One of the major problems facing the Raiders this year is going to be the lack of professional experience at wide receiver. Perhaps their most gifted wide out, Chaz Schilens, has been injured far too often to obtain any decent playing experience. Last season, Louis Murphy started off with a bang and was on a fast pace to become their first 1,000 yard receiver in eons, yet he succumbed to a separated shoulder and was plagued by the injury for much of the season. Jacoby Ford emerged as a playmaker in the second half of the season and everybody on the planet expects him to be the man this year. And Darrius Heyward-Bey, well… he’s just DHB.
The question is, is there a legit number one receiver on this team?
I was reading an article earlier today and part of it was entitled, “Opponent’s take on the Raiders.” I don’t know exactly what that means, if it was written by a player who played against them or a sports writer for another team or what. It doesn’t matter, but in this piece this random person said, “The Raiders are a wide receiver or two away from having a potent offense. The ones they have are complementary players, at best.”
At first, I couldn’t decide if I agreed with that sentiment or not. Then, I decided that they have good talent at the position – the type of talent that has the capacity to be more than complementary. And even if I’m wrong and they don’t have that talent already, who are they going to bring in at this point? The only players on the free agency market are complementary players. There is no number one receiver amongst the 500 or so free agents this year.
Somebody has to step up and the time to do that is right now. So I made a list. I went 1-8 on the Raiders’ wide receivers deciding who is most likely to become a true receiving threat in the coming years. After all, it will only take one or two of them to make the offense potent according to the anonymous opponent.
8. Johnnie Lee Higgins
There was a time when Higgins was on the verge of being special. He has Eric Weddle to thank for ending that part of his career with a vicious hit on opening night in 2009. Perhaps Higgins is capable of becoming the player that we once thought he would be, but at this point I think it is a stretch for him to even make the roster. He has fallen out of favor faster than melting ice cream on a hot summer day.
7. David Ausberry
The first thing the Raiders need to decide about this rookie is if he is a small tight end or a really big wide receiver. Ausberry is going to have to play big-time if he even wants to make the roster, let alone as a wide receiver. My best guess for this big man upon first impression is practice squad.
6. Denarius Moore
I’m not going to lie, the NFL draft was the first time I’ve heard of this guy. I’ve never watched a game that he played and haven’t done much research on him. Come to think of it, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him catch a pass. But the thing that I do like about him is that he went through three different head coaches during his time at Tennessee. That means he should fit right in at Oakland.
5. Darrius Heyward-Bey
Is there anybody in the NFL who wants to improve more than DHB? I think not! This guy has the drive and he is good at taking the guy covering him out of the play, whether it’s by blocking in the ground game or running a pass route. What he is not good at is catching the balls that do get thrown at him in games. Only 41 percent if the passes thrown at him were catches last year. He needs to get that number up at least 30 percentage points before fans lose faith in him for good.
4. Nick Miller
Here’s a guy who I truly admire and it would be a shame if he did not make the final 53-man roster this year. Miller’s been working with Super Bowl wide receivers Greg Jennings and Larry Fitzgerald in Arizona for most of this offseason. Miller hasn’t had much time on the field in his first two seasons, one of which was lost to injury, but when he gets a ball thrown to him, he catches like 100 percent of those. Depending on his preseason performance, he could very well move up my list.
3. Chaz Schilens
Schilens’ knock has always been that he is extraordinarily injury prone. And that history goes all the way back to his college days. There’s no doubt that he is unbelievably gifted, but if he can’t get on the field then what is the point of having all that talent? Schilens is actually my favorite to become the team’s most reliable pass catcher, but he has to get some artificial limbs or something first. Honestly, I’m just waiting to find out what it’s going to be this time that keeps him off the field in 2011.
2. Jacoby Ford
Everybody is talking about Jacoby Ford being the breakout player for the Raiders this year. The only problem I have with this notion is that he already broke out – last year. I don’t think it was a fluke either. Ford is a ball magician™ which means that when he touches the ball, magic happens. But if he is going to become a number one wide out then the Raiders are going to have to find another explosive return man. Plus, Ford still has to work on his precision in route running.
1. Louis Murphy
Murphy has a lot to prove after attending college with the likes of Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin. That’s why he is number one on my list, because of the undeniable chip on his shoulder. Both of those guys were first round draft choices while Murphy had to wait until round four. And although Murphy was a playmaker, he was considered to be a less than worthy talent to them at Florida. Murphy is off to a hot start in his rookie and sophomore seasons and I think there is an outside chance that he could end up with a better pro career than both of his former Gator teammates.
Follow me on Twitter @Raidersblogger ### Search TFDS on Facebook