1. Marcel Reece
Yes, the Raiders only Pro Bowler the past couple seasons could see his role in the offense change this coming season. That doesn't necessarily mean his title will change though. He may still be referred to as a fullback, but could take on a role more closely resembling that of an H-back.
It's a role that from all indications suits his skillset perfectly. The former college wide receiver came to the Raiders as a tight end and was soon switched to fullback. That's where he has played the past five seasons. He has been recognized as the most versatile fullback in the NFL the past few seasons, but rarely have the Raiders been able to fully utilize his skills as a receiver out of the backfield.
New offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave has said he will be utilziing some of the faster paced offensive style as Chip Kelly uses. Musgrave spent last season in Philadelphia with Kelly and said he will be bringing some of that to the Raiders.
ESPN's Adam Caplan reported the Raiders won't be utilizing a traditional fullback this season and Reece will be deployed as more of an H-back. For those unfamiliar, an H-back is basically a tight end who lines up in the backfield. And for those familiar with Reece's skillset, you know that role would fit him perfectly. Reece's versatility in this new offense could keep him on the field a lot more and utilize him as the Swiss Army knife he is.
2. Austin Howard
Howard was the first actual official signing the Raiders had last off-season. He had played right tackle for the Jets and due to his run blocking abilities, Tony Sparano thought a move to guard would get the most out of him. That didn't work out so well and the team will be moving him back to right tackle where he is expected to start ahead of former second round pick Menelik Watson.
While he did improve his blocking some late in the season, his play isn't the only reason for the move. As bad as Howard was at right guard, Watson was even worse at right tackle. And since Howard is on a pretty sizable contract, he will be given every opportunity to earn it.
3. Khalif Barnes
Barnes is entering his seventh consecutive one-year deal with the Raiders. If one-year deals are ‘prove it' contracts, Barnes has proven it more than most anyone in the league. Over the past six years, he has played three different positions on the offensive line - Right tackle, left tackle, and left guard. This year could see him play a fourth position - right guard.
Firmly entrenched at left tackle is Donald Penn and Gabe Jackson earned the job at left guard for the foreseeable future. And with the aforementioned Austin Howard switching to right tackle, right guard is up for grabs. It would be wise for the Raiders to add another guard to the mix either among the scraps on free agency or in the draft, but as of right now, the job is between Barnes and Kevin Boothe.
Currently, I give the edge to Boothe because Barnes is more valuable as a utility backup at left tackle and left guard. Nothing is a given at this point and Barnes has been the ‘next man up' so much, I am not counting out him getting the nod at right guard too.
4. Dan Williams
Williams is a nose tackle by trade, but the Raiders are hoping he can move around a bit on the line and offer them some options. They have second year nose tackle Justin Ellis and veteran defensive tackle Antonio Smith joining him on the line. This presents options for a good rotation and among the three of them Williams is the only one who is capable of jumping back and forth.
It's entirely possible he sees the field more often than his fellow interior linemen Ellis and Smith. On pass downs it could be Williams at 0-tech and Smith at 3-tech and on run downs it could be Williams at 3-tech and Ellis at 0-tech.
Smith was second in the NFL among defensive tackles last season with 35 QB hurries. Ellis was on the All Rookie team at nose tackle. So, there are options there and which duo sees the field the most should shake out by the time the season rolls around. It's even possible we see all three together on the field on occasion which would again have Williams as either a DE in a 3-4 look or 3-tech DT in a 4-3 look. It all depends on if this 6-3, 330-pound lane clogger can prove himself to be more than your typical nose tackle.
5. Khalil Mack
Easily the Raiders best player last season on either side of the ball. And he was a rookie. His pass rush and run stuffing abilities were second to none. His one weak area - if you want to call it that - was in coverage. Though the Raiders didn't drop him in coverage a lot. Most times they had him staying at home very much like a defensive end.
As of now the team has one standout defensive end in Justin Tuck. Most times he lines up on the opposite side as Mack so the team can have a pass rush on both sides.
Then the team's first official signing in free agency was an outside linebacker. A player who has played on both the strong side and the weak side in his career with the Seattle Seahawks.
Initially Smith offers the team an insurance policy in case Sio Moore's surgically repaired hip isn't quite ready come the start of next season. But should Moore return, the team would either find a way to get Smith on the field, or he would be relegated to special teams.
One position the team has not addressed this offseason is defensive end. Should they discover their best combination is to have Mack, Moore, and Smith all on the field at the same time, that would have Mack moving to defensive end. That's not to say the move would be permanent, but with this current roster, Mack and Tuck would be the two best options at defensive end, so it's very possible.