'Tis the season to be making predictions. Now that the OTAs and minicamps are done for the year and before we get to training camp at the end of July, I'm going to take my shot at predicting the final roster.
Without further adieu, here is my guess at the final 53 players. The players I think of as certain or near certain are in bold. The ones that are in italics I consider very likely and the guesses are marked as so.
- Jared Veldheer, Stefon Wizniewski, Mike Brisiel, Joseph Barksdale, Tony Bergstrom, Khalif Barnes, Cooper Carlisle and ? (guess: Alex Parsons)
Why these players?: Veldheer and Wizniewski are both up and comers and possible Pro Bowlers as soon as this season. Mike Brisiel was the Raiders top priority in free agence and signed a 5 year deal. Obviously, these 3 are locks to make the roster.
Joseph Barksdale and Tony Bergstrom are in their 2nd and 1st years, respectively. Both have zone blocking experience and both are cheap. They've also both shown promise. They are extremely likely to make the team as backups.
Khalif Barnes and Cooper Carlisle were both resigned to 1 year contracts. They have both run with the 1st team offense in OTAs and minicamp to date – Carlisle at LG and Barnes at RT. The team would be thrilled if either was beaten outright in camp by a young player, I'd imagine, because both veterans have definite limitations. However, they will likely start the offseason as the de facto starters and will be given the benefit of the doubt until they are beaten so I have them both as highly likely to make the squad, still.
There are two guesses, here – I'm guessing only 8 OL players although the team could take 9 for the final squad. I have Alex Parsons in because he's versatile enough to play guard or center. He's been running with the first team this offseason at Center in place of injured Stefon Wizniewski.
If the Raiders take a ninth offensive lineman, I'd expect a tackle to be retained. At this time, only Barksdale seems likely to make the roster and be able to play at LT. Rookie Bergstrom played RT in college and could potentially sub in, there.
-Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart, Terrelle Pryor
Why these players?: This position is fairly cut and dry. Palmer is clearly the starter, Leinart was signed to be his backup and has done nothing so far to change anyone's mind that he is the 2nd QB. He's stood out in camp for throwing a very nice ball and can make throws everywhere on the field. Pryor is being given a chance to show he's the QB of the future. His mechanics need work and hopefully his accuracy can improve but he's better than expected thus far, showing great athleticism and better accuracy than many expected.
-Darren McFadden, Mike Goodson, Taiwan Jones, Marcel Reece, Owen Schmitt
Why these players?: This position also seems to be fairly set. McFadden is one of the most explosive players in the league, when healthy, Goodson was traded for in the offseason and looks good and Taiwan Jones has looked to be the fastest player on a fast team this offseason. Goodson and Jones will be battling to backup McFadden but it's likely that all three will have extensive playing time in Greg Knapp's run-heavy scheme. All three look like they can excel as well.
For FB, Marcel Reece is a talented and young player that can lead block as well as be a threat out of the backfield. Owen Schmitt has good hands and is probably a more natural blocker but will be less explosive in the passing and running game – he's more of a traditional FB that can also be used as a safety outlet. Both will figure to play a lot in Knapp's scheme, as well.
-Darrius Heyward-Bey, Denarius Moore, Juron Criner, Jacoby Ford and ? and ? (guesses: Rod Streater and Louis Murphy)
Why these players: The Raiders could only take 5 receivers but that seems low considering the amount of injuries the team has sustained at this position in previous years.
DHB is coming off a career year, his base salary is not prohibitive and his skill set seems to be a good match for the scheme being implemented. He's been running 1st team this offseason and while I expect him to eventually lose his starting position to more talented players it doesn't seem likely he's in any threat of actually losing his spot on the team.
Moore was last year's breakout player and is a lock to make the team. Criner has been one of the camp's standouts plus he's one of the few draft picks of the new administration – he's going to make the team.
Ford looks to be targeted to the slot role instead of splitting outside but that's a more natural fit for him, anyway. He's still a talented enough receiver to like his odds on making the team.
Outside of those 4 there are no proven threats on the team. I have Louis Murphy and Rod Streater as my guesses to round out the WR corps.
Streater has looked very good in camp – mentioned almost as many times as Criner for his consistently great play – and ran with the 1st team in Denarius Moore's absence. Streater looks to be the best candidate as Moore's backup at the flanker position and he's a good fit for that role. He's also been praised by both Palmer and head coach Dennis Allen.
Murphy has been a talented but inconsistent force since he was drafted in 2009. However, he's still young and has shown flashes of great ability. He has good size and good hands. He struggled last season but if he can shake whatever his issues were he still seems like he can be a solid contributor to the team.
-Brandon Myers, David Ausberry and ? (likely Richard Gordon)
Why these players?: Myers has been running with the first team offense and has looked decent. He is a solid blocker, which is a positive in this scheme and has average hands. He isn't going to be an amazing receiver but TEs frequently stay in to block in Knapp's scheme. He just needs to be a solid route runner and a safety outlet for Palmer more than a downfield threat.
Ausberry, on the other hand, is a pass catching tight end and is really the only natural receiving threat on the roster. He's got good size and speed and should be able to make the roster for those attributes. He and Palmer have been developing good chemistry and he's making some great receptions in camp. His blocking will be his biggest question but he's still well worth a roster spot.
Richard Gordon is my guess for the 3rd and final TE. He's had some good moments in camp but also had some easy passes dropped. He's got exceptional size – he's one of the biggest and most solid members of the team – and is a great blocking TE. He's able to make plays by faking a block and sliding out to be open in a flat or running short to intermediate routes with great success.
-Lamarr Houston, Tommy Kelly, Richard Seymour, Matt Shaughnessy, Dave Tollefson, Desmond Bryant, Christo Bilukidi, Jack Crawford and ? (guess: NT Travis Ivey)
Why these players: Houston, Kelly, Seymour and Shaughnessy look likely to be the first team defensive line. Tollefson was a targeted free agent this offseason so he's clearly in the team's plan. Bryant is a backup DT and DE and can play DE in a 3-4 as well. He's a valuable and still cheap option so he's highly likely to make the team as well.
Bilukidi and Crawford are likely simply because they are young, cheap and were drafted by the current regime so they have a leg up, there. Plus there is a need for backups at DT and DE.
Because the defensive line rotates more than the offensive line I put 9 players, here. Travis Ivey needs to prove he belongs but he's the only true NT on the defense and if the team wants to play a 3-4 more than once or twice a game they'll need a NT to clog up the middle.
-Aaron Curry, Rolando McClain, Philip Wheeler, Travis Goethel, Miles Burris, Nathan Stupar, and ? (Guess: Kaelin Burnett)
Why these players: Curry, McClain and Wheeler look to be the first team LB corps for a 4-3 alignment. McClain may face a suspension to start the season and if that's the case, he could be cut but I doubt it, still, for this season.
Goethel, Burris and Stupar are all likely as they are all young and talented. Goethel has had issues staying on the field but if he can stay healthy, he's shown enough at camps to deserve to make the squad. Burris and Stupar are, again, some of the few draft picks this administration has been able to make and it's unlikely they'll get cut.
Burnett is simply a guess because he's versatile and has stood out starting at the rookie minicamp, through OTAs and into the final, team minicamp. He still has an uphill battle but there aren't many options – LB is one of the thinnest positions on the team. The only other two players in contention, currently, are Carl Ihenacho and Mario Kurns.
-Ron Bartell, Tyvon Branch, Chimdi Chekwa, Michael Huff, Shawntae Spencer, DeMarcus Van ****, Matt Giordano and ? and ? (guess: Pat Lee and Curtis Taylor)
Why these players: Bartell and Spencer have been running 1st team CBs although they aren't a lock to make the team even still. Chekwa and DVD are 2nd year players with promise and should easily make the squad.
Branch is the teams Franchise player. Huff's contract isn't too prohibitive and he's flashed skills. Allen and DC Jason Tarver are planning on using his skills more by moving him around and disguising his coverage more under the new system.
Giordano is the closest thing the team has to a ball hawk and showed enough last season as Huff's backup to warrant being resigned. He has ties to both Allen and McKenzie as well.
The team needs a 5th CB, likely, although it's possible they load up more at Safety and move Huff to play CB in spread sets. I don't have Mike Mitchell as this administration is less likely to cover for his inadequacies as the previous one that drafted him. He's not been able to get on the field since the new coaching staff arrived due to a nagging knee injury.
I'm really taking a guess on Taylor at S. It easily could be UDFA Aaron Henry or UDFA Chaz Powell both of which have made their fair share of plays in minicamp. The issue for all three of Henry, Powell and Taylor is that they are likely all better fits as FS as opposed to backing Tyvon up at SS. However, I'm going to go on a limb and say that Mitchell doesn't make the team and one of these players does, instead.
- Sebastian Janikowski, Shane Lechler, Jon Condo
Why these players: Oh, they're each only about the best at what they do in the league. Every year Janikowski is a good bet to get the record for longest field goal in NFL history (he shares the title right now). Lechler is an every year Pro Bowler and puts up mind boggling numbers year in and year out. Condo, the long snapper, works well with both and when was the last time you heard his name for doing something wrong? For a long snapper, not ever hearing your name is about as good as it gets because if you mess up, everyone will talk about you but if you do your job, it's fairly silent.
-Mike Mitchell was close, it's simply a gut judgement.
-There are good options at WR including 6'4" Eddie McGee and Free Agent Duke Calhoun that seem like they could be in over Louis Murphy.
-I'm not happy with the depth at OL so I can easily see them taking a 9th player, especially a tackle.
-Pat Lee was a complete guess at DB. That 5th DB position is completely open and there are many players contending for it. It will be an interesting battle in camp.
For more Raiders news and analysis follow me on Twitter @AsherMathews
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