Today, we hit the final, offensive position group in our 2018 Position Review series – the wide receivers.
Give Edgar Bennett credit, the group he had Week 17 was very different than the one he went to training camp with, but all the same, regardless of who was lined up out wide, the Raiders wide receivers coach had those dudes ready to work.
Now just a few days out from heading down to Alabama for the Senior Bowl, let’s take a look back at the Oakland Raiders wideouts, and see what 2019 could have in store for the group.
When you’re talking about the Silver and Black’s wide receivers in ’18, there’s a clear line of demarcation – October 22.
On that day, a week shy of Halloween, and a few days before the team broke for the bye, Amari Cooper was traded to the Dallas Cowboys in exchange for a first-round draft pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
That pick – which ended up being No. 27 overall – became the fodder for much conversation over the coming months, and while Cooper’s trade ultimately resulted in the team losing a quality playmaker outside, it did provide opportunities for other guys on the roster to show that they can bring to an offense.
The Raiders signed veteran wide receiver Brandon LaFell in the offseason to be another weapon for Derek Carr, and while the LSU product only appeared in six games before his season was ultimately cut short because of injury, those six games were quite impressive.
Jordy Nelson was also signed in free agency, and the former Green Bay Packer showed that he still had a lot left in the tank, pacing the team’s wide receivers in total yardage, playing in all but one game in his first season as a Raider.
Once again, Seth Roberts handled most of the work at the slot receiver position, hauling in 45 passes for nearly 500 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Dwayne Harris only caught 20 balls in his first season in Silver and Black, but the wily return man really made his mark on special teams, providing a spark on all of the team’s special teams units.
Keon Hatcher re-joined the team in mid-November, eventually appearing in three games, catching one pass for eight yards.
Saeed Blacknall also saw a single appearance in live action, but the rookie who really saw the most run down the stretch – and also made the most of those chances – was Marcell Ateman.
After spending the first part of his rookie season on the practice squad, Ateman was promoted to the active roster on October 23, and appeared in seven games – with six starts – finishing his first season in the Bay Area with 15 catches for 154 yards and a touchdown.
Not only that, but the athletic rookie from Oklahoma State showed to have a penchant for the big moment, hauling in arguably his biggest catches when the Silver and Black needed them most.
Rounding out the position group, Martavis Bryant made eight appearances last season, totaling 266 yards before he was placed on the reserve/suspended by commissioner list.
The Number To Know:
That’s how many yards Jordy Nelson had Week 3 against the Miami Dolphins. That number was the second-highest mark of his illustrious career, and with that effort, he became just the sixth player since 2008 to record multiple 60-yard receptions in a game.
And people were concerned about whether or not he still had the juice.
Position Group MVP:
Jordy Nelson is the clear choice for this one, and he’s going to get the nod.
I know that No. 82 quietly went about his business, but with players coming in and out of the lineup for much of the season, Nelson was about as consistent as consistent could be, excluding the one game he missed due to injury.
Particularly after Cooper left, the Raiders offense needed a guy who could be the main option out wide, and as far as the wide receivers were concerned, Nelson was that, and then some for Derek Carr.
His on-field production aside, Nelson was the epitome of veteran leader, and to a man, all the Raiders wide receivers spoke about how much he benefitted the group overall.
There could certainly be a little bit of fluidity in this position group headed into next year.
As of now, of all the wide receivers that ended 2018 on the active roster, just Jordy Nelson, Seth Roberts, and Keon Hatcher are under contract for 2019.
Dwayne Harris is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent, as are Brandon LaFell and Martavis Bryant, while Marcell Ateman will be an exclusive rights free agent once the new league year arrives.
Truth be told, I’m really excited to see how Head Coach Jon Gruden and General Manager Mike Mayock put together this group going forward. Playmakers are always at a premium, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the Raiders front office goes about filling out the roster – especially at wide receiver.
Reviewing the Raiders wide receivers from the 2018 season.