Raiders receivers capitalizing on opportunities with Antonio Brown out

Raiders receivers capitalizing on opportunities with Antonio Brown out

NAPA – Antonio Brown missed yet another Raiders training camp practice Friday morning, his second straight since joining the fray earlier this week.

The superstar receiver showed on his Instagram Story that he’s struggling with the soles of his feet, an ailment that would account for his recent absences and his short stint on the non-football injury list.

The Raiders don’t view his absence as a big deal or significant setback, but head coach Jon Gruden certainly wants his best player practicing posthaste.

“I think we’re all disappointed (Brown isn’t practicing),” Gruden said. “I think he’s disappointed. We’d like to get the party started. We’d like to get him out here. He’s a big part of this team but, for the time being, we’ve seen the development of some other receivers that we’re excited about.”

There’s reason for optimism with a corps being lead by Tyrell Williams while Brown currently is sidelined.

“Tyrell Williams has made some big plays at multiple positions, and has showed great stamina,” Gruden said. “Darren Waller has been very good. We’re fired up to talk about those two guys, and we’re starting to see others emerge.”

There are several quality receivers currently in Napa, creating serious competition for roster spots.

Gruden name-checked Marcell Ateman. He has made some plays recently, though J.J. Nelson and Keelan Doss stole the show on Friday morning.

Both guys went horizontal to catch deep shots down the left sideline made legal after surviving the ground, though Nelson did so with one hand.

Doss is a smooth route runner with solid hands. Nelson has shown an ability to adjust when the ball is in the air, and Derek Carr clearly trusts him to make plays.

Hunter Renfrow has been an early camp standout, while Ryan Grant showed up Thursday after being largely invisible the first week.

Gruden has tough decisions ahead on the back of that depth chart, thoughreceivers will separate themselves some in games.

The Raiders should keep five receivers, six tops. Here are my favorites for those roster spots through six practices:

Locks: Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams, Hunter Renfrow, Dwayne Harris
Fighting for one or two spots: Marcell Ateman, J.J. Nelson, Ryan Grant, Keelan Doss

Former UCLA standout Jordan Lasley just got here, so he’s a wild card with talent required to challenge for gainful employment.

[RELATED: Exclusive: Dabo explains what makes Raiders rookie special]

Evaluating the rest of the position group without Brown taking targets seems to hold greater long-term benefit over him missing time at the start of camp, but Gruden doesn’t see it that way.

“I want the guy out there as soon as possible,” Gruden said. “I’d like him to get in the huddle and never leave. I’d like him in there every play, but life goes on and you have to continue to work. Other guys have to take advantage, and so far they have.”

Raiders in solid salary-cap standing heading toward 2020 NFL Draft


Raiders in solid salary-cap standing heading toward 2020 NFL Draft

Damarious Randall’s deal with the Raiders went across the NFL transaction wire on Tuesday. The defensive back was the last veteran free-agent addition to get processed by the league and the players union, meaning all of the Silver and Black’s new players are now official.

That gives us a crystal-clear look at the Raiders salary cap situation and where they stand heading into the NFL draft.

The Raiders have $8.128 million in salary cap space, according to a daily public report issued Thursday morning by the NFL Players Association. That’s a smidge under the roughly $9.4 million estimates required to sign their NFL draft class as currently slotted, but certainly not a big deal that won’t have to be addressed until picks start signing in May and June.

There are plenty of corrections to be made through cutting expendable players – they still have four veteran quarterbacks on the roster – or a minor restructure to get under the financial threshold.

The draft could also take care of the issue, especially if the Raiders trade down or end up with few selections than they currently own.

[RELATED: Raiders' 2020 offseason scorecard: Trades, signings, NFL draft picks]

The Raiders were able to add 12 veterans in unrestricted free agents and retained eight through extensions or various contract tenders.

Restructuring Rodney Hudson’s contract was key to adding this many new folks, as they shuffled his money around to spread out what would’ve been a significant 2020 salary cap hit.

The Raiders would be in a different space had the Eli Apple deal gone through. He was set to sign a one-year deal worth $6 million before the pact fell apart. Randall came aboard after that on a one-year contract worth up to $3.25 million, but it comes with a $1.5 millon base salary and a $2.1 million cap hit. That swap was a win for the on-field product and salary-cap standing, though it intensifies the need to find a cornerback in the NFL draft.

NFL Draft 2020: Raiders could strike gold with Day 2 cornerback gems

NFL Draft 2020: Raiders could strike gold with Day 2 cornerback gems

The Raiders struck gold in the 2019 NFL Draft by finding Trayvon Mullen, a potential lockdown corner in the second round.

You can pencil Mullen as the starting cornerback on one side of the field for the foreseeable future. The Raiders tried to address the cornerback position in free agency, but they missed out on Byron Jones and Chris Harris Jr. After their deal with Eli Apple fell apart, cornerback became a pressing need to be addressed in the NFL draft.

The 2020 cornerback class has one surefire star in Ohio State's Jeff Okudah and two-to-five other likely NFL starters that should go in the first 40 picks. That's pretty much the range for elite cornerbacks. Over the last four years, Richard Sherman (fifth-round), A.J. Bouye (undrafted) and Malcolm Butler (undrafted) were the only three All-Pro cornerbacks who weren't drafted in the first two rounds. The other 13 all were taken at the top of the draft.

That doesn't mean it's impossible to find talent at cornerback later in the draft, it just means it's a little less likely. The Raiders should be able to address their cornerback need in Round 1, but there are a few later-round guys who they should target if the draft goes a different way.

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Noah Igbinoghene, Auburn

Igbinoghene arrived on The Plains as a talented receiver recruit and turned into one of the draft's most intriguing cornerback prospects.

A relatively new corner, Igbinoghene has the athleticism and physicality to play at the NFL but he will need to get more comfortable with his coverage instincts. He's an explosive athlete with a high NFL ceiling, but there's no telling how long it will take him to reach it. Over 878 coverage snaps at Auburn, Igbinoghene allowed only three touchdowns. Not bad for a converted wide receiver.

Here's the athleticism:

And improving coverage skills.

Bryce Hall, Virginia

Hall returned for his senior season at Viriginia, but an ankle injury limited him to just six games, hurting his draft stock.

The 6-foot-1 defensive back is long and explosive with tremendous ball skills. He struggled at times in man coverage at Virginia and many analysts beleive he might be best suited for a zone-heavy scheme. While he comes with question marks, Hall has is an intelligent player, high character locker room presence and has the ability to make game-changing plays on the field.

He projects as an NFL starter as long as the fit is right.

Damon Arnette, Ohio State

If you're looking for a starter in press coverage, Damon Arnette is your man.

Overshadowed by his teammate Okudah, the 6-foot cornerback has great quickness, is sticky in man coverage, has the anticipation to play zone and brings exceptional ball skills and body control to the table. He had the lowest passer rating allowed in single man coverage in the NCAA last year.

The Raiders kicked the tires on a Darius Slay trade, but it fell through. Arnette has drawn comparisons to Slay and should be able to start in the NFL on Day 1.

Cameron Dantzler, Mississippi State

One of the best cornerbacks in the NFL, Dantzler has the height, length, competitiveness and versatility to be a solid NFL cornerback. While some scouts worry about his narrow frame, the tape shows a corner with great coverage skills in man, press and zone.

Dantzler's anticipation and instincts have some analysts believing he'd be a better zone-scheme fit in the NFL. His production across 22 starts at Mississippi State shows a corner who has the tools to fit into any scheme if given the time.

The 6-foot-2 corner also played LSU's Ja'Marr Chase -- the Biletnikoff Award winner and likely top-10 2021 pick -- the best of any corner. While Chase torched Clemson's A.J. Terrell, a likely top 40 pick, in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game, Dantzler only allowed two catches for 13 yards when targeted by LSU.

However, Dantlzer's 4.64 40 time and 30.5-inch arms will raise a lot of questions about his staying power in the NFL.

[RELATED: Why trading up to draft Okudah is perfect move for Raiders

Troy Pride Jr., Notre Dame

Potentially one of the most underrated prospects in the draft, Notre Dame's Troy Pride Jr. played well at the Senior Bowl and could be one of the steals of the 2020 NFL Draft.

The 5-foot-11 corner has the requisite quickness, speed and change of direction to thrive in man coverage. While he thrives in man, Pride also has the instincts to play zone and has played in a press-scheme as well, making him not scheme dependent.

Hurting Pride are his less than exceptional ball skills and lack of production in run support. While he might not be a Day 1 starter, Pride does have the skills and potential to be a starter in Year 2 or Year 3.