An offseason that began with a surprising level of optimism has turn into an all out love fest for the Raiders. Several major national sports outlets have had high praise for the Silver & Black, including Pro Football Focus recently and ESPN who today put Oakland as having the NFL's 7th most talented roster.
Here is what they had to say about the Raiders roster:
Top five players: DE/OLB Khalil Mack, OL Kelechi Osemele, CB Sean Smith, OT Donald Penn, DT Dan Williams
Starters who should be upgraded: TE Clive Walford, LB Malcolm Smith, LB Ben Heeney, FB Marcel Reece
There may be no more improved team in football than the Raiders, who had been moving slowly in the right direction for a few seasons under general manager Reggie McKenzie but kicked it into overdrive in this offseason. Between free agency and the draft, the Raiders added some excellent pieces, with Osemele in particular giving them arguably the best offensive line in the league -- on paper (yes, even above Dallas). Quarterback Derek Carr took a big step forward in his second season, and wide receiver Amari Cooper gives them an elite receiver to target, if lowers his drops from his rookie season (18).
Mack has quickly become one of the best defensive players in football, but he has help surrounding him now, with Williams, Mario Edwards Jr, and Bruce Irvin all adding to the defensive front. On the back end, Sean Smith could be a huge addition at cornerback, while safety Reggie Nelson was a solid get. If David Amerson continues the form he showed last season, rather than the performances he had in Washington, this secondary could become one of the better units in the league in the space of one offseason.
That ranking also puts them atop the division and 4th in the conference which would suggest they have a playoff level roster. Here is how the top ten shakes out in their estimation:
1. New England Patriots
2. Green Bay Packers
3. Carolina Panthers
4. Pittsburgh Steelers
5. Philadelphia Eagles
6. Cincinnati Bengals
7. Oakland Raiders
8. Arizona Cardinals
9. Kansas City Chiefs
10. Minnesota Vikings
Coming in just outside the top ten at number 11 was the Broncos who, despite being the reigning Super Bowl champs, lost some key talent this offseason including Peyton Manning, Danny Trevathan, and Malik Jackson.
As you can see the Chiefs come in at number nine while the Chargers were way down at number 22.