Five Oakland Raiders Ready To Break Out In 2015

GUARD GABE JACKSON

General Manager Reggie McKenzie found a gem in the third round of the 2014 NFL Draft when he selected Jackson out of Mississippi State with the 81st overall pick.

After an impressive rookie training camp, Jackson earned the starting job at left guard and proceeded to make 12 starts in 2014, appearing in 13 total games for the Silver and Black.

Now, heading into his second NFL season, Jackson is undoubtedly a player on the rise on the Raiders offensive line and has drawn rave reviews from new offensive line coach Mike Tice.

"I think a guy that's had the best offseason of everybody, and that's Gabe Jackson out of Mississippi State," Tice told SiriusXM NFL Radio. "Gabe is a big, athletic, strong -- great football background. His dad was a high school football coach. I think he's a rising star. I think he has a chance to be a really good one."

Together with tackle Donald Penn, the left side of the Oakland offensive line is in good shape heading into training camp, but be sure to keep an eye on Jackson and see just how big his second-year leap really is this season.

CORNERBACK DJ HAYDEN

This is without question the biggest season of DJ Hayden's professional career.

The Raiders selected the former Houston Cougar with the 12th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, but since he entered the NFL he has only appeared in 18 total games, making 12 starts.

Hayden returned from the reserve/physically unable to perform list for the team's Week 8 matchup against the Cleveland Browns last season and then cracked the starting lineup two weeks later.

He performed well during his eight starts in 2014, picking off a pass from Peyton Manning as well as providing quality coverage as the season went on.

There is no doubt that Hayden is motivated to take his game to the next level entering his third year in the NFL, but as was mentioned earlier, his health will play a crucial role in making that vision a reality.

If Hayden can find a way to stay on the field and keep learning on the fly, there's a good chance that he can develop into the type of No. 1 cornerback that the Raiders drafted him to be.

RUNNING BACK LATAVIUS MURRAY

After bursting onto the national scene during the Raiders Thursday Night Football matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs, it was all but impossible to keep Latavius Murray off this list.

For the first time in his professional career, Murray is entering training camp as the incumbent – although as of now Head Coach Jack Del Rio has yet to name him the starting running back.

After Murray took over as the featured back last season, the Raiders running game found new life and the former Central Florida Knight ended the season with 82 carries for 424 yards (5.2 avg.) with two touchdowns.

Murray possesses all the intangibles to be a starting running back in the NFL, now all he has to do is put that production together for a full season.

If Murray earns the starting job in Oakland's backfield, 16 games of dedicated action could produce big results for the Raiders young rusher.

LINEBACKER KHALIL MACK

Mack lived up the billing as the No. 5 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, starting all 16 games of his rookie season for the Raiders, earning a bevy of awards in the process.

While the Raiders coaching staff is keeping exactly where Mack will line up defensively in 2015 a bit of a mystery for the time being, the second-player has the physical tools and natural ability to become a defensive force this season.

As good as Mack's rookie year was, there is still ample room for him to improve, particularly when it comes to his sack totals.

Head Coach Jack Del Rio has said that Mack's four sacks from a year ago simply aren't enough, and he's right.

If he wants to be considered one of the elite pass rushers in the game, Mack will need to see those numbers rise, but with a little more help on the defensive side of the ball and a year of NFL experience under his belt, 2015 could have big things in store for the Raiders linebacker.

TIGHT END CLIVE WALFORD

Standing at 6'4" and tipping the scales at 258 pounds, rookie tight end Clive Walford looks every bit the part of an NFL starting tight end.

After an impressive career at the University of Miami, the Raiders selected Walford in the third round (No. 68) overall of the 2015 NFL Draft, and since arriving at the team's Alameda, Calif., facility, the rookie has more than lived up to the billing as a dual-threat tight end.

The Raiders brought in tight end Lee Smith to serve primarily as a blocking tight end, and with Mychal Rivera known primarily as a receiving threat, there's a unique opportunity for Walford to excel during his rookie year.

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