Breaking down Raiders wide receivers

Cary Emondson-US PRESSWIRE

With youth and newcomers all across the Oakland Raiders' roster this season, there's sure to be a number of new faces along the sideline when the 2013 season kicks off.

Of all the positions infiltrated by youth, however, perhaps none is younger than wide receiver.

Of the 13 receivers currently on the roster, only one has been in the league for more than four seasons — Josh Cribbs — and six of them are either in their first or second season in the league.

Despite the youth, however, it's interesting to note that the wide receiver position probably has the most familiar faces of any position on the roster.

At the top of the projected depth chart are returners Denarius Moore, Jacoby Ford, Rod Streater, and Juron Criner — four guys who figure to see plenty of playing time this season.

The question, is where those guys will shake out and whether any of them can make the jump to becoming a legitimate No. 1 receiver.

At the moment, according to Head Coach Dennis Allen, Moore is the guy expected to be atop the list in Week 1:

I’d say he’s the guy that’s got the most experience out there right now. He’s a guy that we’re counting on being our No. 1 receiver.

Moore, the fifth-round pick from Tennessee in 2011, burst onto the scene as a rookie with over 600 yards and five touchdowns in 13 games as a rookie.

Unfortunately, he didn't quite make the jump to consistency and dependability that Allen and the Raiders were hoping in his sophomore season, tallying 741 yards and seven touchdowns in 15 games.

So is 2013 the season that Moore breaks the 1,000-yard barrier?

While only time will tell in answering that question, it's clear that Moore has the speed and hands necessary to do so, it's just a matter of when he puts everything together.

So with Moore projected atop the depth chart, the question then shifts to who stands to lineup alongside him.

In my mind, the most intriguing member of the group is Jacoby Ford, the four-year veteran out of Clemson.

In 2010, Ford showed similar promise to that of Moore — proving to be an elusive pass-catcher with reliable hands, but Ford has played in just eight games since 2010 and tallied just 19 catches.

If Ford can build upon the potential he showed as a rookie, Oakland could have one of the league's fastest wideout tandems.

Two other guys competing for starting spots are second-year guys Juron Criner and Rod Streater.

Criner, the fifth-round pick from Arizona, turned a lot of heads in mini camp last season but never saw that talent translate on the field. One thing Criner does have going for him, however, is his size.

At 6'3", Criner is three inches taller than Moore and six inches taller than Ford, which could make him the perfect compliment to the two speedsters.

Like Moore, Allen has high expectations for Criner this season:

A guy like Juron Criner is a guy that needs to become more involved. He’s a guy that we’re looking for to kind of step up and fill a role for us.

The last returner on the roster was the surprise of 2012, Rod Streater.

After going undrafted, Streater became one of Oakland's most reliable receivers with 39 catches for 584 yards. One downside to Streater, however, is that he doesn't have the athletic upside that the other three guys mentioned do.

The last item to discuss among receivers is the crop of rookies coming in — and perhaps no team more than Oakland has hope for rookie receivers.

In the past two seasons, Oakland has struck gold with under-the-radar receivers like Moore and Streater, and many around Oakland are wondering: could Brice Butler be this year's surprise?

While mini-camp can be misleading considering the rustiness, the reports on Butler have been mostly positive — highlighted by a number of impressive catches over the week.

Other guys to keep an eye on are rookie Conner Vernon — the ACC all-time leading receiver (yards and receptions) — and Cribbs — the special teams specialist.

But where does all of this leave Oakland heading into training camp? Is the wide receiver position one of strength or weakness?

Ultimately, it all comes down to perspective.

On one hand, the sky is the limit for this group of youngsters, but on the other, there isn't a guy here who has proven himself to be a consistent receiver at this level.

At the very least, I guess, this group should be exciting. Whether that leads to more wins or losses, though, remains to be seen.

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