Coming into the 2018 season, the Raiders weren’t expected to have to target a wide receiver in the Draft. They had a #1 receiver in Amari Cooper, as well as a veteran in Jordy Nelson and another talented wideout in Martavis Bryant. But Cooper is gone, Nelson’s future isn’t clear and Bryant may have suffered a serious knee injury in the last game. So, wide receiver has become a position of need for the Raiders suddenly. While it may not be as big a need as certain positions on the defense, with three first-rounders the Raiders have plenty of options.
Luckily, there are plenty of solid receivers in the coming draft. Here are a few guys the Raiders might consider:
N’Keal Harry, Arizona State
Of all the receivers in the draft, Harry is my favorite. He is 6’4” and 213 pounds, so he has the big body and frame to go up and get contested passes and to be a serious red zone threat. Harry reminds me of Tim Brown, in that he isn’t the fastest or the quickest guy, but he is dependable with great hands and an intellectual, clinical knowledge of how to play the position. Harry also doubles as a terrific punt returner.
Harry is the sort of receiver that his team targets over, and over, and over again, because nobody can stop him. He can struggle to get open against faster corners, and he needs to be more physical in blocking, and also needs to continue to expand his route tree. This year, Harry is playing under coach Herm Edwards in Tempe, so he has a taste of the pro game and what is required of a professional receiver. The best modern comparison that comes to mind for me is prime Demaryius Thomas- a volume receiver with reliable hands and physical prowess. Prime Brandon Marshall also seems a fit for Harry’s skillset.
AJ Brown, Ole Miss
While Harry has been projected at any number of spots in the first round, Brown is universally considered a top-10 pick. He might be the most prototypical receiver in the draft, at 6’1” and 225 with 4.5 speed. He’s not a burner, but has the ball skills and quickness to make an impact in the NFL.
Brown is strong and difficult to bring down, and also presents a challenge to defensive backs looking to get off his blocking. Brown consistently fights for extra yardage and excels at running after the catch, making him an ideal fit for a team that likes to throw quick, short strikes rather than rely on longer developing plays.
Parris Campbell, Ohio State
If you’re looking for a burner to take the top off a defense, Campbell is your guy. He is 6’0” and 215 pounds and runs a blazing 4.3 40. He struggled last year in Ohio State’s offense due to their issues in the passing game, but this season he has been on point. In 2018, Campbell has 673 yards and nine touchdowns, averaging almost 11 yards per catch.
Campbell’s speed and big-play ability profile him as a #1 wideout a la Stefon Diggs. He could go at the late first or early second round, and is as legitimate a deep threat as this draft has.
Marquise Brown, Oklahoma
This Sooner wideout has been a star for the last few seasons in Norman, catching passes from Baker Mayfield and now Kyler Murray. Brown is a similar player to Parris Campbell, in that he is a dynamic playmaker and runs a 4.3, but he’s an inch shorter than Campbell. Brown, though, has more reliable hands. This season, Brown has 956 yards and nine touchdowns, and is averaging a cool 18 yards per catch. I believe Brown profiles as a slightly larger Tyreek Hill with just a sliver less straight-line speed.
Anthony Johnson, Buffalo
The 6’2”, 207-pound Johnson is one of the best small-school prospects in the coming draft, out of Khalil Mack’s alma mater. He spent his first two collegiate seasons at the JUCO level, but broke out in a big way as a junior, with 1,356 yards and 14 touchdowns as a junior. This year, his production has dipped, with only 699 yards but nine scores.
Johnson is an elite route runner at all points in the route tree, and is at his best with intermediate routes but is rapidly improving as both a deep threat and with underneath patterns as well. He isn’t a burner with a 4.5 40, but his route-running is what will put him over the top. A better 40 time at the combine could vault him into first-day consideration, but for right now he’s a second or third round prospect.