For the first time in ages it feels like the Oakland Raiders have a core of young talent who can contribute. Which names are poised for potential breakouts?
Latavius Murray – RB
Sometimes it’s easy to get lost in the euphoria of free agency, but it’s important to let the dust settle and take stock realistically. What is realistic about the running back position is it’s for the young. So the addition of Maurice Jones-Drew and retention of Darren McFadden can’t be counted on to ensure success on the ground. At the same time they have second-year youngster Latavius Murray waiting in the wings. A 6’2″ back with sub-4.4 speed, he showed at UCF he can both run and catch. The only problem is he hasn’t played much. Still, at age 24 he has all the boxes checked from youth to size to speed and versatility. It may be him, and not the bigger names, that totes the rock in Oakland.
Rod Streater – WR
This might sound like a slight stretch since Rod Streater led the Oakland Raiders in receiving last year, but the breakout idea comes from the fact he could have the best quarterback he’s had yet as a pro in Matt Schaub. Streater is developing nicely, and Schaub is experienced at how to use taller receivers. With James Jones drawing coverage away, Streater may make his third season the charm by cracking the 1,000-yard plateau. Much of that success will depend on whether Schaub gets protection from a rebuilt offensive line.
Sio Moore – OLB
On the defensive side things are looking even brighter for the Silver and Black. Part of that optimism comes from their massive free agent influx but also the quiet rise of young linebacker Sio Moore. As a rookie he had a very solid season, collecting 50 tackles and 4.5 sacks. His prowess as a pass rusher is only beginning to surface since he didn’t do much of it at UConn. As experience catches up to his impressive athletic ability, Moore could become a surprise contender for double digit sacks in 2014. That is especially true after the Raiders added Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley and Khalil Mack.
D.J. Hayden – CB
A solid pass rush wouldn’t just help Moore either. It could also assist the Oakland Raiders secondary too, particularly 2013 first round pick D.J. Hayden. The young corner from Houston has loads of athletic potential but has progressed slowly due to injury problems. An improved pass rush would grant him more opportunities to get his hands on the football. Nothing boosts the confidence of a young player more than making plays. Hayden has it in him, it’s just a question of time and health.