Greetings, Raider fans! It is I, the Great Raiderdamus, and I am here to give my mid-season batch of Winners and Losers. The Raiders have objectively had a brilliant season thus far. so let's look at who has been responsible for their ups and downs.
1) Derek Carr
How could I realistically go with anyone else? Derek Carr is currently the fourth-best fantasy football player, behind only Matt Ryan, Andrew Luck and Drew Brees. He has pushed himself into the elite level of quarterbacks alongside Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Brees and Ben Roethlisberger. Carr has thrown for 2,321 yards at the halfway point of the season and has tossed 17 touchdown passes to a mere three interceptions. Fun fact, Derek Carr had his worst yardage total in Week 4 against Baltimore and his highest in Week 8 against Tampa Bay. In both of these games, Carr threw four touchdown passes.
Carr is developing rapidly in offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave's system and looks to be a supreme talent at the quarterback position who will helm the Raiders for the next decade plus. We are truly blessed to have him and he keeps getting better. He will be the unquestioned top quarterback in football within five years.
2) Michael Crabtree
Reggie McKenzie has made some fantastic free agent signings in his tenure as Raiders general manager, but perhaps none were more crucial or inspired than signing Crabtree late in the 2015 free agency period. Crabtree has had a complete career renaissance after being an afterthought in the Jim Harbaugh Death Machine and then blowing out his Achilles tendon. While Amari Cooper draws a lot of attention from defenses, deceptive speed and reliable hands make him arguably an even better target and the perfect aid in a young quarterback's development.
This year, Crabs has caught 47 passes for 569 yards and six touchdowns, which is tied for the league lead. He will likely make the Pro Bowl and should be considered one of the best receivers in football as he is at last fulfilling the promise he showed coming out of Texas Tech, where he was a "Red Raider".
3) Amari Cooper
Coper plays football so effortlessly and with such precision and grace, sometimes it seems as if he's not giving 100%. But he always is, he's just so good that it comes naturally. Cooper is, almost certainly, the best overall player from the 2015 Draft as both Marcus Peters, Jameis Winston and Todd Gurley have somewhat fallen off this season. Cooper has caught 52 passes for 787 yards, good for third in the NFL, and has two touchdowns (this is somewhat a symptom of Crabtree being such a great red zone target). He is quickly reaching the top level of wideouts occupied by players like Odell Beckham Jr., Dez Bryant, and the two men above him in receiving yards- AJ Green and Julio Jones. That's the sort of future Cooper has, and he's a huge part of the Raiders' present as well.
4) Marquette King
It seems like the Raiders have a tradition of having the league's best punter. From our days with Hall of Famer Ray Guy, to Not Hall of Famer Leo Araguz, to current Houston Texan Shane Lechler, and now King, who is without a doubt the best punter on Earth at this very moment. One can look at the Raiders' defense and say, "Wow, they've given up a lot of yards!" and yes, they have, but that's because King almost always pins the opposing offense deep within their own red zone so they have farther to go.
Okay, so maybe I am wearing some rose-colored glasses there, but there's no question that King is the best at distance punts and is incredibly proficient at keeping offenses out of good field position. He has single-handedly put the Raiders into some extremely advantageous spots and also had a huge first-down rush that sealed the game in Jacksonville. Marquette is just the greatest.
Now, there are lots of other guys who are playing well. Khalil Mack started slow but is rounding into form and looking dominant lately. Karl Joseph is developing into a very solid starting safety and making some vicious hits. Bruce Irvin is a forced fumble waiting to happen. Seth Roberts has become a reliable third receiving option. Sean Smith has rebounded from a terrible Week 1 to regain his form as a solid #1 cornerback and DJ Hayden is showing flashes of his considerable promise. There are just so many guys to choose from.
1) Clive Walford
Here's a guy who really should be doing more. He has s much potential, but he drops to ball way too much and isn't as reliable as he needs to be for Carr to look his way regularly. He is a physical specimen and can be dominant, but he needs to refine his game and continue to improve. He's let the Raiders down in some critical moments.
2) Reggie Nelson
Nelson seems a step slower than his time in Cincinnati, and sometimes takes bad routes to the football. He's had a few interceptions, but he's been a bigger part of the problem on defense than the solution. If the Raiders are to become even a mid-tier defense, Nelson must improve dramatically. His role as a mentor for the Raiders' young secondary is vital, but his on-field play needs to get better.
3) Ken Norton Jr.
There have been times when this team has looked utterly lost on defense and completely undisciplined. That's on the coaching staff, and especially on Norton. The defense has looked much improved in the last two weeks so perhaps things are finally turning around, but nobody can deny that Norton's scheme and lack of team execution has put the Raiders behind the 8-ball on many occasions and only the individual brilliance of Derek Carr and Michael Crabtree have been able to pull out the wins. With the talent on this roster and the money pumped into the defense, this unit should be better.
4) The haterz
Farbeit for the Great Raiderdamus to be cheeky, but haters to the left. This team is good and it's here to stay. We're the second-favorite team of fans of all the other teams, but the fact remains that if you're not a Raider, screw you. Anyone who is a die-hard Raider hater is in for a long, long decade to come. We will be a perennial playoff team and Super Bowl contender for the foreseeable future. Where that future will see us playing our home games is unknown, but wherever that may be, this team is a winner.