Yes, the Raiders upgraded their wide receiving corps this year. But does that mean they will ignore it in the draft? Don’t be so sure.
They got their deep threat in Antonio Brown and their X receiver in Tyrell Williams. They replaced Amari Cooper and Jordy Nelson from last season. Then they brought in a couple one-year guys and cut Seth Roberts. They have starters and depth and draft insurance. What they don’t have is a lot of long term answers, especially one who can play the slot.
Let’s take a look at the best options to fill the Raiders need in the draft.
Marquise Brown, Oklahoma – Round 1
Height: 5-9 Weight 166
There simply isn’t a more gifted receiver in this class than Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown. Prior to this Lisfranc foot injury he was widely considered the top receiver in this class. Then DK Metcalf owned the draft lead-up and has been deemed the top prospect since. Brown’s status as the top receiver dipped into the second round while recovering from surgery. Then the medical reports came out saying he could be ready to go by rookie minicamp in early May, suggesting he won’t miss any time. With his obvious elite talent, he looks again to be a surefire first round pick.
Brown can play anywhere on the field. He is a threat to score anytime he touches the ball, whether from the slot or on the outside. The Raiders acquired Antonio Brown this offseason to be the team’s deep threat; something Marquise excels in as well. But Marquise – who is Antonio’s cousin – can also line up in the slot which would allow he and his cousin to be on the field at the same time and possible take over on the outside in the future. He will be tempting to draft in the bottom of the first round if he’s there, and especially if he somehow managed to slip to 35, which seems unlikely at this point.
AJ Brown, Ole Miss – Round 2
Height: 6-0, Weight: 226
Something about the Browns in Oakland right now. First it was Antonio, then Trent, maybe Marquise, perhaps AJ? We talk about DK Metcalf dominating the conversation, well while Metcalf was winning battles on the outside, his teammate AJ Brown was destroying defenses from the slot. But make no mistake, he can wreck a defense from the outside as well. Of his 115 catches for 1307 yards last year, 59 catches for 800 came from the slot.
Andy Isabella, UMass – Round 3
Height: 5-8, Weight: 188
No receiver in college football was more productive than Andy Isabella last season. He had 101 catches for 1696 yards and 13 touchdowns. It was his best college season, but didn’t come out of nowhere. He has been simply fantastic for three seasons at UMass, each season outdoing his previous for a total of 3513 yards and 30 touchdowns in those three seasons. He can beat you from anywhere on the field, showing his 4.31 speed to get behind defenses and get open underneath. His elite speed was utilized a lot in the UMass offense, making him one of the best deep threats in the country. His quickness would be an asset to an NFL team looking to use him in the slot.
Mecole Hardman, Georgia – Round 5
Height: 5-10, Weight: 187
Blazing speed. That’s what Hardman has. His 4.33 speed shows up on the football field too. At least when he gets the ball in his hands as evidenced by his 15.6 yards per catch average. You’d like to see more production than his 35 catches for 543 yards last season and fewer drops (6). But he presents some intriguing tools with which to work.
Greg Dortch, Wake Forest – Round 6
Height: 5-7, Weight: 173
Yeah, he’s just 5-7, 173 pounds. At times he almost looks like a running back out there playing wide receiver. But make no mistake, he is a wide receiver. He caught 199 passes for 1799 yards and 17 touchdowns over the past two seasons for the Demon Decons and almost all of them came in the slot. Adding to his value is his punt return abilities, making him a great value as a late round selection.
KeeSean Johnson, Fresno State – Round 7 - PFA
Height: 6-1, Weight: 201
It’s actually strange to me how under the radar KeeSean Johnson is in this draft. Especially strange considering his name. The Palo Alto native was at the Raiders’ local pro day, so he is at least on their radar. Of course he was also at the 49ers local pro day. Plus he went to Fresno State, where he put up 2358 yards and 16 touchdowns over the past two seasons, so you know Derek Carr is a fan. Running a 4.60 40 certainly didn’t help his stock, though he seems to play faster. The Raiders would probably feel pretty good about reeling him in as an undrafted free agent, should they opt not to draft him.