Oakland Raiders' defensive backfield lacks top flight talent, but could have depth

Ezra Shaw

Recent ESPN blog post says Raiders have just one of the top nine DBs in the division, but four of the top 15 and five of the top 19. After having arguably the worst secondary in football last season, it's easy to see what an upgrade this would be.

If there are two names in Oakland Raiders history more easily forgettable than Shawntae Spencer and Ronald Bartell, you'd be hard-pressed to find them.

(I'll wait while you Google them)

To say that the Oakland Raiders defensive backfield was bad last season would be akin to saying Aaron Hernandez is a bad dude.

True, yes.

Understated, without a doubt.

With this in mind, the reason for excitement when examining the current ranking of defensive backs in the AFC West put out by ESPN is obvious.

Sure, no player inside the top six of a four-team division is disheartening, but last season they wouldn't have had a player inside the top 30.

Among the Raiders cracking the top 29 are Tyvon Branch (No. 7), Charles Woodson (No. 10), DJ Hayden (No. 11), Mike Jenkins (No. 15), Tracy Porter (No. 19), Phillip Adams (No. 24), Brandian Ross (No. 26) and Joselio Hanson (No. 27).

In fact, the only team to have all five starters ahead of Oakland's fifth defensive back is Kansas City (which boasts four of the top eight players on the list).

My initial reaction to the list was three-fold:

1) Wow, no players in the top six, that's not good

2) Wow, Tyvon Branch is really the seventh best defensive back in the division? That seems high

3) Wow, they're really expecting a lot out of Woodson and Hayden this season

Now, after a closer examination of the list, these observations seem a bit rash considering that outside of the top six it's pretty much anybody's game.

For Branch to be that high is a bit surprising given the year he had last season.

In 2012, Branch seemed on the verge of breaking out and a ranking like this might actually have seemed a bit unfair. However, after a forgettable 2013 season, even ranking him sixth could seem a bit optimistic to outsiders.

Then there's Woodson, the veteran that seemingly no team in the league was willing to commit to. While history says that a spot in the top 10 — on reputation alone — is fair, it also seems logical to assume that Woodson has lost a step from his glory days.

Thirdly, we come to Hayden — the most mysterious of the group.

How healthy will he be? Is he ready for the pro game from day one?

While no one can truly claim to know these answers, the amount of faith the Raiders are putting into the youngster seem to indicate they're fairly confident.

After announcing that Hayden would have been their pick at No. 3 in the draft, they said everything they needed to about their belief in his ability to be a star.

That ultimately leads to the other two projected starters — Jenkins and Porter.

While obviously looking to return to forms they've shown in the past, their ranking on this list seems fair and accurate.

Both have the potential to move higher on the list by season's end, but, rightfully so, they're going to have to prove that first.

So what do you think — do the rankings accurately reflect the state of the Oakland defensive backfield? Is there reason for hope compared to the woes of 2012?

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