Amidst a Raiders’ offseason some could describe as hectic, the attention has been focused on the Raiders additions at wide receiver. Football fans nationwide knew about the Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams, but the Raiders have been making some quieter moves for the wide receiver position.
Landing two big-name receivers like Brown and Williams could be enough to make fans want the team to begin looking for another position to build on, especially with a rising talent like Marcell Ateman. But for Jon Gruden, this was not the case. After the major signings, Gruden signed JJ Nelson and Ryan Grant to give the Raiders more depth at receiver. Along with depth, Ateman, Nelson, and Grant all bring unique abilities to the table.
Experience with Carr
Marcell Ateman is the only “quieter” wide receiver that caught a regular season pass from Derek Carr. Ateman played well last summer and recorded 139 yards on 12 catches. The 139 preseason yards were only 15 yards less than his entire 2018 season total. Ateman began to show signs of promise in the third quarter of the season, where he logged 127 yards over four weeks. Situationally, Ateman shined brightest during away games, on the Raiders side of the field, and in fourth quarter situations.
Ateman measures in at 6’4” and as one could assume, is not going to be the fastest player on the team and ran a 4.62 40-yard dash. Running routes is also not his strongest point, but the offseason is long and I would expect to see improvement come training camp. But Ateman’s size can be deadly. The average NFL cornerback is 5’10” and the six inches of separation can be huge. Ateman is young, 24, and can still be worked with to become more and more beneficial for the team.
J.J. Nelson on the other hand, is the polar opposite of Ateman. He measures in at 5’10” and recorded a blistering 4.28 40-yard dash in the 2015 NFL combine, which would have been the fastest time at the 2019 combine. In Arizona, Nelson was a bit of a nonfactor for the Cardinals last season, but in the previous two averaged 32 catches for 538 yards and considering the NFL record for receiving yards in a season is 1,964 yards, 538 is commendable for a potential third option receiver.
Nelson could greatly benefit under Gruden, a major supporter of grit and grind, as Nelson needs to work on playing “bigger” and being more aggressive in run situations. Like Ateman, also needs help sharpening routes. But Nelson has an added benefit that could keep him around if things do not pan out at receiver. Nelson is an explosive kick returner. Although the returner position is that of a fading breed, it is far better to be over prepared than under.
Ryan Grant is slightly different from the group of quiet wide receivers. Grant comes in at 6’0” with a 4.64 40-yard dash. NFL.com’s combine analysis portrays his negatives to outweigh his positives. He is called lackadaisical, pedestrian, an unpolished route runner, and has questionable courage. But watching Grant has shown some promising attributes. The most significant, potentially overlooked, skill Grant has shown an impressive ability to get open after the typical passing window has been closed. He also can turn upfield quickly, which, combined with the former, can be very dangerous. Should the Raiders fade away from their quick checkdown schemes, Grant could become Carr’s go-to.