Oakland Raiders: Recent ranking of WR group is absurdly low

ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 08: Jordy Nelson #87 of the Green Bay Packers goes up for a touchdown pass against the Dallas Cowboys in the third quarter of a football game at AT&T Stadium on October 8, 2017 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 08: Jordy Nelson #87 of the Green Bay Packers goes up for a touchdown pass against the Dallas Cowboys in the third quarter of a football game at AT&T Stadium on October 8, 2017 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

The Oakland Raiders, having rebuilt their receiving corps, do have some questions, but a recent ranking of the group seems absurdly low.

Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden made some waves when he took control of the team as he started to build and shape it in his image – an effort that many people are already panning.

One of the areas that have undergone the most extreme makeover is the wide receiving group. Out is Michael Crabtree, and in is Jordy Nelson, Ryan Switzer, Martavis Bryant, and Marcell Ateman.

They’re also returning Amari Cooper, Seth Roberts and Johnny Holton. While Gruden has already stated that Cooper is going to be the focal point of the passing game this year, we have no idea how he’s going to factor Robers and/or Holton into the offensive game plan – or whether they’ll actually even crack the final 53-man roster.

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We know Gruden isn’t high on Roberts as it is, after reports they were looking to trade him surfaced, so it won’t come as too much of a shock if he’s not with the team after camp.

But, with Gruden looking to get quarterback Derek Carr and the offense back on track after a really poor showing in 2017, he’s providing him with some dynamic and reliable weapons to work with.

In Nelson, he’s getting a precise route runner and a receiver with excellent hands – which has been a real issue the last couple of years. In Bryant (assuming Commissioner Roger Goodell doesn’t drop the ban hammer on him), Carr is getting a big, physical receiver who can really stretch the field.

In Switzer, Carr will be getting a lightning fast guy likely get some very favorable matchups in the slot, who can use his speed to turn short gains into much longer ones. And in Ateman, he’s potentially getting a tall, rangy, physical red zone threat to pair with tight end Jared Cook.

And of course, there’s Cooper, who has been alternately dynamic and frustrating in his first three seasons. Cooper had back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons to open his career, but that production tapered off to a meager 680 yards last season – with 210 of those yards coming in one game against the Chiefs.

In looking at Oakland’s receiving group as a whole right now though, they seem deeper, more well balanced, and more well rounded than they did last year. They also seem to have the potential to be even more dynamic than they were in 2016 – and they were electric that year.

Of course, not everybody agrees with that assessment.

A recent piece ranked the receiving corps of all 32 teams, and let’s just say where the Raiders fell was – surprising. To say the least.

Now, obviously rankings – especially even before a single game has been played – are subjective and should be taken with a grain of salt. That applies all across the board – even rankings here at Golden Gate Sports.

Still, even knowing that they’re subjective, ranking Oakland’s receivers group number twenty in a league of thirty-two seems absurdly low – especially given some of the receiving groups ranked above the Raiders.

For instance, let’s take a look at who came in number nineteen according to this article – the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Bengals? Really?

Yes, Cincinnati has A.J. Green on the field, and he’s arguably, one of the best receivers in the game. But after Green, they have Brandon LaFell, John Ross, and Tyler Boyd. As a group – or rather, as a duo, since Ross didn’t have a single reception on the year – LaFell and Boyd accounted for 773 yards on 74 receptions, and five touchdowns.

Amari Cooper, who had a horrifically down year, came very close to matching the production of Cincinnati’s receiving corps – minus Green – on his own. And if he hadn’t missed two games, he probably would have. As it was, he still accounted for two more touchdowns than they did.

Or how about the Arizona Cardinals, who inexplicably check in at number sixteen? It’s a ranking that makes the Detroit Lions, who had a pair of 1,000 yard receivers last year – both of whom are returning – and checked in at only number seventeen in these rankings, look to be ranked ridiculously low as well.

But the Cardinals, for some odd reason, are at number sixteen. This, despite having only Larry Fitzgerald as a reliable target. His 109 receptions led the team last year, but the player with the second most receptions? Running back Andre Ellington with 33. In fact, the wide receiver with the second most receptons for the Cardinals last year was Jaron Brown, who was fourth on the team with 31 catches.

And yet, the additions of Christian Kirk and Brice Butler – a rookie and a guy who’s done virtually nothing over his five-year career (his career high is 21 receptions back in 2014), somehow make the team’s receivers groups better than half the teams in the league?

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Just as inexplicably, the Houston Texans come in at fourteenth in these rankings. Outside of DeAndre Hopkins, who do they have? Their second leading receiver was running back Lamar Miller, and their second leading wide receiver, Bruce Ellington, had just 29 catches on the year.

And yet, these receiving groups are somehow significantly better than a much more veteran, much more established receiving group in Oakland? Oh, okay.

We could do this all day and parse every single ranking – some teams are way too high, some teams are ridiculously low – but, you probably get the point by now.

Yes, there are question marks in Oakland’s receiving group. Can Cooper finally emerge as a legit number one? Does Nelson have anything left in the tank? Can Bryant, assuming he avoids suspension, keep his head on straight? Will Switzer add another missing element – and surer hands – to the slot for the Raiders?

All fair questions. And ye, the Raiders had a down year in 2017. That is thanks, in large part, to former OC Todd Downing and his sheer ineptitude when it came to running an offense.

But, in the hands of a gifted offensive mind – one who has a solid track record for putting high powered offenses on the field – there is every reason to believe the 2018 Raiders, offensively speaking, are going to look as good, if not better than the 2016 version that was lighting it up on their way to a playoff berth.

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Rankings, of course, are subjective. Inevitably, those doing the rankings don’t factor in this thing, or consider that thing, or let a personal bias creep in. Which is why it’s important to always take them with a grain of salt.

No, the Raiders didn’t have an elite passing game and group of receivers last season. Fair enough. But, ranking them in the bottom third of the league – behind teams whose receivers groups were one-man shows and were less accomplished last season – makes the Raiders’ ranking seem absurdly low.