Despite another top five selection in the NFL Draft, the Oakland Raiders had a mediocre season once again. Head coach Dennis Allen entered his third season with the Raiders with an 8-24 overall record; and after four straight losses to begin 2014, including a 38-14 blowout loss to the Miami Dolphins in London’s Wembley Stadium, Allen was fired and replaced by Tony Sparano.
As always, the Raiders had a bad start. This season, the Raiders started out 0-10 before they were able to pull off a victory Week 12 against the Kansas City Chiefs. After their victory over the Chiefs the Raiders looked like they were starting to turn things around. Well, the very next week the Raiders traveled to St. Louis to play the Rams—a game which they lost 52-0.
The Raiders were able to win two more games before the end of the season. Week 14 saw a 24-13 victory over the San Francisco 49ers, and Week 16 brought a 26-24 win over the Buffalo Bills. All three of the Raiders wins came at home, leaving them with a 0-8 road record at the end of the season.
The only thing the Raiders really have going for them is a couple of franchise pieces they picked up in the 2014 NFL Draft. Quarterback Derek Carr and linebacker Khalil Mack seem to be the type of players that the Raiders can build a winning team around. If the Raiders ever want to be good again, they will need to build up their team through the draft. Here are the Oakland Raiders biggest needs heading into the 2015 NFL Draft:
Wide Receiver: The Raiders really need some more talent around Carr if they want him to succeed, and with Amari Cooper in this draft they will certainly have the opportunity to bring in some high-profile talent. James Jones was decent last season, but Andre Holmes and the rest of the receiving core did nothing worth mention. Upgrading their offensive skill positions should be the Raiders top priority this offseason, and drafting Cooper with their early first round selection could be an instant upgrade for the team.
Defensive End: As I said, Khalil Mack is an absolute beast. The problem is the Raiders don’t have any talent around him either. Oakland runs a 4-3 defensive scheme, so it’s important for them to bring in some more pass rushers to help out. Here’s where the Raiders run into a problem: they have so many big holes to fill, but only one 4th overall selection. The Raiders will probably be better off taking Cooper this season; but if USC lineman Leonard Williams somehow drops past the Tennessee Titans, he would be a hard guy to pass up. More than likely the Raiders will have to wait until the second round to start addressing this issue.
Running Back: Putting talent for Carr to throw to on the roster is important, but giving him a reliable running back to pick up the 1st down on 3rd and 1 or 2 is just as crucial to the success of the team. Sure, the Raiders didn’t exactly have the best offensive line in the NFL this past season, but both Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden seemed to be worn out, especially Jones-Drew. The former Jacksonville Jaguars star may not be on the roster come August, so drafting someone to help out McFadden should be pretty high on the Raiders list. This isn’t the most important thing for the team this offseason, but look for the Raiders to select a solid back out of college in the middle of the draft.