This is a conversation that has taken place for nearly a decade. The Raiders need a number one receiver. As in a TRUE number one. And could THIS finally be the year they get one?
Every year the response to that question seems to be ‘Well, they couldn't neglect finding a true number one receiver AGAIN, could they?' And each time, the answer invariably ends up being yes.
The last 1000-yard receiver this team had was Randy Moss. He reached 1005 yards in 2005, the season after the Raiders traded away a number one draft pick (7th overall) to the Vikings to acquire the often disgruntled receiver. That happy marriage was short-lived as he was back to his old pouting ways the following season and the Raiders were forced to ship him off to New England for a fourth round pick.
The next attempt to find an elite receiver was the signing of Javon Walker. That signing turned out to be a huge disaster. They gave the 30-year-old former Pro Bowler and 2-time 1000-yard receiver a huge contract. He appeared in 8 games with 15 catches for 196 yards before eventually retiring from the NFL.
After that it was finally time for the Raiders to look at drafting a receiver in the first round. They had the number seven overall pick in an extremely talented wide receiver class with the likes of Michael Crabtree, Jeremy Maclin, and Hakeem Nicks. They chose the raw, speedy Darrius Heyward-Bey.
Though DHB would eventually have a decent season as far as yards (975) were concerned, he was slow to develop and quick to fall back to earth. He worked hard to become an NFL caliber receiver but just could never do it. Once he got in a game situation, his technique reverted to the same unnecessary leaping gut catches and subsequent drops for which he was always infamous. He and his huge salary were cut after one season under the new regime.
Last year the Raiders didn't even draft a receiver. Prior to that they had chosen a receiver in every single draft since 2006. Outside of DHB, none of them were drafted higher than the 4th round. As a matter of fact, prior to DHB, the last time the Raiders drafted a receiver higher than round 4 was 2000 - Jerry Porter.
Here is a recap of the rest of the picks since then:
Ken-Yon Rambo, round 7, 2001
Doug Gabriel, round 5, 2003
Ryan Hoag, round 7, 2003
Carlos Francis, round 4, 2004
Jonnie Morant, round 5, 2004
Kevin McMahan, round 7, 2006
Jonathan Holland, round 7, 2007
Arman Shields, round 4, 2008
Chaz Schilens, round 7, 2008
Louis Murphy, round 4, 2009
Jacoby Ford, round 4, 2010
Denarius Moore, round 5, 2011
Juron Criner, round 5, 2012
Brice Butler, round 7, 2013
Of these receivers, only one is expected to be on the team next season - 2013 pick, Brice Butler.
The Raiders best receiver wasn't even drafted. Rod Streater was an undrafted free agent in 2012 who jumped onto the scene as a rookie and took over as the Raiders best receiver by his second season with a team-leading 888 yards on 60 catches. He was out most of last season after breaking his foot in week 3 in New England.
Aside from Streater, leading the charge are 31-year-old reliable possession receiver James Jones and former undrafted underachieving physical specimen Andre Holmes.
Last year's draft had some great talent at wide receiver, but it just didn't work out to take one in the first couple rounds. Sammy Watkins was off the board at number three while Khalil Mack was there for the taking. You make that pick every day of the week and thrice on Sunday thru Saturday.
With their second pick, receiver had to be a consideration. But as it turned out, Derek Carr was still there when they picked at 36 and for this team very much in need of a potential franchise quarterback -- which had completely whiffed on the Tyler Wilson pick in the previous draft -- they had to make that pick.
Now they are looking at a few talented free agent wide receivers set to hit the market and a draft that is not deep or incredibly talented the position.
The top receivers who could possibly hit the market are Dez Bryant, Demaryius Thomas, Jeremy Maclin, and Randall Cobb. You figure a couple of them will re-sign with their current team and the remaining guys will be in high demand which will mean big money. The Raiders have it, but will Reggie McKenzie offer the kind of guaranteed dollars it takes to woo one of them? It depends on how much priority he places on it.
McKenzie showed last year that he will put up big contracts for his first couple free agent priorities - the contracts offered to Rodger Saffold and Austin Howard show that. James Jones' signing came further down the line and he was pretty much the last decent option out there when it happened.
So, for any of the top receivers to sign, the position would have to be considered an utmost priority. If it isn't, it should be. If not, move onto the draft.
There are a few wide receiver draft prospects who are deemed top talents and then there's a drop off. Alabama's Amari Cooper, West Virginia's Kevin White, and Louisville's Devante Parker are the top tier guys. After that it's Ohio State's Devin Smith, Arizona State's Jaelen Strong, and Missouri's Dorial Green-Beckham who also look to be first round caliber talents.
That means the Raiders would have to either take one at the number four pick or hope one of them is still available with the 35th overall pick in the second round. After that the pickin' is slim and the odds of finding that coveted ‘number one receiver' is even slimmer.
Derek Carr is in place as the hopeful franchise quarterback. If the Raiders want to find out if Carr is indeed the long term answer, they MUST get him an elite target to throw to.
Free Agency opens March 10. We should start to get our answer then.