Seth Roberts

Raiders must use 2019 NFL draft, free agency to overhaul wide receiver corps


Raiders must use 2019 NFL draft, free agency to overhaul wide receiver corps

CINCINNATI -- The Raiders started 2018 with an excellent receiver corps. On paper, anyway.

Amari Cooper was the No. 1 guy. Jordy Nelson added experience, leadership and just maybe more speed than people thought. Martavis Bryant was going to stretch the field. Ryan Switzer would be an ideal slot man. Seth Roberts was available in reserve.

Then the season began, and the whole thing fell apart.

Raiders coach Jon Gruden quickly grew tired of Switzer and shipped him to Pittsburgh. Bryant was cut before the regular season and then brought back, but he never got into the flow of Gruden’s offense.

Cooper controversially was traded to Dallas. Nelson’s knee got bruised.

The Raiders scrambled to fill spots, with weapons constantly rotating in and out around quarterback Derek Carr.

Gruden isn’t attached to any receiver still on the roster, meaning a complete reconstruction could be in store. They certainly need a new No. 1 receiver, and some help at most positions as the Raiders try to improve Carr’s supporting cast.

This offense can be dynamic with Gruden and Carr working well together, especially with weapons on the outside and in the slot.

Players likely to stay in 2019

Marcell Ateman: The seventh-round draft pick has had some big moments since being forced into action after the Amari Cooper trade. He hasn’t been great, and has a ton to learn about how to function in Gruden’s system, but there’s potential there. The Oklahoma State alum could be a productive red-zone target and someone who can make plays without blazing speed.

Dwayne Harris: He's an unrestricted free agent, but he could come back reasonably priced next year. He’s a solid return man. That’s valuable, even with so many kickoffs becoming touchbacks.

Keon Hatcher: He could stick around -- for training camp, at least -- and fight for a place on the 2019 53-man roster.

Players likely to go

Jordy Nelson: The veteran receiver is set to make $7.2 million in base salary and roster bonuses next season, though it isn’t guaranteed and there’s no dead money attached if he were to be cut.

Carr and Gruden have lauded Nelson’s locker-room presence, but they could get a younger, more dynamic receiver for that freight. They also have money to spare, so the Raiders could keep him around as a mentor and reliable presence in the clutch. It’s not a mortal lock, but it’s certainly possible Nelson will spend just one year in Silver and Black. Time will tell on this one.

Martavis Bryant: The talented receiver has ideal size and speed, but he never fit with Gruden or his offense. Gruden often criticized him in public and dubbed Bryant the “white tiger” for rarely being available on the practice field.

None of that matters more than Friday’s development, in which Bryant was suspended indefinitely by the NFL for violating the terms of his conditional reinstatement from a one-year ban as a repeat offender of the league’s substance abuse policy.

Gruden gave up a third-round pick for Bryant, a high price for a failed experiment.

Seth Roberts: He might not be here now, if not for having a guaranteed salary in 2018. Roberts was down on the depth chart until attrition brought him back. He still isn’t a heavily targeted option despite all these injuries, which is something to note. Roberts is set to make $4.45 million next year, but he could be cut free and clear. That contract might be too pricey for him to stick around, though Carr could use some continuity in the receiver room.

Brandon LaFell: The Raiders loved having LaFell around. He’s a consummate pro, someone with reliable hands who does all the little things right. I believe they would’ve brought him back, if not for him suffering a ruptured Achilles tendon in Week 11. It generally takes 11 calendar months to recover from such an injury, meaning he wouldn’t be ready until midseason 2019 at the earliest.

That puts him out of the running for an offseason deal.

Raiders potential offseason plan

Free agency: The Raiders have money to burn on this position, and should import at least one veteran presence to the group. A slot receiver couldn’t hurt, either.

One problem: The 2019 free agent receiver class stinks. There’s no truly dominant options available because teams don’t let dominant No. 1's walk. They don’t trade them either (cough, cough).

There should be some veteran options with high production potential, though. Golden Tate might be the biggest fish, even at age 30. He has several 1,000-yard seasons to his credit, is durable as heck and would step off the plane as the Raiders’ No. 1 receiver. His price will be high, but the contract length might not be that long.

Larry Fitzgerald seems like a player Gruden would simply love -- think of a post-49ers Jerry Rice in Silver and Black -- but Fitzgerald said this summer he’ll only play for the Cardinals.

The Raiders could use some funds on Donte Moncrief or Qunicy Enunwa, guys who could thrive with an accurate quarterback. Geronimo Allison is an intriguing young player, but he'll be a restricted free agent. It might not be worth overpaying to get him.

Draft: Unlike the free agent crop, the 2019 NFL draft class is loaded with quality receivers. There are so many good ones, value could be had outside the first round, where the Raiders could find a future No. 1 or a speed demon to stretch the field.

There’s some discrepancy among draft analysts about positional rankings, but Mississippi’s A.J. Brown often is considered the top talent.

The Raiders might be interested in N.C. State’s Kelvin Harmon, a tough receiver with quality hands and solid route running ability.

Stanford’s J.J. Arcega-Whiteside sounds like a Gruden-type receiver, a big-bodied player drawing Mike Evans comparisons.

Oklahoma’s Marquise Brown isn’t very big, but is a speed demon who can stretch the field and make dynamic plays. Opinions vary on N’Keal Harry, but he’s a big, reliable target who could be worth a high pick.

Bottom line: If the Raiders let most of their current receivers go as expected, they’ll need to retool the group with diverse skill sets to help Derek Carr move the chains and the ball downfield. They should sign a veteran, even if they keep Nelson, and draft one or two to improve a group that has fallen on hard times.

Raiders-Steelers injury report: Seth Roberts limited with a concussion


Raiders-Steelers injury report: Seth Roberts limited with a concussion

ALAMEDA – The Raiders receiver corps doesn’t have many healthy bodies in a perfect world. Only six populate the 53-man roster, and Dwayne Harris is more returner that receiver.

Losing quarterback Derek Carr’s longest tenured target could be especially hurtful. That became a possibility on Thursday, when Roberts was limited in practice with a concussion.

The severity of it is uncertain, though he’ll have to enter the concussion protocol before being cleared to play Sunday against the Steelers.

Carr is increasingly reliant on tight end Jared Cook and, last week, Jordy Nelson was productive in his return to relatively full health. Those two combined for 17 catches and 197 yards last game against Kansas City.

Roberts hasn’t been as vital, but remains an important cog in the system. Losing him would be a blow.

Kyle Wilber missed his second straight practice with a hamstring strain, and is in jeopardy of missing the game. That would hurt special teams more than anything, considering he captains the coverage units.

Raiders practice report

Did not practice
LB Kyle Wilber (hamstring)

Limited practice
C Rodney Hudson (ankle, knee)
DE Arden key (knee)
Maurice Hurst (ankle)
WR Seth Roberts (concussion)
CB Daryl Worley (shoulder)
OG Kelechi Osemele (toe)

Full practice
RB Doug Martin (knee)
WR Jordy Nelson (foot)
DE Frostee Rucker (neck)

Steelers practice report

Did not practice
OL Ramon Foster (coach decision)
RB James Conner (ankle)
LB Anthony Chickillo (ankle)
OT Marcus Gilbert (knee)

Full practice
WR Ryan Switzer (concussion)
S Morgan Burnett (back)
LS Kameron Canaday (knee)
CB Joe Haden (coach decision)
WR Antonio Brown (coach decision)
C Maurkice Pouncey (coach decision)

Raiders snap count: Playing time doesn't lead to production in Jordy Nelson's return

Raiders snap count: Playing time doesn't lead to production in Jordy Nelson's return

BALTIMORE – Raiders head coach Jon Gruden believed Jordy Nelson would be able to play Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens, but he wasn’t sure how much time the receiver would see.

Quite a lot, it turns out.

Nelson plays 52 of 58 offensive snaps in a 34-17 loss to the Ravens, but didn’t have much to show for it. He was targeted once and didn’t have a catch despite all that time on the field, and lost two yards on an end around.

The veteran looked a smidge slow upon return from a bone bruise on his knee, which kept him out of last week’s win at Arizona.

He was a limited practice participant leading up to Sunday's game and wasn't his usual self. Head coach Jon Gruden lauded Nelson's ability to play with a bum knee, to lead an inexperienced and unproven receiver corps. 

"Jordy was not 100 percent yesterday, but I give him a lot of credit for going out there and giving us everything he had," Gruden said. "Hopefully he'll be closer to 100 percent this week. ... I credit Jordy a lot for playing 50(-plus) snaps when he wasn't at his best."

[RELATED: Raiders report card vs Ravens]

Nelson’s used to steady production, and was certainly disappointed he didn’t contribute more.

“I just didn’t make enough plays,” Nelson said.

Nelson wasn’t the only member of the passing game who struggled to produce against the Ravens’ No. 2-ranking pass defense. Rookie Marcell Ateman’s second NFL game didn’t go as well as his first, recording just three catches for 16 yards on 10 targets.

Seth Roberts led the team with 54 receiving yards on two catches. He was targeted three times.

“It comes down to us executing and making plays,” Ateman said. “We didn’t do enough of that. We didn’t have the ball much in the second half. We didn’t feel like we had that much time.”

Quarterback Derek Carr completed a tick over 50 percent of his passes for just 194 yards and a 74.9 passer rating. He didn’t have much speed in the pattern outside Johnny Holton, who barely played and couldn’t corral a deeper shot that was his only target.

The Raiders were credited with two drops, and struggled to complete any pass thrown more than 10 yards in the air. According to analytics site Pro Football Focus, the Raiders were 2-of-9 for 60 yards on intermediate and deep throws, showing little ability to create the separation required to complete such volleys.

“The Ravens played a lot of tight coverage, but we had some opportunities to make plays and didn’t make them,” Gruden said. “I know Marcell dropped one early. We challenged (a catch) later. We just didn’t make the plays against a very good defensive team. That goes back to me, honestly.”

Here’s the complete snap count from the Raiders loss in Baltimore:


Total offensive snaps: 58
Quarterback – Derek Carr 56, AJ McCarron 2
Running back – Doug Martin 28, Jalen Richard 24, DeAndre Washington 8, Keith Smith 6
Wide receiver – Jordy Nelson 52, Marcell Ateman 47, Seth Roberts 39, Johnny Holton 5, Keon Hatcher 2.Dwayne Harris 2
Tight end – Jared Cook 32, Derek Carrier 19, Lee Smith 18
Offensive line – Gabe Jackson 58, Rodney Hudson 58, Brandon Parker 58, Kelechi Osemele 58, Kolton Miller 58, David Sharpe 10, Clinton McDonald 2, Jon Feliciano 2, David Sharpe 4, Clinton McDonald 1, Jon Feliciano 1


Total defensive snaps: 70
Defensive line – Arden Key 59, Johnathan Hankins 59, Frostee Rucker 49, PJ Hall 37, Shilique Calhoun 27, Maurice Hurst 25, Jacquies Smith 4
Linebacker – Tahir Whitehead 70, Nick Morrow 46, Marquel Lee 25, Jason Cabinda 25, Kyle Wilber 1
Defensive back – Gareon Conley 62, Karl Joseph 61, Marcus Gilchrist 59, Daryl Worley 58, Nick Nelson 45, Rashaan Melvin 18, Erik Harris 14, Reggie Nelson 8

Special teams

Wilber 24, Lee 24, Harris 24, Carrier 22, Calhoun 20, K. Smith 19, Harris 18, Morrow, N. Nelson 14, L. Smith 11, Washington 9, Trent Sieg 9, Johnny Townsend 9, Gilchrist 7, Cabinda 7, Daniel Carlson 7, Key 5, Hankins 5, Holton 5, McDonald 5, Whitehead 5, Worley 4, Joseph 4, Conley 3, Feliciano 3, Sharpe 3, Parker 3, Miller 3, Jackson 3, Osemele 3, R. Nelson 1