The Oakland Raiders have one of the most stacked rosters with superstars in the entire NFL, and should bring a lot of excitement to Raider Nation in 2017.
Not accounting for any amount of flare, here is a look at the top 5 players that will help Oakland win football games in 2017.
No. 5, Marshawn Lynch
Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch might not be a top 5 player right now, but Lynch will be as soon as the season starts.
Oakland’s offensive line is considered by many to be the second-best in the league. They have monsters up front in the running game with Raiders center Rodney Hudson, guard Kelechi Osemele, guard Gabe Jackson and tackle Donald Penn.
Minnesota Vikings running back Latavius Murray was a solid back, but was never able to take advantage of the gaping holes that the offensive line created because he lacked the proper vision.
Lynch, on the other hand, has never been questioned about his vision. He will immediately find the correct holes and will carve up defenses, much like he did in this play in practice.
One of the main reasons for Oakland’s success is the offensive line. Penn has consistently been one of the best leaders and players on the football team.
Since his arrival to the Raiders, he has started all 48 games and has had PFF player grades of 86.3, 84.5, and 87.3 in those three seasons.
Penn didn’t give up one sack until Week 16 of the regular season. Incredibly impressive considering he has to go up against the elite pass rushers of the AFC West six times a year.
Ultimately, Penn is one of the best and most important players on the team, for he protects the lifeline of the franchise, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr.
No. 3, Kelechi Osemele
Osemele, who was considered by many to be the prized possession of the 2016 NFL free agency class, has not disappointed during his time in Oakland.
The Raiders ranked third in the NFL in running behind their left tackle and fifth when running behind the guard position, per Pro Football Outsiders.
Osemele, who plays left guard, is a huge reason for that success.
In addition, Lynch will be in the backfield this fall so those numbers should only improve as Lynch has much better vision than Murray. Consequently, the improved numbers will cement Osemele’s standing as premier offensive linemen in the league.
Overall, protecting Raiders quarterback Derek Carr and running the football is how Oakland will get by the New England Patriots making the offensive line one of the most important units on the team.
No. 2, Khalil Mack
There is not much to discuss here. Raiders defensive end Khalil Mack is the reigning defensive player of the year and had 26 sacks and seven forced fumbles in the last two seasons. He also has had a PFF player grade of at least 93.9 in each of his first three seasons.
Not to mention, he helped force turnovers in clutch situations last year to help seal wins against the Buffalo Bills and the Carolina Panthers.
The man is an unstoppable force and is arguably the best defensive player in all of the league. Without him, who knows how bad the Oakland defense could look.
No. 1, Derek Carr
One only needs to look at one point of evidence to easily cement Carr in the top spot for the Raiders, maybe the entire NFL.
Look at what happened to Oakland when Carr went out with an injury in Week 16. They almost blew a massive lead to the Indianapolis Colts, looked inept against the Denver Broncos in Week 17 and then lost to Houston Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler in the playoffs.
With Carr, the Raiders are a Super Bowl contender. Without him, they are lucky to win four games.
The 2017 offseason program is underway for the Oakland Raiders, with 90 players currently on a roster that will ultimately be trimmed to 53 players by Week 1.
Below, fans can find Raiders Wire’s first 53-man projection on offense in a series that will be updated throughout OTAs.
Derek Carr, Connor Cook, EJ Manuel
Notable cuts: None
This is probably the easiest position group to project for next season. Raiders quarterback Derek Carr is going to be an MVP candidate again in 2017, making the starting quarterback job a no-brainer.
The Raiders carried three quarterbacks in 2016, and there is no reason to believe that will be any different this year.
Oakland also used a fourth-round draft pick on backup quarterback Connor Cook, making it unlikely they would cut bait so soon. And former Buffalo Bills quarterback EJ Manuel is almost certainly going to challenge — and potentially win — the No. 2 spot on the depth chart behind Carr.