Oakland Raiders
The ghost of Khalil Mack haunts the Raiders. Can Arden Key be part of the solution? Check out the rest of the Oakland Raiders training camp preview! (Paul Chinn / San Francisco Chronicle)

The Oakland Raiders are a mess. What else can you say? There is an obvious reason why Hard Knocks picked the Raiders. Jon Gruden, Mike Mayock, Derek Carr, Nate Peterman, Richie Incognito, Vontaze Burfict, Ronald Ollie, Antonio Brown, and a bunch of rookies makes this the easy choice to put on TV. Are the Raiders screwed? Probably. Is it going to be fun to watch them crash and burn? Hell yes. Let’s get right into it. What should we look out for as far as the Oakland Raiders are concerned heading into training camp?

3 Position Battles To Watch:

Guard: Richie Incognito, Denver Kirkland, Jonathan Cooper, Denzelle Good

Richie Incognito is slated to start and wasn’t even in the league a year ago. He’s also an asshole for whatever that’s worth. Incognito is still capable if he has any gas left in the tank. The other options are new enticing. Jonathan Cooper went from top 10 draft pick to journeyman. Denzelle Good walked from the Colts for a reason. Denver Kirkland is big but not much else.

Linebacker: Marquel Lee, Jason Cabinda, James Cowser, Maxx Crosby, Tahir Whitehead

Vontaze Burfict and Brandon Marshall should be able to perform at an adequate level. Still hard to say that Mayock doesn’t even like Burfict. The last linebacker spot is tricky. There are a lot of names on this list. All with different skill sets. Some old, some not so old. Jason Cabinda is a sleeper. Undrafted a year ago but has a mean streak the Raiders probably love. Maxx Crosby might factor into the pass rush too.

Safety: Karl Joseph, Johnathan Abram

Are the Raiders really going to kick Karl Joseph to the curb this early? Joseph will enter his 3rd NFL season as a former 1st round pick and Oakland looks done with him. It’s not like he has been bad either. John Abram and Lamarcus Joyner are projected starters. Joseph is more of a box safety. So is Abram. Let’s see what the Raiders have up their sleeve.

Ready To Breakout: Arden Key

Arden Key only had one sack as a rookie. He lacks strength right now but that should come with time. As the former LSU product gets stronger (hopefully that happens) Key should become more productive. The Raiders need sacks. Since Khalil Mack left, I don’t think they have more than 5 during the entire 2018. I’m just making that number up but it feels right. Key is as good as any candidate to make the jump. Somebody has to, right?

Rookie To Watch: Clelin Ferrell

The Raiders shocked the world when they drafted Clelin Ferrell 4th overall. Is Ferrell the 4th best player in the draft? Hell no. Ferrell feels like an overhyped Kevin Dodd. No, that’s not a good thing. I still want to see him on hard knocks. The Raiders are still suffering from the ghost of Khalil Mack and whiffing in the draft doesn’t help matters. Ferrell better pan out or this franchise is doomed. He’s the face of the Mike Mayock era.

Fantasy Sleeper: Darren Waller

Jared Cook actually had a really nice year for the Raiders in 2018. Now that he is heading to the Saints, Oakland has a void at tight end. At Georgia Tech, Waller was a big target that had the speed to get down the field. Then, Waller started out as a receiver with the Ravens and has turned himself into a tight end. His speed and height makes him intriguing for the position. It’s his job to run away with. Tight ends are not easy to find in fantasy. Waller could develop into a nice waiver pick up late in the season.