Amari Cooper remains offensive centerpiece, even after Raiders WR overhaul The Raiders receiver corps needed some upgrades. Last year's crew was talented but a bit unreliable. Drops were high, and there was a decided lack of clutch play across the depth chart.
Jordy Nelson was added for leadership, experience and performance under pressure. Martavis Bryant was acquired in trade and his top-end speed and size adds a dynamic presence few can provide.
Tight end Jared Cook runs like a receiver and should help the interior passing game. Ryan Switzer is an intriguing complementary piece to accent a strong crew assembled to help Derek Carr thrive under center.
Wide receivers: Amari Cooper, Jordy Nelson, Martavis Bryant, Seth Roberts, Ryan Switzer, Saeed Blacknall, Marcell Ateman, Griff Whalen, Isaac Whitney, Johnny Holton, Keon Hatcher, Dwayne Harris; Tight ends: Jared Cook, Lee Smith, Derek Carrier, Marcus Baugh, Paul Butler, Pharaoh Brown
Best Of The Bunch: Cooper
The Alabama product has an elite receiver's skill. Cooper can do it all, with excellent size, speed and route running. He's solid tracking deep balls, gaining yards after the catch and finding separation in coverage.
We've seen him flash those traits several times, but not consistently enough. Health and steady hands have been at issue, but Gruden believes a great year's ahead. He said Cooper will be the passing game's "main vein," and will frequently be the primary target in a diverse receiver corps.
Top Camp Battle: Switzer vs. Roberts
Roberts is the incumbent slot receiver, a job he held a few seasons and turned into a contract extension. That doesn't mean he'll retain the title. Several should play inside in Gruden's system, anyway, including Cooper and tight end Jared Cook.
He'll have a direct challenge for playtime of any kind from Switzer, acquired from Dallas on the NFL draft's final day. He impressed during the offseason program, receiving significant slot snaps during OTAs and minicamp.
Switzer doesn't have much of a track record but has great speed and wiggle despite smaller stature. The fourth receiver could be important in this scheme and have some quality chances. Switzer has return ability, which will help his cause.
Competition for the fifth receiver spot should also be fierce, so Roberts needs to show well to play out a deal containing $2 million guaranteed this season.
Long shot: Johnny Holton
It's crazy to think a speed demon on last year's roster could be considered a long shot. Change comes quick with a new coaching staff especially, but job security is even sketchier with fresh blood and upgrades atop the depth chart. That makes lower spots extremely competitive.
If Holton's hands can prove more reliable, his route running improved and his role as a gunner still good, he can earn a role and prove a productive member of the team. It won't be easy, with so many aiming for the final spot, but Holton has the talent to make an impact.
The top end of this depth chart is largely set. The tight ends have their roles. The three main receivers do, too. It'll be a dogfight for opportunities after that, with several deserving receivers fighting for two spots during the preseason. Young tight ends face an uphill battle, with Cook, Smith and Carrier already established.