Oakland Raiders Must Accommodate Derek Carr in May


Being a rookie quarterback in the NFL is no easy task. Being a rookie quarterback for the current Oakland Raiders team is something I would not wish upon my worst enemy. Yet, despite the broken roster, Derek Carr has shown poise, improvement, and flashes of ability to be a top notch quarterback.

For 2014, Oakland gets a pass for not having built around Carr because their plan was to stock up on defense first, which they have done a good job of. Even then, rookie guard Gabe Jackson was drafted as a building block around Carr, so it is not as if they had no intention of helping him early on. But for 2015, there is no excuse for Oakland to not do their best to put pieces around Carr.

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Though not quite to the caliber of the 2014 class, the 2015 wide receiver class is shaping up to be filled with quality players from the first pick to the last. The question is not whether or not Oakland will be able to get a receiver for Carr, but how many, when, and who?

Many Raiders fans are calling for Amari Cooper. He is arguably the best receiver in the class and he will most certainly garner a top 10 selection. Oakland is going to be picking top three, meaning that they take him there or miss out. Unless the receiver is equivalent to Calvin Johnson as a prospect, they should not be selected top three. In order to get Cooper, Oakland would need to trade down and, though it sounds ideal in theory, is not nearly as easy as it sounds. Possible? Sure, but the possibility should not be banked on at this point.

That same concept applies to any receiver that has a good chance of being selected top 20. As of now, that appears to be guys like Kevin White, Devin Funchess, and DeVante Parker. With those four out of the mix, who is left for Oakland in a late-first round trade up situation or early in the second round?

The three names that should be most strongly considered are Jaelen Strong, Sammie Coates, and DeAndre Smelter. All three have a shot at going top 32 come May, but as it stands now, they seem to be great talents that will fall in a loaded  class. So, what is it that separates them from the others? Their potential chemistry with Carr due to natural catching ability and dominance at the catch point. For Smelter, the latter skill is still a work in progress, but he has only been focusing on football for a year and has exploded onto the scene. He will only get better.

In regards to nothing but their fit with Carr, Strong is Oakland’s best plausible option. His route running is nothing of positive note and his athleticism will not blow anyone away, but his presence at the catch point is so valuable for a gutsy quarterback like Carr. Furthermore, Strong has the agility and awareness near the sideline to make him a lethal back-shoulder receiver, much like Jordy Nelson. Strong will provide the safety blanket that a young quarterback, especially with Carr’s skill set, needs in order to more easily adjust to the professional level.

Coates, though not quite as freakish at the catch point, is more athletic than Strong. Coates can more frequently create separation, as well as yards after the catch. In theory, there is more that one can do with Coates schematically, but he is not as dominant in a single area like Strong is in contested situations. But of course, he has plenty of ability at the catch point to compliment his athleticism. In essence, Coates is a discount Sammy Watkins, which is still a fine player.

Inexperience and lack of volume may hurt Smelter early on, but his potential is far better than that of Strong and Coates. He has a smooth, natural ability to find the ball in the air, coupled with untapped ability as a route runner (which can be accredited to Georgia Tech’s dull use of receivers). His athleticism and fluidity is off the charts and his assumed NFL Combine performance may end up sky-rocketing him up boards and out of Oakland’s grasp. If Oakland ends up with him early in the second round in May, he will prove to be a steal.

After from a receiver on Day 2, could, or should, Oakland double-dip? The may not have to if they sign a solid free agent receiver, but if not, a second receiver is up for discussion in the fourth round or later. With a big, strong receiver first, it would be best to take a more athletic, shifty type, like a Jamison Crowder. But alas, it is even tougher to project mid-round players right now because of the uncertainty of who does/doesn’t declare.

Oakland absolutely has to make it a priority to get weapons for Derek Carr. Of course, the offensive line could use some shoring up as well, but for a quarterback who has overcome such a poor line already, it would be more fitting to get Carr more viable options to throw to. Carr has so much unseen talent because of how bad Oakland’s roster is right now, but with a couple of key additions, the Oakland offense under Carr could really open up.

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