Oakland Raiders: Seth Roberts On The Bubble, Will He Be The Odd Man Out?

Dec 18, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders wide receiver Seth Roberts (10) runs with the ball before the game against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 18, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders wide receiver Seth Roberts (10) runs with the ball before the game against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports /

The Oakland Raiders have some dynamic receivers, but need to get more consistent play out of them if they hope to take another step forward on their quest for a title.

The Oakland Raiders had one of the league’s most electric passing attacks last season, but they also had one that was filled with inconsistencies. For the third straight year, the Raiders finished in the top-five in one of the NFL’s more dubious categories – finishing in the top-two for the second straight season – dropped passes.

As a unit, the Raiders followed up a 2015 season in which they dropped 31 passes (a drop percentage of 5.2 percent – second in the league in both categories) by dropping 29 passes (a drop percentage of 4.9 percent – second in the league in both categories) in 2016.

Those aren’t great numbers and are obviously an area that’s going to need to improve if the team hopes to turn this offense from one of the league’s better units, to one of the league’s elite units.

Drops have been an obvious and glaring problem the last couple of seasons. And over those two seasons, Michael Crabtree has been the biggest offender, dropping eight passes in 2015, and another nine last year. Amari Cooper, who dropped ten in 2015, really cleaned up his act and dropped just three in 2016.

But given their respective positions within the passing game, as well as their undeniable production, neither one of them is going anywhere anytime soon.

But when it comes to filling out the rest of the passing game rotation, that’s where things begin to get little dicier. Over the past couple of seasons, Seth Roberts has been the man holding down the slot. And he’s made some tremendous plays, there is no question. But he’s also had some mind-numbing drops, as well.

Oakland Raiders
September 18, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders wide receiver Johnny Holton (16) runs with the football during the third quarter against the Atlanta Falcons at Oakland Coliseum. The Falcons defeated the Raiders 35-28. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /

Though some might look at his number of drops (four in 2015 and five in 2016), and scoff at the idea that Roberts’ drops have been a problem – citing Crabtree and Cooper’s number of drops as evidence – it’s also important to realize that he’s had far fewer opportunities than either of them.

To give some perspective, in two seasons with the Raiders, Roberts has been targeted 132 times. In 2016 alone, Cooper had 132 targets and Crabtree had 145. Which is to say that Roberts is dropping balls at a higher percentage than either of them.

So, what does this all mean? It means that the Raiders could – if not should – be looking for a steadier, more sure-handed presence in the slot.

If Roberts has worked on his craft and cuts down on his number of drops, great. If he hasn’t, the Raiders will have some options they’ll need to consider. Which could mean a drastic decrease in the number of targets Roberts sees.

There is no question that Roberts is on the bubble and it could potentially even mean that he doesn’t make the 53-man roster out of camp.

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Given that the Raiders will likely carry five receivers on the 53-man roster, there is going to be a battle in camp. Two of those slots are already locked in Cooper and Crabtree. And given his explosiveness in the kicking game – as well as the potential he brings to the passing game – it seems a given that newly acquired Cordarrelle Patterson will make the roster out of camp.

Which means that three of the five slots are gone. So, who is in line to take up the other two slots?

Roberts, of course, is in the mix. But Jaydon Mickens, K.J. Brent, and Johnny Holton also need to be given serious consideration for making the roster. Let’s also not forget the possibility that troubled but talented rookie Ishamel Zamora has the size and skills that GM Reggie McKenzie and HC Jack Del Rio seem to like in their receivers, and could find a way to sneak onto the roster.

So – five receivers with a realistic shot at making the team, for potentially two roster spots.

With two seasons of consistent looks under his belt, Roberts has the experience that Mickens, Holton, Brent, and Zamora don’t. But that experience is a double-edged sword in that he also has a well-documented history of drops to his credit.

And drops are what the Raiders need to cut down on, if not eliminate altogether, this season. Especially from their slot receiver.

Heading into camp, there seems to be a big battle brewing in that receivers room. Roberts, the incumbent of the last two seasons, suddenly has some real competition breathing down his neck and he finds himself squarely on the bubble.

And if he doesn’t really show out at camp and prove he’s tightened up his skills to cut down on his drops, he could very well find himself the odd man out.