The Raiders are clearly better, on paper anyway, than they were a year ago. They traded for superstar receiver Antonio Brown, spent big on younger free agents and drafted four players in the top 40 overall -- including three first-round picks.
Those marquee additions all are considered major upgrades, and this roster’s middle class has improved while simultaneously getting younger.
Roster turnover has been massive and steady since Jon Gruden took over as head coach in January 2018 and initiated a radical reconstruction that required an initial teardown. Now, he’s building the team back up with players he thinks fit his scheme.
Make no mistake: This is a multi-year project ultimately aimed at making a big splash after relocating to Las Vegas.
But repeating last year’s 4-12 record won’t earn Gruden a mulligan. The Raiders must improve, and they should. How much better are they? We’ll start finding out in training camp. Veterans report Friday, with the first full-squad practice the following day.
Let’s take a look at the roster by position, with a pre-camp depth chart and some thoughts about the group as a whole.
Derek Carr, Mike Glennon, Nathan Peterman
Pre-camp thoughts: Carr’s the unquestioned starter, someone I believe is primed and ready for a monster season. Glennon’s a true pro from the No. 2 spot, with the experience you look for in a backup. Gruden loves Peterman’s potential, and can continue to develop the young quarterback who has had a rough start to his NFL career.
RB: Josh Jacobs, Jalen Richard, Doug Martin, DeAndre Washington, Chris Warren III
FB: Keith Smith, Alec Ingold
Pre-camp thoughts: Jacobs is the lead dog, though Richard will have a role on third downs and at times earlier. Martin’s set for a mentor role, but should be a reserve on early downs.
Washington and Warren must fight for a spot. While Smith just had surgery, he’ll end up on the roster if he recovers well as expected. Ingold will get plenty of work this summer and will have a chance to continue his pro career.
WR: Antonio Brown, J.J. Nelson, Dwayne Harris, Rico Gafford, Brian Burt
WR: Tyrell Williams, Marcell Ateman, Keelan Doss, Keon Hatcher
SLOT: Ryan Grant, Hunter Renfrow, De’Mornay Pierson-El
Pre-camp thoughts: Brown and Williams give this receiver corps a real edge, and it might be the team’s greatest strength. Brown’s a bonafide superstar who will get targeted plenty and create space for others to work, elevating the entire passing game in the process.
Grant can play several spots and could end up the No. 3 overall receiver, though Renfrow will battle for the top spot in the slot. Don’t forget about Harris as a roster lock, even though his greatest contributions come on special teams.
Darren Waller, Derek Carrier, Foster Moreau, Luke Willson, Paul Butler, Erik Swoope
Pre-camp thoughts: Waller seems set for a breakout season in the passing game. The guy has all the tools required to move around the formation as a receiving tight end. Moreau’s draft status should help if the tight-end race is close. These guys are tightly packed, with separation coming in camp.
LT: Kolton Miller, Brandon Parker, Andre James, Tyler Roemer
LG: Richie Incognito (suspended), Denzelle Good, Jonathan Cooper, Lukayus McNeil
C: Rodney Hudson, Jordan Devey
RG: Gabe Jackson, Denver Kirkland, Lester Cotton
RT: Trent Brown, David Sharpe, Justin Murray
Pre-camp thoughts: The starting five could be pretty good once Incognito returns from suspension, as long as Miller continues to develop and Brown lives up to his paycheck. There’s solid depth here as well, with Devey able to play all three interior spots and Parker as the swing tackle.
Cooper will challenge Good to start at left guard while Incognito’s out. There could be a spot for an undrafted rookie (Cotton, McNeil, James or Roemer) in the ranks, especially on the inside.
DE: Clelin Ferrell, Benson Mayowa, Alex Barrett
DT: Maurice Hurst, P.J. Hall, Eddie Vanderdoes
DT: Johnathan Hankins, Justin Ellis, Gabe Wright, Ronald Ollie
DE: Arden Key/Josh Mauro, Maxx Crosby, Quinton Bell
Pre-camp thoughts: This crew has nowhere to go but up after a disappointing 2018, which is why three ends were drafted this season. Ferrell should step right in as a three-down player, and Mauro could start opposite him allowing Key to focus on pass-rushing downs.
There’s no telling yet what Crosby will offer early on, but he’s one to keep an eye on this summer. Hurst should built on his strong rookie year, with Hankins possibly getting more snaps this season. Don’t sleep on Vanderdoes or Wright carving out a role in 2019, either. There could be some interesting camp battles down the depth chart.
SLB: Brandon Marshall, Marquel Lee, Kyle Wilber, James Cowser
MLB: Vontaze Burfict, Jason Cabinda, Te’von Coney
WLB: Tahir Whitehead, Nicholas Morrow, Koa Farmer
Pre-camp thoughts: Coaches would prefer a veteran starting trio, with young reserves and Kyle Wilber playing special teams. Not much room to break into that top seven, though undrafted rookies certainly will try.
CB: Gareon Conley, Trayvon Mullen, D.J. Killings/Isaiah Langley
S: Johnathan Abram, Erik Harris, Curtis Riley
S: Karl Joseph/Lamarcus Joyner, Jordan Richard, Dallin Leavitt
SLOT CB: LaMarcus Joyner, Nick Nelson
CB: Daryl Worley, Nevin Lawson, Isaiah Johnson, Dylan Mabin/Keisean Nixon
Pre-camp thoughts: The Raiders secondary could be legit this season, with some interesting camp competitions between quality, deserving players. Mullen can flat-out play, and won’t lay down for anybody. They paid Lawson a decent sum and, he’ll want to start as he did in Detroit.
Joyner’s the wild card here, and can fill several voids depending on where he’s needed. He’s the team’s best free safety and best slot cornerback, so it will be important for the Raiders to wisely use his talent.
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K: Daniel Carlson
P: Johnny Townsend, A.J. Cole
LS: Andrew DePaola, Trent Sieg
KR: Dwayne Harris
PR: Dwayne Harris
Pre-camp thoughts: There are battles worth watching at punter and long snapper. Townsend would have to lose his gig, though the long-snapper job seems to be a toss up. DePaola has four years left on his deal but nothing guaranteed, and Sieg was pretty good last year. Harris will be the return man for a second straight season.