We're inching closer and closer to not only the start of the 2018 Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, but the conclusion of our Position Review series as well.
Today, we take a look at the Oakland Raiders tight ends, a group that perennially doesn't get enough credit, but is vital to the team's success on the offensive side of the football.
Overview:As dynamic as the Silver and Black's offense was in 2016, if you really wanted to nitpick areas for improvement, one of the biggest ones was that there at times was a lack of production from the tight end position.
Now, when you have Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree each eclipsing 1,000 receiving yards, getting your tight end rocking isn't that big of a concern, but even so, General Manager Reggie McKenzie saw the opportunity to upgrade the position group headed into 2017, and that's exactly what he did.
Enter Jared Cook.
The veteran tight end – who seemed to have a penchant for the big moment throughout his career – signed with the Silver and Black last offseason, and he certainly didn't disappoint in his first season as a Raider.
Not only did No. 87 lead all Raiders in receiving yards with 688, his 54 receptions were good for second on the team, and he also added a pair of touchdowns for good measure.
In addition to Cook, Clive Walford also found himself in the mix once again in 2017, although his season was eventually cut short because of injury. In the 13 games the third-year tight played in, he caught nine passes for 80 yards.
After appearing in just four games a year ago, Lee Smith returned from injury in a big way for the Silver and Black in 2017, staying healthy all season, and playing in every regular season game for the Raiders.
While Smith's numbers don't jump off the stat sheet – eight catches for 76 yards – the physical tight end is a critical piece in sparking the Raiders run game, and although he doesn't get a ton of shine on the highlight shows, make no mistake, Smith does a lot of the little things that helps ensure an offense succeeds.
Rookie tight end Pharaoh Brown also appeared in two games after being promoted from the practice squad late in the season.
The Number To Know:Seven
With 688 receiving yards, not only did Jared Cook lead the Raiders in receiving, but that mark was also good enough to rank seventh in the league amongst all tight ends.
Going Forward:The first question; what will McKenzie and Head Coach Jon Gruden ultimately decide to do with Lee Smith?
The veteran tight end is set to become a free agent at the start of the league year, so I'll keeping a close eye on where he ends up.
Like we said earlier, No. 86 doesn't necessarily have the most impressive stats you'll see, but he's the kind of player who can't accurately be judged by simply looking at his stats.
As always, I'll be interested to see which players the new coaching staff takes a liking to, and be sure to keep an eye on if there are any new faces inserted into the group the closer we get to training camp.
MVP Of The Position Group:It's Jared Cook.
Come on, the man led the team in receiving yards, and was arguably the most consistent offensive weapon out wide for the Silver and Black in 2017.
It has to be big, No. 87.
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