State of the (Raider) Nation

A New Era for the Silver and Black in Sin City

Result: Missed Playoffs

2019 Regular season record: 7-9

2019 Scoring Offensive Rank: 24th 19.6 PPG 

2019 Scoring Defensive Rank: 24th 26.2 PPG

2020 Draft First Round Pick: 12, 19 

Coach: Jon Gruden  

The Offseason Scenario:

Sure, 7-9 is seldom a cause for celebration, especially in the Raiders final season in Oakland (for now), but that mark is tied for their second-best season since 2012. 

The Raiders, put simply, have not been great.

Since Jon Gruden’s first stint as Raiders head coach ended in 2001, Oakland has had a whopping nine head coaches and only two playoff appearances, the best of which was their 2002 Super Bowl run (essentially Gruden’s roster), in which they lost to Gruden’s new team, the Buccaneers. 

As the Silver and Black get ready to move away from Oakland for the second time, you’ve got to wonder about the stability of their fan base. Loyalists in Oakland and Los Angeles have helped make the Raiders one of the most popular teams on the planet, but will that loyalty survive the move to Nevada?

Frustration in the Bay area is palpable, complete with fans rioting, booing and burning jerseys during and after their final home game, a week fifteen loss to Jacksonville.  Oakland remained a wildcard hopeful at that point, but two road losses to close out the season left the Raiders out in the cold.

Say what you want, Raiders fans care. A lot.

The players may miss Oakland’s rabid fan base, but one thing they won’t regret is moving to a beautiful new facility in Las Vegas. Because, let’s be honest here, the Coliseum has seen better days. One thing I think will be interesting about the move is the potential for a lack of homefield advantage, as opposing teams are likely to have an above average amount of support in such a major tourist destination with an as yet undeveloped local fan base.    

Free Agent Frenzy:

Well, the Raiders may have missed out on Tom Brady, but they aren’t heading to Vegas without some new chips.  They’ve been very active in free agency, bringing in a slew of new talent to add to the mix.

First off, they’ve added former Titans QB Marcus Mariota on a two-year deal for about $8.5 million per season.  But Mariota’s arrival from the Tennessee might not mean that the Derek Carr era is over. This could potentially be a straight-up QB competition to watch once the preseason gets rolling.

They’ve also picked up a tandem of veteran pass catchers in Nelson Agholor (from Philly) and future Hall of Fame TE Jason Witten (from Dallas).  It’s a duo that should provide whichever QB is under center some steady veteran hands to target in high pressure situations.

Defensively, the Raiders have brought in linebackers Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkowski, plus some help for the secondary with CB Eli Apple and SS Jeff Heath. They’ve also bolstered the defensive line with the additions of Carl Nassib and Maliek Collins.  That’s a lot of moves, but Oakland still has a little over $6 million left against the salary cap. Well played, Jon Gruden, well played. And then there’s the draft… 

Seriously Premature Draft Hunches: 

When the Raiders traded away all-everything outside linebacker Khalil Mack to Chicago, he instantly turned Chicago’s defense into a top-five unit.  But what has that deal done for Oakland?

Well, the deal gave the Raiders the Bears first round picks in 2019 AND 2020. That’s meaningful, especially since the Amari Cooper deal also brought in a 2019 first rounder from Dallas.  This means that between last year’s draft and this one, Oakland will have netted an insane five first round selections, with two in the upcoming draft. Add in Chicago’s offensive regression, and this year’s extra selection (pick #19) is much more valuable than the Raiders brass probably thought it would be.  The Raiders are historically notorious for overvaluing speed in the draft, but this might be the year to look closely at those numbers.

At twelve overall, Las Vegas will have a shot at a slew of potential number one receivers. They should without question grab their favorite speedster with their first pick, then look to sort out the linebacker position, or interior defensive lineman at number nineteen overall.   

For more thoughts and opinions from Tom, check out his author page.

Image Source: AP Images

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