The Raiders will have the 14th overall pick in the 2016 draft, thanks to their 7-9 record in 2015.
One of the team’s biggest areas of need will be the secondary, where general manager Reggie McKenzie could use his top pick. Safety Charles Woodson has retired and his fellow starter, Nate Allen, is coming off a season of injuries. Also, the cornerback corps was inconsistent from week to week.
But as Jack Del Rio’s team heads into the offseason, one cornerback now figures prominently in the team’s future plans after a surprise, breakout season.
David Amerson, who was released by Washington early in the season and signed by the Raiders in Week 3, was the team’s No. 1 corner by the end of the season.
After playing two games for Washington to start the year, Amerson – the former second-round pick out of North Carolina State in 2013 – played 14 games for his new team with great results.
He had four interceptions, returning one for a touchdown in the season finale vs. the Chiefs. He’d had just two interceptions in 33 games in Washington. He also had a career-high 25 passes defensed, forced a fumble and was in on 57 tackles as he played a larger and larger role as the season progressed.
“I love playing here,” Amerson told a reporter after the Raiders’ final game. “I love the coaches. They gave me a second chance and that’s something I’ll never forget. I hope this will be a home for a long time.”
The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Amerson had a solid career at North Carolina State where he had 18 interceptions over the 2011-2012 seasons and returned three for TDs.
But in Washington, Amerson flopped. He lost his job before the start of this season, and head coach Jay Gruden acknowledged at the time of Amerson’s release that “it hurts” that Amerson wasn’t a success for his team.
“I think he needs to work on consistency,” Gruden told the Washington Post. “He does show flashes of being an excellent corner. He’s got the size and he’s got all the measurables for a defensive back. But for whatever reason, they don’t always show on a consistent basis when he’s out there.”
In Oakland, however, Amerson got a second wind in a new system. Defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. was impressed by Amerson’s talent and drive after he arrived.
“He’s a serious ballplayer,” Norton said. “He came here with a purpose. He wants to really get better.”
The end result was a great in-season signing by McKenzie that may continue to pay off in 2016 for a secondary that will get a significant offseason makeover.