The most difficult part about figuring out the Raiders need areas this year was the order. There is a legit argument that can be made for every position here to be the top priority. In part because there are questions about who the team will release and who they will retain among their own free agents.
Make no mistake, all of these areas are needs, regardless of what order you might wish to put them in.
The Raiders may have had the most issues at this position last season, but it is also the biggest wild card on this team. The only corner guaranteed to return is last year’s top pick Gareon Conley who missed all but two games last season. They could potentially cut ties with Sean Smith and David Amerson and let TJ Carrie leave as a free agent. Losing all three would be unwise. They should at very least bring back Carrie and perhaps try to hold onto either Smith or Amerson. If they do that, they would have three corners in place for next season. Anything less and they will once again be looking at a major need at corner.
2. Defensive tackle
Every offseason the Raiders try to fill this position and still can’t find the answer. Justin Ellis spent four years in Oakland and could never establish himself to be any more than part of a rotation. They drafted Eddie Vanderdoes in the third round last year. He didn’t show a lot as a rookie. Even if he pans out, he is a 3-tech, leaving the Raiders yet again with a need at the nose. Vanderdoes also tore his ACL in the season finale, leaving both 3-tech and 0-tech as question marks.
3. Wide receiver
It’s becoming painfully clear the Raiders could really use a big play receiver. Crabtree may not be back next year which would increase the team’s need at the position. Cooper may or may not be the long term answer as this team’s number one receiver. He’s not proven consistently reliable, despite his speed and route running abilities. Simply put, the Raiders need a more complete receiver who can bring some toughness to the position.
4. Offensive tackle
Before Penn forced the Raiders hand on an extension last preseason, 2017 was to be his final year in Oakland. He’ll be 35 in April and has suffered leg injuries the past two seasons. The team must think about life after him. They drafted David Sharpe in the 4th round of last year’s draft and if his season finale performance was any indication, left tackle may not be for him. He should probably be competing at right tackle with Marshall Newhouse. And the Raiders should look for a left tackle of the future, probably high in the draft.
5. Running back
How big a need this is will be dependent upon whether Marshawn Lynch returns for another season. But even if he does return, adding another option at running back would be beneficial. Someone who can take over as the feature back after next season. Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington are not every down backs. They are spot fill ins at best.
6. Inside Linebacker
They have a great middle linebacker in place right now and they should keep him around. NaVorro Bowman was fantastic for the final ten games this season after they signed him from the 49ers. It makes a lot of sense for them to bring him back and Gruden likes his proven vets. But if for some reason Bowman isn’t re-signed, this need position will once again shoot right to the top of the team needs. If they do bring him back, the team could still consider drafting the future at the position, but it wouldn’t be a major concern right away.