Oakland Raiders offseason position review: wide receivers

Considering the state of the rest of the roster, the wide receivers of the Oakland Raiders were a bright spot in 2013. Despite some underwhelming quarterback play, all had enough talent.

Last year was a massive overhaul of everyone behind Denarius Moore and Rod Streater. Jacoby Ford and Juron Criner returned, but never saw any action. The team added 6-foot-5 Andre Holmes, who had bounced around the league before being claimed by Oakland. Brice Butler showed enough in the preseason to make the roster over highly-touted, fellow undrafted free agent, Connor Vernon.

Moore and Streater were the only experienced players on the roster coming into the season, and that really only meant Moore, who started 25 games previously. Streater was more of a gimmick deep threat his rookie season. Both are classic Al Davis speed players, but have developed well into good all around receivers.

Both stepped up for 2013, despite the drop off in quality under center. Streater broadened his route tree, becoming more than a deep threat, although he was still good at it. Here in the San Diego game, he slows down, making the corner look back for the ball, before speeding up and getting just enough separation to get the catch and plow into the endzone.

Streater not only beat the corner, but bullied through them both to score

Streater not only beat the corner, but bullied through them both to score

Moore developed into a better short range player, being able to catch short passes and make better yards after the catch by fighting through defensive backs. In the Denver game, he catches a intermediate pass with two defenders on him, but breaks both of their tackle attempts and puts on the jets to get to the end zone.

Moore made excellant YAC on the play

Moore made excellent YAC on the play

However both of them did struggle with drops, but drops can either be attributed to poor passes from the QB, or to receiver error. Both can afford to work on their hands in the offseason, which will give an advantage to whomever is throwing them the ball.

Holmes did not even get in on offense until week 11, but became the big target the Raiders lacked. Using his 6-5 frame, he was able to make easy jump balls over defenders. While he still may be raw, his skills so far are intriguing on a team full of small speedsters. With proper coaching, Holmes can develop into a dangerous red-zone weapon.

Holmes makes good jump balls, especially near the sideline

Holmes makes good jump balls, especially near the sideline

Criner was a possession receiver who was pressed into service last season and showed well enough to possibly be considered for playing time in 2013. However, he was passed up by Andre Holmes in special teams value early on and did not play until week 9, where he suffered an AC sprain and was shut down for the remainder of the season. He has potential to develop into a solid no. 4 receiver.

Ford came back from linsfranc surgery and was looking very good in preseason, before the coaching staff began to criminally underuse him. Although most of his production came under a previous regime, Ford still had speed and agility to make plays, but was relegated to the no. 4 receiver spot. He was phased out of returns as well before being a healthy scratch the last weeks of the season. He is unlikely to be resigned by the team as of this point.

Butler showed some speed and hands in preseason, and actually got decent amount of offensive playing time for the first six weeks. Then the coaching staff soured on him and he was only on special teams from there on. He did show some speed, but is likely going to have to make a career of special teams and some spot offense.

Finally there was Greg Jenkins, who was a strict special teamer. He made plenty of plays, including the fumble return TD on the kickoff in the Dallas game. He is a complete fringe player and will likely be stuck as the last receiver if he can develop into a special teams ace.

The big news of the spring was the signing of James Jones, however. Jones isn’t as speedy as Moore or Streater, or as tall as Holmes, but he is near both categories as a saavy veteran receiver. He has developed sure hands and can bait any defensive back with his route running.

However, with Jones in the fold, it likely means one of Streater or Moore, or possibly Holmes, is on the out. Many have speculated it will be Moore due to his drops and inconsistency. Expect a receiver-needy team like the Panthers to offer up a late round pick for one of Oakland’s receivers.

The WR group in Oakland is now brimming with talent, and Reggie McKenzie is not even done. Many have speculated that if no high value defensive players or quarterbacks are available at the fifth pick, that Sammy Watkins could be the choice. This is unlikely if Reggie truly likes his pass catching corps, meaning a trade down is likely.

With Matt Schaub as the likely starter in Oakland as of this moment, the Raiders aren’t likely to open up the offense and sling it up and down the field, but they will at least have talented options to throw it to.