Last year, Derek Carr completed a pass to 17 different players and 10 of them were wide receivers. The departure of Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams' nagging foot injury forced the Raiders to get creative at one of the most critical positions on the roster, but this offseason the team has added depth and a wealth of talent to make sure that isn't the case in 2020.
For years now, the AFC West was getting faster, but the Silver and Black were lagging. Legendary Raiders Owner Al Davis always had an infatuation with speed and Head Coach Jon Gruden wants to bring that dynamic back to the Raiders' offense, which is why with the team's first pick of the 2020 NFL Draft Gruden and General Manager Mike Mayock selected the fastest player in the draft, Henry Ruggs III.
The hope is that Ruggs will grow into the WR1 the Raiders desperately need and he'll have plenty of opportunities to establish himself as such this season. Ruggs isn't the only receiver capable of having an impressive year though, so let's take a look at the rest of the position group.
Previous Position Battles:
Henry Ruggs III
View photos of the Las Vegas Raiders wide receiving corps heading into 2020 Training Camp. The group features Tyrell Williams, Zay Jones, Hunter Renfrow, first-round pick Henry Ruggs III, third-round pick Bryan Edwards and free-agent addition Nelson Agholor.
When healthy, Hunter Renfrow and Tyrell Williams proved to be Derek Carr's go-to receivers. A season ago, both were new additions to the team and unfamiliar with Coach Gruden's offense, but the duo quickly grasped its concepts and was able to flourish in their roles. Together, they combined for 1,256 yards, 91 receptions, and 10 touchdowns. Williams was able to suit up for 14 games, starting in 12, despite his plantar fasciitis ailment and Renfrow was able to recover swiftly from a broken rib and punctured lung in the middle of the season to play in a total of 13 games.
Renfrow took on more responsibility than expected, proving to be a reliable option for Carr, and his ability to learn Gruden's complex system granted him more playing time. The former Clemson Tiger looks like the team's starting slot receiver for years to come, but he and Williams won't be enough to take opposing defenses by surprise, which is why adding more speed was a priority this offseason.
Before the wide receiver-loaded draft, NFL analysts went back and forth on who the Raiders would select with the No. 12 overall pick. It was hard to differentiate between the top-flight prospects at the top of the draft, but one thing Henry Ruggs III possessed that the others didn't was unmatchable speed, which felt like the icing on the cake for Gruden and Mayock. In a division where Keenan Allen and Tyreek Hill are running free, the Raiders needed to find their guy and Ruggs is it. With 4.27 40-yard dash speed, Gruden will be able to get creative with Ruggs and stretch the field in ways that seemed unimaginable before, and it'll open up the running game for Ruggs' former Alabama teammate Josh Jacobs.
Gruden and Mayock didn't stop with Ruggs though, in the third round of the draft they decided to add more depth with Bryan Edwards from the University of South Carolina. Edwards set a handful of school records as a Gamecock: Consecutive games with a catch (48), career receptions (234), and career receiving yards (3,045). At 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, Edwards boasts a physical playing style that should make it easy for him to translate to the NFL level.
The rookie class is earning most of the attention this offseason, but don't forget about Nelson Agholor, the former USC Trojan and former Philadelphia Eagle. His addition to the roster is going to add more competition and I wouldn't be surprised if he earned a good portion of minutes this year. We can expect Ruggs, Renfrow, and Williams to be featured in the offense, but with Agholor, Edwards, and Zay Jones in the mix it's tough to predict how the group will shake out come September; however, this is a good problem to have.
With two new rookies in the fold and other pieces in place, the Raiders have the potential to become an explosive offense in 2020.
This team's identity is pounding the rock behind a dominant offensive line, but with more weapons at receiver this year, I expect there to be more of a balance. I predict Ruggs will lead the team in receiving yards somewhere in the ballpark of 850 and add six touchdowns. As a whole, I think the Raiders will reach 4,500 receiving yards total — for reference, the 17 players who caught a pass last season combined for 4,110 yards.