In 2014, not a single Raiders player was selected by his peers for the NFL Network’s annual list of top 100 players. Then, last year, two Raiders were voted to the team.
Now three Raiders are on the 2016 list, and a fourth just missed.
It’s just one more sign that as the Raiders head toward the start of training camp later this month, the franchise is building a solid base of talent and depth as it tries to make a push for its first playoff appearance since the 2002 postseason. After finishing 3-13 in 2014, Oakland improved to 7-9 in 2015.
In 2015, linebacker Khalil Mack was selected as the 49th best NFL player and safety Charles Woodson – in his final season – was 64th on the list.
In the latest polling, Mack came in at No. 13, free-agent safety signee Reggie Nelson is 60th and quarterback Derek Carr broke into the group at No. 100. Wide receiver Amari Cooper just missed, gathering enough votes to be ranked No. 103 after a solid rookie season.
Mack’s outstanding second season with Oakland produced 15 sacks and two forced fumbles. He also was in on 77 tackles and was named first-team All-Pro at two positions, outside linebacker and defensive end. At No. 13 overall, Mack jumped 36 spots from 2015 and is the highest-rated Raider ever on the annual list.
Nelson, who comes to the Raiders after six seasons in Cincinnati and three in Jacksonville, will take over Woodson’s spot at free safety. In 2015 for the Bengals he was a turnover machine, with eight interceptions and two fumble recoveries while getting in on 72 tackles.
Carr is entering his third NFL season after taking a big step forward in his second pro year. In 2015 he improved his completion percentage, yards passing, number of TD passes, yards per attempt and quarterback rating.
Cooper, meanwhile, had an injury late in the year but still had more than 1,000 yards receiving.