According to ESPN's Bill Barnwell, Oakland Raiders General Manager Reggie McKenzie has positioned the Silver and Black for success.
Barnwell writes that by managing the salary cap, acquiring as many draft picks as possible, building the team by starting along the offensive and defensive lines, finding the right quarterback, getting the picks at the top of the first round right, and finding the right coach, the Raiders are in excellent shape heading into the offseason.
Barnwell singles out defensive end Khalil Mack, quarterback Derek Carr and rookie wide receiver Amari Cooper as "budding superstars" and writes:
"The real reason that there's visible light at the end of the BART Coliseum pedestrian bridge for the Raiders is that McKenzie has found the sort of players that all great teams need to kick-start their rebuilding projects.
"McKenzie has rebuilt the Raiders in a coherent, logical image. There have been missteps, and Oakland is far from a finished product, but there's the promise of a genuinely exciting future for the first time in years."*
Barnwell also posits that although Raiders fans won't be happy this year with anything short of a playoff run, the AFC West should be there for the taking next year.
"In 2016, though? Why can't the Raiders compete? Their young core of stars should all continue to improve, particularly Cooper, who won't be among the league leaders in drops on a yearly basis. McKenzie will have a full complement of draft picks and more money to spend in free agency than anybody else in football.
"The two very good teams in the AFC West likely will be worse than they were a year ago. There's every reason to think that the Raiders will be better. There are no guarantees in football, but after years of wandering in the wilderness, Raiders fans can finally see a plan coming to fruition."