Oakland Raiders
Is this the year that Martavis Bryant storms on the scene with the Oakland Raiders? (Ben Margot/AP)

I don’t think anyone knows for sure how the Oakland Raiders 2018 season will go but I’m leaning towards grease fire. If I take two weeks off from doing a podcast, I can’t even get words out of my mouth. Now imagine taking 10 years off. That’s exactly what Jon Gruden will attempt to do after being out of the coaching realm for a decade. Gruden is not embracing analytics and he won’t even communicate with Khalil Mack so this is not an ideal start. Will things take a turn for the worse for the Oakland Raiders or will they return to prominence with Gruden back in charge?

3 Position Battles To Watch:

1. Running Back: Marshawn Lynch, Doug Martin, Jalen Richard, DeAndre Washington

It’s going to be a battle of two washed running backs and two young guys that stink. Marshawn Lynch had his moments averaging 4.3 yards per carry last year but he clearly isn’t the same beast mode from his Seattle days. Doug Martin is flat out terrible averaging 2.9 yards per carry in back to back seasons. Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington are both third-down backs.

2. Right Tackle: Kolton Miller, Breno Giacomini

Kolton Miller is a first round pick but he really hasn’t shown any reason why he should have been picked like one outside of the fact that he can actually move. Miller pretty much can’t pass protect at all but the hope is that he can develop into a top tier tackle. I highly doubt it works but crazier things have happened. Watch him try to pass protect against Texas A&M. It’s ugly.

3. Defensive Tackle: Justin Ellis, PJ Hall, Maurice Hurst, Eddie Vanderdoes

Khalil Mack is a monster but it would be nice if the Raiders could actually produce some interior pressure. Justin Ellis and Eddie Vanderdoes are the incumbents from a year ago. Justin Ellis played really well against the run and was a nose stuffer for this team. Eddie Vanderdoes is a former 5-star recruit but was predictably awful in his rookie season. In comes, two draft picks that should have immediate impacts. PJ Hall was really good at the East-West Game but wasn’t even invited to the combine. Hall is a short and stout defensive tackle from a small school but was taken awfully high as a  second round pick. Maurice Hurst comes in as a first-round talent but slid in the draft because of a heart issue. Hurst is a steal waiting to happen if he’s healthy.

Ready To Breakout: Martavis Bryant

A change of scenery could do wonders for Martavis Bryant. For whatever reason (probably character) the Steelers just flat out did not like him. Hell Justin Hunter was getting snaps over Bryant during stretches of his tenure. Bryant has a crazy skill set at 6-foot-5 and runs like a gazelle. Now he comes to Oakland and could be a real factor if Derek Carr decides to stop throwing 3-yard check downs. Bryant’s value only gets higher in the red area with his size, something the Steelers didn’t use much nor did they need to. Three years ago this guy averaged over 15 yards per catch. There’s an explosive upside here with Bryant.

Rookie To Watch: Arden Key

Arden Key will make or break the Raiders draft class. A year ago, Key would have been a top 10 pick. However, this past year with LSU things did not go well. Injuries, character, and weight issues dropped his draft stock in a big way. This is a guy who is the all-time leading in sacks in a single season for LSU. When things click, this is a Pro Bowler waiting to happen. If not, it’s probably just another Randy Gregory situation. It’s impossible to know at this stage.

AFC West 2018 NFL Draft Grades: Raiders Gamble Big, Chiefs Lose

Fantasy Sleeper: Jordy Nelson

Look, one of these receivers has to do something because Amari Cooper is still stuck in witness protection until further notice. Why not take a flier on Jordy Nelson? Obviously, he isn’t what he once was but maybe Nelson squeezes one more good year out. He essentially goes into the Michael Crabtree role as a big target on the outside. Nelson still caught 6 touchdown passes a year ago and Brett Hundley started for most of the year.

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