When the Raiders go into the draft this spring, they’ll surely target a wide receiver in the first round.
It’s the team’s greatest need, and the franchise is well-positioned to get one – or even two – receivers with two selections in the first round (picks 12 and 19) and three picks in Round 3 (Nos. 80, 81 and 91 overall).
The Raiders went into this past season feeling good about their wide receiver corps, having upgraded with the addition of Antonio Brown, one of the NFL’s best, and former Charger Tyrell Williams.
But Brown was released before the season opener, Williams was hurt and a succession of veterans such as Ryan Grant, J.J. Nelson and Zay Jones never produced. Only rookie Hunter Renfrow, who excelled out of the slot, lived up to expectations.
Renfrow led Raiders receivers with 49 catches for 605 yards and four touchdowns, with Williams right behind with 42 for 651 and six scores. As Levi Damien of USA Today’s Raiders Wire pointed out, a tight end, Darren Waller (90 catches, 1,145 yards) led the team in receiving for the third straight year.
Wrote Damien of the wide receiver corps: “This position needs a big splash and a lot of depth as well. An influx of talent is an absolute must.”
Without Brown and a healthy Williams, the Raiders simply never had receivers who could consistently challenge defenses deep and open up the field for quarterback Derek Carr.
Now, armed with two first-round picks, the Raiders are poised to fix that problem because this upcoming draft class could be the most talented and deep group of wide receivers in about six years, wrote Matt Miller of Bleacher Report. Justin Jefferson (LSU), Omar Bayless (Arkansas State), CeeDee Lamb (Oklahoma), Sage Surratt (Wake Forest), Michael Pittman Jr. (USC), Brandon Aiyuk (Arizona State), Tee Higgins (Clemson) and DeVonta Smith (Alabama) are among those at the top of the class of wideouts expected to be draft-eligible.
Lamb, a junior who caught 62 passes for 1,327 yards and 14 TDs could be the best of the bunch, having won the Biletnikoff Award as college football’s top receiver, and is a big, physical target at 6-foot-2, 189 pounds. He’s been compared by some to DeAndre Hopkins of the Texans or Larry Fitzgerald of the Cardinals.
Raiders head coach Jon Gruden believes some young players on the roster may grow into larger roles, but signaled recently that the team will add talent at wide receiver over the coming few months.
“We’ll be looking to strengthen that group, yeah,” he told the San Francisco Chronicle.