Photo Courtesy of dfsreport.com
The soon to be Vegas Raiders have been busy this offseason retooling their receiving corp. The 10-year veteran, Michael Crabtree, was released back in March and ended up signing a three-year deal, worth $21 million overall, with the Baltimore Ravens.
In the same general time frame, Jordy Nelson's 10-year run with the Green Bay Packers came to an end and two days after he was released, he signed a two-year, $14.2 million contract with the Raiders.
Nelson has been one of the more consistent receivers in the league in recent memory but his numbers significantly dropped last season when Aaron Rodgers went down in week six with a broken collarbone.
Nelson will turn 33 in May this year and is just a couple of years removed from an ACL tear that ended his 2015 season in a preseason game with Pittsburgh.
Nevertheless, not a bad replacement for Michael Crabtree to pair up with Amari Cooper, whom Oakland took with the fourth overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Then, during the first round of the 2018 draft, Oakland traded their 79th overall pick to the Steelers for wide receiver, Martavis Bryant, who seemingly had a "fall-out" with the Steelers organization during the 2017 season.
If you paint Oakland's receiving group with a broad brush, it looks like it is set for a big 2018 season with Derek Carr leading the way at quarterback, and not without warrant.
Set to turn 24 in June, Amari Cooper has shown flashes of the potential he has to be a standout receiver in the NFL. He has amassed 2903 yards receiving on 203 receptions to go along with 18 touchdowns. The negative with Cooper is his tendency to drop a lot of balls.
During the 2017 season, he had a catch rate of only 50% (total receptions/total targets) with 67.7% of his 65 targets being catchable balls. He had a drop rate of 10.4% with 10 total drops. In the 2016 season, he only had three total drops (2.3% drop rate) and a catch rate of 62.6%.
Cooper struggled early in the season last year but started to come on in the ladder half of it. He will need to show improvement in his catch rate in 2018 as he will be looked to too be the top guy in Oakland.
Martavis Bryant is a great fit in Oakland in my opinion and I think a change of scenery will benefit him as well. But he isn't without questions and concerns of his own as well.
Bryant's issues aren't so much on the field as they are off of it. He doesn't have the stats to show a high level of production but that's because he has spent more time in his short NFL career not playing; and it isn't cause of injury.
In an article released by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette back on October 23, 2017, Sean Gentille wrote this about the "problematic" Bryant, saying...
"This is an unhappy player one bad decision away from another yearlong suspension under the NFL’s ridiculous drug policy, with diminishing stats, a diminishing role and enough of an ax to grind to dive into IG comments and slag his teammates. It’s not good."
Bryant was suspended by the NFL for the entire 2016 season due to substance abuse issues. So coming into the 2017 season it seemed reasonable to think that he would be ready to get back on the field and contribute in a big way for Pittsburgh.
Instead it just seemed like more drama and headaches. As mentioned in the quote from the PPG article, about midway through the season, Bryant made a post on instagram that would get him suspended for a game by the Steelers organization.
Ed Bouchette, of PPG, wrote this in an article about the situation:
Bryant complained in an Instagram post Sunday night that “all they need to do is give me what I want and y’all can have juju and who ever else.” He wrote that “Juju is no where near better than me,” that “I just want mines” and that he returned from a one-year suspension for violating the NFL’s drug policy “with no help and little support.”
It also became known that Bryant and his camp requested that he be traded, which obviously did not happen until roughly six months after the request was made.
Basically, the three headline receivers in Oakland all have tremendous ability and potential and with Carr at quarterback, a great chance of having a huge season. But they all are also just one wrong move away from it being a complete and total failure.
Cooper is one more stretch of dropped passes away from being released when his contract is up. Nelson is an aging receiver who is still recently removed from an ACL tear and one unfortunate cut away from having his career cut short. Bryant has been a head case for the better part of his short career and is one more failed drug test away from possibly being in the same camp as a Johnny Manziel or Randy Gregory.
There is tremendous potential with this group though and I tend to lean towards it working out in Oakland's favor. But I think it's necessary to know and address each issue with each individual.
Outside of the main three guys, Oakland also added Marcell Ateman (6-5, 214) out of Oklahoma State with their seventh round pick in the draft; which I think is one of the late round steals from the 2018 cycle. He ran a 4.62 40-yard dash and had a 34" vertical jump. Ateman has the potential to become a legitimate redzone threat for Oakland this season.
They also added Ryan Switzer (5-8, 185), the second year player out of North Carolina, whom they acquired from Dallas for a defensive lineman in Jihad Ward.
The receiving corp is also supplemented by Seth Roberts (6-2, 195), Dwayne Harris (5-11, 206) and a few other unproven commodities.
I do think there are some fairly legitimate and significant concerns that could turn this seemingly golden situation into a dumpster fire but the perception going into 2018 will all focus on the positive potential for the Raiders offense and I won't disagree with the optimism about it.
I think the Raiders are a team that have been on the cusp of greatness for the past couple seasons and with some of the moves this offseason, I have some reason to believe they can turn it into postseason success....if not this year, then soon.