Even a Krayt Dragon Won’t Work: How to Fix the Oakland Raiders
What? You don’t know what a Krayt Dragon is?
Well, shame on you. Particularly if you’re a Star Wars fan.
When Luke Skywalker and C3-PO managed to get jumped by Tusken Raiders on Tatooine looking for a runaway R2-D2, Obi-Wan Kenobi makes a Krayt Dragon sound to scare them off. Don’t remember? Check it out below. At least the theatrical version. The blu-ray version just sounds like something out of “America’s Favorite Home Videos” when that guy stubbed his toe running across his patio.
Unfortunately, the Oakland Raiders have way more problems than the Tusken Raiders from Star Wars. Well, except for the fact that the Tusken Raiders live in the middle of a blazing hot desert with no water and, apparently, only one clothing store since they all wear exactly the same thing. But I digress.
The Oakland Raiders have significant problems both on offense and on defense. In 2014, the Raiders ended up dead last for total offensive yards per game (282.2) and 21st in effectiveness with regard to total yards allowed on defense (357.6). The defense was actually not terrible, and there is reason to believe that it will continue an upward trajectory with the returning talent (including rookie linebacker Kalil Mack and, assuming they resign him, cornerback Tarell Brown, among others).
But the offense sputtered badly. It took quite some time for the Raiders to figure out that the only thing that was still good about the detrimental duo of Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden was their nicknames (i.e. MJD and Run DMC, which I admit are actually pretty cool nicknames). But once they hit Week 12 against Kansas City, where Latavius Murray rolled up 112 yards and 2 TDs in just 4 carries, well, it was pretty clear that the Raiders had found their run game. The Raiders will also stick with sophomore Derek Carr at QB, after likely letting Matt Shaub go (UPDATE: And if you want to know more about Derek Carr, check out my breakdown of Derek Carr). Incoming Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio has significant enthusiasm about Carr’s ability to lead the offense stating:
“He’s got a really quick release, good decision maker; he’s shown some of that grit we’re looking for, some of that toughness, so he’s a guy that we feel like we have an opportunity to build around.”
Well, that sounds promising. The only problem is that, as Gisele pointed out to the media after Super Bowl XLVI, a quarterback can’t pass the ball to himself. And right now, the lineup of wide receivers in Oakland is led by the likes of James Jones, Andre Holmes and Rod Streater (assuming they’re even back in 2015).
The Raiders come into the off season with the second most cap space of any NFL team. So, no reason to avoid picking up some help for Carr to turn this last place offense around. Free agent wide receiver options are still to be determined, but are likely to be thin. Demaryius Thomas, Dez Bryant, Jeremy Maclin and Torrey Smith are unlikely to leave their respective teams (or will be kept off the open market with a franchise tag). But Randall Cobb and Michael Crabtree may be free game.
Randall Cobb would be a huge get for Oakland (and perhaps James Jones will improve with his former running mate), but there will be significant competition for his services. Perhaps Crabtree would be a more reasonable, more affordable option, while still providing as much upside as Cobb. Clearly, there would also be significantly more risk in Crabtree, but when have the Raiders been risk adverse? Crabtree never quite returned to the promise he showed in the 2012 playoffs, but perhaps he’s just rounding back into form. Crabtree is only 27 (to be 28 around the beginning of the 2015 season) so there’s still potential there, and he may be the best of what’s available once Cobb is off the market.
And if the Raiders obtain Mr. Crabtree’s services, what better move than to acquire a move tight end like Jordan Cameron. Cameron has already made it clear he doesn’t want to go back to Cleveland, and two veteran pass catchers would help solidify the receiving core.
Although I’m not usually a fan of drafting wide receivers in the early first round, this is a situation where I think Oakland should spend it’s number 4 pick on top wide receiver prospect, Amari Cooper. But even if the Raiders decide to pass on wide receiver there, another potential target is Jaelen Strong in the early second round. He was Arizona State’s go-to receiver last year showing great hands and an ability to fight through coverage. And who could forget this highlight against USC:
Frankly, there’s so much attention on Cooper, Kevin White and DeVante Parker that Strong is flying under the radar. He could be a real value in the second round. Either way, a top end rookie wide receiver would be a wise choice for the Raiders.
Well, so there you go Oakland. Fix your receiving options, and perhaps you have a one out of a million chance of beating the Broncos, Chiefs and Chargers next season and winning the AFC West. But as Jim Carrey said in the classic Dumb & Dumber (NOT Dumb and Dumber To, which had the dubious distinction of lowering my IQ by 10 points from just watching the trailer — and trust me, I don’t have much to spare):
“So you’re telling me there’s a chance…YEAH!”