Five Raiders Rookies to Watch

The Raiders selected 10 players in the 2015 NFL Draft.

The Oakland Raiders currently have 25 rookies on their 90-player roster. That's almost 28 percent of the roster. The Raiders selected 10 players in the 2015 NFL Draft and added 15 undrafted rookie free agents, some of whom earned contracts after attending rookie mini-camp on a tryout basis.

Any discussion of Raiders rookies has to begin with Amari Cooper, the wide receiver out of Alabama the Silver and Black took with the 4th overall pick in this year's Draft. It was tough to pick five from the 25 but here we go…

Amari Cooper | WR | Alabama

Future Hall of Famer Charles Woodson has compared Cooper to former teammate Greg Jennings and one-time nemesis Marvin Harrison. Joining a franchise rich in history and tradition at the position, Cooper has some big shoes to fill. Four Hall of Fame wide receivers have played for the Raiders, including two who were drafted by the Silver and Black. NFL Media's Bucky Brooks and Nate Burleson said recently they expect Cooper to develop into a Hall of Famer.

Unfortunately Cooper was unable to get much work in with quarterback Derek Carr during the offseason program due to an injury to Carr.  With Cooper's body of work and his route-running prowess, he should get up to speed with Carr in no time. James Jones led the team in receiving last year with 73 catches for 666 yards and 6 TDs. Randy Moss was the last Raiders player to surpass 1,000 yards receiving (1,005 in 2005).

Mario Edwards Jr. | DE | Florida State

When an NFL team drafts a player in the second round, immediate dividends are expected. Edwards, the son of former Dallas Cowboys defensive back Mario Edwards Sr., has the pedigree and big-stage experience after winning the BCS National Championship, and making the final four in the first-ever NCAA football playoff with Florida State.

The last player to record double-digit sacks for the Raiders was defensive end Derrick Burgess with 11 in 2006. Edwards, under the tutelage of new Raiders defensive line coach Jethro Franklin, was moved up and down the line during the offseason program. The Raiders finished second-to-last in the NFL in sacks last season. Edwards will be counted on to get after the quarterback.

Clive Walford | TE | Miami

The middle rounds of the Draft are usually a good place to pick up reliable tight end help. Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten was a 3rd round pick in 2003. Seattle Seahawks tight end Jimmy Graham was a 3rd round pick of the New Orleans Saints in 2010.

Walford certainly looks the part. The Raiders are hoping the he can be the every-down tight end they haven't had since Zach Miller left in free agency. The supremely confident University of Miami-product is looking forward to following in the footsteps of the likes of Todd Christensen, Dave Casper and Raymond Chester.

 

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The Raiders selected guard Jon Feliciano in the 4th round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Photo by Tony Gonzales/Raiders.com

Jon Feliciano | G | Miami

The Raiders ventured into the eye of the Hurricane(s) in the 4th round as well, selecting offensive lineman Jon Feliciano. The Silver and Black hit a home run in the third round a year ago with guard Gabe Jackson. With Austin Howard moving back to right tackle after playing guard last season, an opportunity opened at right guard.

Feliciano will be competing with J'Marcus Webb and Khalif Barnes for the spot. As good as Oakland's offensive line was at pass protection last season, run blocking needed a boost. With a new feature back and an offensive line shuffle, Feliciano, new center Rodney Hudson and Jackson could be the crew blowing holes open right up the middle.

Michael Dyer | RB | Louisville

Dyer was a rising star at Auburn and was the Offensive MVP of the Tigers' Cam Netwon-led BCS National Championship team. His college career was disruptive and his finished at Louisville. The Raiders signed him as an undrafted free agent right after the 2015 NFL Draft. He's 5'9" and 218 pounds and he is full of spark.

If Organized Team Activities and mini-camps are any indication, Dyer has a real shot at making the team. He catches the ball well out of the backfield and plays with a chip on his shoulder. Perhaps he can be a factor in the return game. Dyer could be a pleasant surprise.  

Honorable Mention:

Max Valles | DE | Virginia

Valles is long, lean and athletic. He cut his career short at Virginia and declared himself ready for the NFL. More often than not this strategy backfires, but the Raiders saw enough from Valles' workouts and body of work to take him in the 6th round of the Draft. Valles played quite a bit of linebacker in college as well.

As I wrote in the defensive line position battles story, you can never have enough pass rushers, especially when you finish second-to-last in the NFL with 22. Because he was drafted, you expect him to make the team, but Valles could carve out a niche as a productive edge rusher right away.

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