With the first four training camp practices over, and some trends starting to emerge, I am posting my updated list of who I think are the most likely players to make the final roster. There will be positional analysis below each section.
If you want to read my projections for the offensive side of the ball, click here.
Players in bold are the ones I am projecting to make the final roster. Players initalics are tabbed for addition to the practice squad:
Defensive Line: 8
Ricky Lumpkin (practice squad)
Shelby Harris (practice squad)
Analysis: Most of these are self explanatory. Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley were priority free agents and the starting defensive ends. Likewise, Antonio Smith was a priority free agent and will be the teams’ starting 3-technique defensive tackle. Pat Sims had a quietly good year, last year, and most of the beat writers didn’t expect the Raiders would be able to get him back.
For the second team, Jack Crawford and Stacy McGee had good moments last year and seem highly likely to make the final squad as rotational players. Justin Ellis was a third round pick in this year’s draft. Ryan Robinson is a questionable pick. I think the Raiders need another defensive end and he’s had his moments both last year and during this camp.
I have Shelby Harris, their last rookie in this year’s draft, getting cut and moving to the teams’ practice squad for further development.
Analysis: This position has become harder to predict with the release of Kevin Burnett. I think the top 5 linebackers are pretty easy to hit with the top 4 all competing for starting positions and Maiava a solid veteran who could also push for time.
I don’t think the team will go with just 5 linebackers because it doesn’t provide enough depth at the position. Therefore, I picked a 6th linebacker for my projections.
There has not been a full scrimmage in practice yet, despite two days in pads, so judging linebackers is particularly difficult. I went with undrafted rookie Fields because he was able to be extremely productive coming out of Division II Winston-Salem State. If you are interested, here is a profile on Fields.
I could easily see Kaelin Burnett or Marshall McFadden making the squad over Fields but because I’m projecting without much information on the position, at this time, Fields is the tabbed player for the 6th spot.
Analysis: I have the Raiders keeping 7 cornerbacks, which is a lot, because there is talent at the position and because the team is so unsettled at the top.
DJ Hayden will hopefully be back from an off-season foot surgery by the time the season starts. If he isn’t healthy, he would likely remain on the PUP list and miss the beginning of the season.
Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers are near-locks to make the roster given their previous experience and starting roles in camp, thus far.
Behind Hayden, Brown, and Rogers things get a little murky. My best guess at this time is that Chimdi Chekwa is the fourth corner and TJ Carrie is the fifth, as needed.
Keith McGill looks like a project, which isn’t surprising given the fact that he’s only played at the corner position for a short time, transitioning from safety. I think he makes the squad but only as a deep reserve/project at this time.
Analysis: Barring injury, Woodson and Branch seem like locks as the starting free and strong safety, respectively. I think that Dowling, a young safety that many think was a steal in the 7th round, makes the squad.
Prior to training camp, I had Usama Young as a strong candidate to make the squad but he has been on the PUP list since the start of camp, which doesn’t bode well. There is still a good amount of time remaining, so I have Young still making the squad but he’ll need to get healthy and be able to make a contribution to do so.
Total defense: 25
25 defenders make the squad in my current projections, although you could make the argument that Taiwan Jones is more of a special teams specialist than a true defender.
The Raiders have some better depth this year at every defensive position but there is a lot of competition at the bottom ends of most of the roster spots. It will be interesting to see how the final roster shakes out.