It’s still May, and this time last year, I was telling you not to sweat Khalil Mack’s holdout because Reggie McKenzie would have him re-signed before the season started. Things change. However, I never met a take too hot for me, and I’m going to attempt to predict all of the starters for the Oakland Raiders for the 2019 season.
Predicting the 2019 Starters for the Oakland Raiders
Quarterback- Derek Carr
Despite dozens of reports to the contrary, Derek Carr returns for his sixth season as the starting quarterback of the Oakland Raiders. Barring an injury, it’s hard to imagine a situation where anyone else starts the season under center against the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football. Unless of course, Jon Gruden decides to open the season with the wildcat.
Tailback- Josh Jacobs
You don’t spend a first round pick on a tailback, and then not get some immediate gratification. It’s the easiest position to adjust to, and while I wouldn’t put it past Gruden to start Doug Martin on the depth chart, double J (you saw this nickname here first) will get most of the carries. Sorry Chris Warren III truthers.
Fullback- Alec Ingold
This is where I throw my first monkey wrench into the established depth chart. Alec Ingold is an undrafted rookie free agent, but I genuinely believe he’ll be Oakland’s starting fullback this year. Let me tell you all about why I love this kid. A quarterback turned linebacker turned fullback, Ingold is a malicious blocker that plays with a mean streak. He checks all the boxes and what’s great is, I have footage of the exact moment Jon Gruden knew he found his fullback.
Wide Receivers- Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams, and Hunter Renfrow
It’s funny, the first two spots are obvious, but that third receiver could be literally anyone on the roster. You think I’m joking, but I’m looking at Darren Waller and Jalen Richard and thinking, “yeah, they could make the switch.” Ultimately, the early favorites are free agent acquisitions Ryan Grant, J.J. Nelson, and fifth round pick, Hunter Renfrow.
Ultimately, I went with Renfrow because I think he’s primed to make an immediate impact as Oakland’s slot receiver. He’s a smart guy, he understands the game, he’s an immaculate route runner, and he has outstanding hands. A.B. draws the double team, Williams occupies the safeties deep, Jacobs punishes linebackers, and little Hunter Renfrow ends up in man coverage on third down. Though being completely honest, I felt like Ryan Switzer was going to be dangerous in Oakland last year too, and look how that turned out.
Tight End- Luke Willson
The Raiders didn’t really address the hole at tight end this off-season after Jared Cook departed in free agency. There are quite a few names vying for this spot, from versatile speedster Darren Waller to rookie Foster Moreau. I like Waller a lot, but I have questions about his ability as a blocker. Willson isn’t a sexy pick, but I think he’s the most complete tight end on the roster with experience under his belt.
Left Tackle- Kolton Miller
In an era where the concept of the blindside has been undone by versatile edge rushers that line up just about anywhere, it’s the 2018 first round pick taking over the left side of the line. The Raiders are hoping an off-season in the gym and a healthy pair of knees will produce a better year from Miller.
Left Guard- Richie Incognito
This is a shot in the dark because the Raiders haven’t even signed the problematic offensive lineman yet, but if reports are to believed, it’s a done deal. You’ve gotta think the Raiders wouldn’t even bother bringing in a player of his age with all that baggage if they didn’t intend on starting him. Like it or not (for the record, I do not), he’s probably the starting left guard this year.
Center- Rodney Hudson
Duh. Hudson is the best center in football, fight me.
Right Guard- Gabe Jackson
Jackson, one of the few holdovers from the Reggie McKenzie era, is the one constant on Oakland’s offensive line. It seemed like he might be on the way out at points last season, but he remains. As part of a weak group, his spot on the depth chart is pretty safe.
Right Tackle- Trent Brown
See: Kolton Miller’s explanation.
Defensive Ends- Clelin Ferrell and Arden Key
Clelin Ferrell is the obvious one. He was the fourth overall pick, obviously he’s going to start right away. The other end spot is a little more open. Mad Maxx Crosby is someone that a lot of Raider fans are high on, and someone we hope makes an impact sooner rather than later, but for now, Key gets another shot at end.
Defensive Tackles- Mo Hurst and Jonathan Hankins
Mo Hurst is the most talented starter returning from last season, so his spot as a starter is secure. The Raiders will likely feature a rotation at the d-tackle spot, but I think he and Jon Hankins will be the ones on the field the most consistently.
Linebackers- Brandon Marshall, Vontaze Burfict, and Marquel Lee
I really think that undrafted rookie Te’veon Coney gets involved in the starting lineup at some point, alongside Raider regulars like Tahir Whitehead and Jason Cabinda in some capacity. Also, just because someone isn’t a starter, that doesn’t mean they won’t get extensive playing time. Some guys are better at certain things than others, but I’m willing to bet the two free agent acquisitions get plenty of playing time.
Corners- Gareon Conley and Daryl Worley
I’d like to see second round pick Trayvon Mullen get involved with Oakland’s starting line up, but corner is one of the hardest positions to transition to in the pros, and Paul Guenther is unpredictable with defensive backs. Throw in Gruden’s love for Worley, and he’ll end up starting.
The nickle spot is interesting too because for the time being, two names jump out. Free agent signings corner Nevin Lawson and safety Lamarcus Joyner could both find themselves playing that third corner pretty frequently.
Free Safety- Lamarcus Joyner
As previously established Joyner will play a lot of nickle corner, but he is primarily a safety. I’m thinking that when Joyner comes up, they’ll drop Karl Joseph back. If not, I’m confused as to what the team plans to do with the former first round pick.
Strong Safety- Jonathan Abram
Honestly, I was tempted to put Karl Joseph here after I saw how long Guenther likes to keep his young defensive backs on the bench, but I don’t think Abram is going to give him or Coach Gruden a choice. Abram is an intensely competitive young man, and I fully expect him to be a team captain down the road. He’s gonna make sure he plays, whether the coaching staff agrees or not.
Kicker- Daniel Carlson
One of the rare bright spots of last season, Dan Carlson only missed one kick as a Raider last season, and he was perfect on extra points. Carlson may not be a young Sebastian Janikowski, but he was 3/3 from 50+ yards in 2018. This is pretty much a lock.
Punter- Johnny Townsend
I know Raider Nation is exhausted just reading this, but something’s gotta give. The punter that balled out in college and the mess that the Raiders were stuck with in 2018 are very, very different players. Gruden is relentlessly stubborn, and as much as I’m open to seeing the Return of the King, I bet Gruden sticks with his guy for one more year.