 picks believed to be particularly valuable in this class. However, we won’t be making trades in the world where this seven-round Raiders mock draft resides.

We’re going to pick them as scheduled here, and try to address needs where we’re able. Just as a warning: I ran The Draft Network’s mock draft simulator a thousand times and wasn’t able to land Nick Bosa (No. 4 overall), Quinnen Williams (No. 24 overall) and Josh Allen (No. 27 overall) all in the first round, so prepare yourself for disappointment.

These seven-round mocks are always idealized to some degree because every pick isn’t being made. Look below, where the draft’s best prospect is still around at No. 4, for proof of that. So let’s have fun with this thing. Check out what I’ve got, and then dub me a certified genius or certifiably insane. There is no middle ground.

With that, here’s a Raiders seven-round mock draft, just days before Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock start playing for keeps.