With the 2015 NFL Draft only weeks away, the top college prospects are currently participating in their pro days and teams are sketching out their draft boards. The Raiders swept the AFC West in 2010, but since then, they have won just seven games against the Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers collectively.
The day the Raiders hired Jack Del Rio as head coach, Del Rio told NFL Media's Albert Breer, "Day one, our goal is to win the division, that won't change. Day one, every year that will be our goal, to win the division. That's where you start. Everything we do has to be around looking to win the division."
With six games each season against divisional opponents and the associated rivalries, these games are the most important on the slate every year.
Each team's gains and losses in free agency help determine their draft needs. We discuss:
Peyton Manning has become the Michael Jordan of the NFL, making supporting cast members into stars. TE Julius Thomas took his pass-catching skills and 24 TDs (in just 27 games) over the last two years to Jacksonville. Manning's former Colts teammate Jacob Tamme left for Atlanta. Although new head coach Gary Kubiak added former Houston Texans TE Owen Daniels, this could be a position of emphasis for the Broncos. WR Wes Welker is currently a free agent but Emmanuel Sanders' arrival and pairing with Demaryius Thomas accounted for 212 catches. Kubiak's arrival also means a return to the zone blocking stretch and cut scheme Mike Shanahan used to manufacture 1,000-yard rushers. Zone blocking scheme offensive linemen could also be a need here. Defensively, new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who historically has run a 3-4 scheme, could be looking for a new nose tackle with the departure of Terrance Knighton to Washington. Denver did add DT Vance Walker in free agency. The Broncos have collected pass rushers in the draft and free agency the past few years and edge rushers will have an increased emphasis in Phillips' scheme. Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware accounted for 24 of the team's 41 sacks in 2014.
TOP 5 DRAFT NEEDS: TE | DT | LB | WR | OL
Game action photos from the Raiders 24-20 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 12 action.
Kansas City Chiefs**
No wide receiver caught a touchdown pass for the Chiefs in 2014. Not one. The Chiefs lost Dwayne Bowe to the Cleveland Browns and Donnie Avery is currently a free agent. However, Kansas City brought in Jeremy Maclin and Jason Avant from Philadelphia as Andy Reid reunites with some familiar weapons. Alex Smith is not known as a downfield thrower and these receivers give him deep threat options to go with explosive second-year player De'Anthony Thomas. The Chiefs lost C Rodney Hudson to the Raiders and are looking to fill that position. Hudson anchored the Chiefs line the past two years. The Chiefs offense is predicated on RB Jamaal Charles' ability to run the ball and QB Alex Smith's decision making. Since Tony Gonzalez left, the Chiefs have used a variety of players at the tight end position. Anthony Fasano just left in free agency. Like with Denver, tight end looks to be a position of need. Kansas City has built one of the most aggressive defenses the NFL has seen in some time and recently added former Raiders SS Tyvon Branch.
TOP 5 DRAFT NEEDS: OL | TE | DL | DB | LB
San Diego Chargers
Philip Rivers is cemented as the quarterback for the Chargers. The team has been unable to fill LaDainian Tomlinson's shoes. Ryan Mathews was supposed to be that guy but injuries derailed his time in San Diego and he is now with Philadelphia. Longtime veteran Ronnie Brown is currently a free agent. San Diego found a gem in undrafted free agent RB Branden Oliver out of the University of Buffalo. WR Eddie Royal left for Chicago and the team's problems along the offensive line were well-documented last season. Bottom line is, with head coach Mike McCoy's offense, aside from TE Antonio Gates, the Chargers will always look for weapons and protectors. Defensively, San Diego has done fairly well the past few years with a relatively anonymous defense. However, defensive backs Marcus Gilchrist and Shareece Wright left via free agency, and pass rusher Dwight Freeney is currently a free agent. Playing in the same division with Manning, the Chargers could be on the hunt for defensive help as well.
TOP 5 DRAFT NEEDS: RB | OL | LB | DB | WR