Wide Receiver Derek Carr and Wide Receiver Amari Cooper
Quarterback Derek Carr enjoyed a breakout sophomore season in 2015. He threw for just under 4,000 yards, and established himself as one of the best up-and-coming-quarterbacks in the NFL, in large part due to the weapons the team surrounded him with.
While Carr showed an improved understanding of the offense and the nuances of playing quarterback compared to his rookie season, as the season wore on the Raiders' wide receivers emerged as one of the strongest position groups on the team.
In their first season in Silver and Black, the tandem of Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree was impressive, finishing the season with a combined 157 receptions for 1,992 yards and 15 touchdowns, and provided Carr legitimate No. 1 and No. 2 options on the outside.
However, the depth at the wide receiver position didn't stop there, as both Seth Roberts and Andre Holmes also put together impressive campaigns.
Heading into 2016, the top four wide receiver positions are primarily set – Head Coach Jack Del Rio said as much this offseason – but behind the top four there are definitely jobs to be won and passes to be caught.
"I think depth for us at the back of our wide receiver corps is critical for us," said Head Coach Del Rio. "I would think that we'll continue to explore any possibility to add depth on the back end of our receiver group. Our first four guys are pretty solid, but beyond that it gets pretty thin."
As we prepare for Training Camp 2016, let's take a look at the wide receivers on the roster, and what we should expect from them heading into the new season.
K.J. Brent – Rookie – Wake Forest
If nothing else, K.J. Brent certainly looks the part of an NFL wide receiver. Standing at 6'4" and tipping the scales at 190 pounds, the former Wake Forest Demon Deacon possesses the wiry frame and long arms to go up and get the football – particularly in the red zone.
"K.J. is a special route runner," said Carr during Organized Team Activities [OTAs]. "I think he's a really, really good receiver and I think he'll play a long time in the NFL."
As it stands now, Brent is a raw wide receiver, but with a few months of seasoning under his belt and a full training camp, it'll be interesting to see what he can put on film.
Is Brent a lock to make the roster? He's far from it, but you can't teach being tall and having good hands, and he undoubtedly has that in his corner.
Amari Cooper – Second Season – University of Alabama
Cooper certainly lived up to the hype as the 2014 Biletnikoff Award Winner and No. 4 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Not only did Cooper eclipse the 1,000-yard mark and earn a trip to the Pro Bowl after his first NFL season, his 72 receptions are the most ever by a wide receiver 21 or younger, and his six receiving touchdowns were tied for the eighth most by an NFL player 21 or younger as well.
In conjunction with Carr, "AC/DC" proved to be quite a connection in 2015, and heading into 2016, much will be expected from the explosive wide receiver and the Raiders' starting quarterback.
Michael Crabtree – Eighth Season – Texas Tech
After signing with the team in the 2015 offseason, Crabtree enjoyed a career year in his first season in Silver and Black.
His 85 receptions and nine receiving touchdowns led the team in 2015 and he proved to be arguably be the most consistent wide receiver on the roster throughout the course of the regular season.
The two-time Biletnikoff Award winner also showed he had a pension for the dramatic, as his six touchdown catches of 25-plus yards tied with New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and New Orleans Saints wide receiver Brandin Cooks for the most in the NFL.
Crabtree signed a four-year extension with the Raiders in December, so he's set to be a fixture in Silver and Black for the foreseeable future – and combined with Amari Cooper, that's bad news for opposing defenses.
Marvin Hall – Rookie – University of Washington
After spending four seasons as the University of Washington, Hall signed with the Silver and Black as an undrafted free agent.
During his time as a Husky, Hall caught 25 passes and one touchdown, and while he may have had limited production in college, he has proven to be a crafty receiver since arriving in Northern California.
Hall – like many of the other undrafted free agents – is facing an uphill battle to making the roster, and he'll have to prove his worth in the first few weeks of Training Camp 2016.
Joe Hansley – Rookie – Colorado State
Throughout the Offseason Workout Program, Hansley proved to be one of the more intriguing prospects from the ranks of the undrafted free agents.
He's routinely flashed his ability to make catches in tight situations, and his ability to create after the catch is something that has stood out to me watching him throughout OTAs and Minicamp.
Carr has applauded Hansley's route-running abilities throughout the Offseason Workout Program, and both Head Coach Del Rio and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave have also singled out some of Hansley's impressive plays.
Another thing to keep in mind regarding Hansley – he's shown the ability to return punts and kicks, which is something that could bode well for him in his bid to make the final roster.
Andre Holmes – Fifth Season – Hillsdale
For the second straight season, Holmes appeared in all 16 games for the Raiders, producing another quality campaign that saw him find the end zone four times.
The 6'4" wide out has shown to be a valuable weapon in the red zone and seems to have a knack for making impressive, acrobatic catches when called upon.
Heading into his fourth season as a Raider, Holmes will likely be the fourth wide receiver on the depth chart and continue to be a stalwart on special teams as well.
Johnny Holton – Rookie – University of Cincinnati
Holton joins the Silver and Black after finishing his college career at the University of Cincinnati, following a two-year stint at the College of DuPage.
During his final season in Ohio, Holton appeared in eight games, making 17 catches and scoring five touchdowns, and just like many of the other undrafted free agents, he's going to have to put together an impressive Training Camp 2016 if he has any hope of making the final roster.
Max McCaffrey – Rookie – Duke
The former Duke Blue Devil no doubt has the football pedigree to make it in the NFL.
McCaffrey's father is former NFL wide receiver Ed McCaffrey, and his younger brother Christian plays football at Stanford and is one of the frontrunners for this season's Heisman Trophy.
Max is an impressive player in his own right, appearing in 53 games over the course of his career at Duke, hauling in 117 passes for 1,241 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Just watching him throughout OTAs and Minicamp, you can see that he's a polished wide receiver who looks comfortable on the football field, and while he's still a longshot to make the final roster, he's definitely going to be an intriguing player to watch once the team arrives in Napa, Calif., for Training Camp 2016.
Jaydon Mickens – Rookie – University of Washington
The other undrafted rookie from the University of Washington, Mickens enjoyed a little more production in college than his teammate Marvin Hall.
Mickens finished his career in Seattle with 203 receptions for 2,187 yards and 12 touchdowns, and in addition to his work on offense, he also returned kickoffs.
Mickens is another undrafted rookie that has flashed potential throughout the Offseason Workout Program, so it'll be interesting to see what he brings to the table – particularly as a kick returner – once training camp rolls around.
Nathan Palmer – Third Season – Northern Illinois
Signed by the Raiders in May, Palmer is entering his third season in the NFL after stops with myriad teams including both the Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts.
Palmer was a late add to the Silver and Black's roster, so for him in particular, hitting the ground running and putting together a good few weeks at training camp will be crucial in his bid to make the team.
Seth Roberts – Second Season – The University of West Alabama
After spending the 2015 season on the Practice Squad, Roberts enjoyed a breakout season in Silver and Black in 2015. He appeared in all 16 games in 2016, finishing the year with 32 catches for 480 yards and five touchdowns.
As the season wore on, Roberts took control of the slot receiver position, and delivered a pair of game-winning touchdowns in the process.
Roberts' impressive rise to the active roster serves as the perfect example for a young player looking to make it in the NFL, and in 2016, the assumption would be that Roberts would once again have control of the slot position.
Keep An Eye On…
Like we mentioned earlier, the first four wide receivers (Cooper, Crabtree, Roberts and Holmes) are nearly set in stone heading into Training Camp 2016, but the battle for the fifth – and maybe sixth – wide receiver will be something to keep an eye on.
Will the Raiders elect to carry just five wide receivers, or will they carry six and designate one as primarily a kick returner? Only time will tell, but the bottom of this position group is shaping up to be very entertaining.
My early names to watch for that final position (or two) as the team heads to training camp? Joe Hansley, K.J. Brent and Jaydon Mickens.