Raiders’ offensive weapons disrespected in latest ESPN rankings

Raiders (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
Raiders (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images) /

The Las Vegas Raiders’ offensive weapons were disrespected in a recent ranking from ESPN.

The Las Vegas Raiders have worked hard to improve their supporting cast over the last couple of seasons. They’ve re-worked their ground game and completely reshaped their receiving options.

To the point where not a single relevant wide receiver on the team was under contract in 2018. In fact, the only skill position players on offense that remain from that roster are Jalen Richard, Derek Carrier, Rico Gafford, Marcell Ateman, and technically Darren Waller.

Of those players, only Waller is expected to play any significant role on offense in 2020 — and even he only played four games with the team in 2018.

Change has occurred and the vast majority of that change seems to be for the better. Unfortunately, a recent ranking by ESPN listing all 32 teams’ offensive weapons didn’t seem to concur.

The Raiders’ offensive weapons were ranked 24th in the NFL by Bill Barnwell of ESPN placing them in the bottom-10 in the league. Teams like the Cincinnati Bengals and New England Patriots were somehow ranked higher which seems questionable to say the least.

Barnwell praised the team’s running game led by rookie sensation Josh Jacobs and their tight end depth highlighted by 2019 breakout star Darren Waller. But he had some serious questions about the receiving corps.

"“Vegas is 24th because of what lies between those two groups. Wideout was a mess, with Antonio Brown forcing his way off the team and Tyrell Williams failing to live up to expectations thanks to a toe injury. (It should be noted that Williams’ season was almost a carbon copy of his final year with the Chargers.) Fifth-round pick Hunter Renfrow unsurprisingly emerged as a slot option, but the Raiders will be counting on rookies Henry Ruggs III and Bryan Edwards to push for starting roles immediately.”"

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Barnwell’s low ranking of the Raiders’ offensive weapons borders on disrespectful.

Some of these concerns are valid. Tyrell Williams did disappoint in his first season in silver and black mostly due to the toe injury that Barnwell mentioned. However, he might be underselling Hunter Renfrow a little who had 49 catches for 605 yards as a rookie receiver.

Sure his upside is limited, but he’s an important part of the offense and should be talked about as such.

Relying on Henry Ruggs to fill a starting role in 2020 is fair to criticize, but there’s a reason he was the first wide receiver taken in the receiver-heavy 2020 NFL Draft. There’s no reason why he shouldn’t be able to step in as an immediate contributor.

Ultimately, although he praised them, it seems as though Barnwell is vastly underrating the importance of Jacobs and Waller.

Take the Patriots for example. They have no answer at the tight end position, no running back on par with Jacobs, and receivers (Julian Edelman, Mohamed Sanu, N’Keal Harry) that are at best equal to the Raiders’ receivers.

Yet, they rank three spots ahead of the team at No. 21. That doesn’t really add up.

The disrespect for the Raiders’ offensive cast is evident going into 2020, but perhaps it’s fair given how the unit disappointed last season.

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But Raiders fans will certainly be hoping for a different outcome this year when the unit hopefully climbs into the top-half in the league.