Being among the worst at any position certainly makes it a lot easier to upgrade in the offseason. That was the case for a couple of positions on the Raiders this offseason.
Wide receiver and linebacker were far and away the most desperate spots for an upgrade.
Linebacker was an issue across the board. The Raiders found themselves with no returning starters at the position this offseason. Tahir Whitehead was coming off his second season and was rated as one of the worst coverage linebackers in the NFL. The team released him and signed top free agent target, Cory Littleton.
I recently rated Littleton as the number one addition for the Raiders this offseason. ESPN covered it from a national perspective, making the upgrade from Whitehead to Littleton the 6th biggest in the NFL.
The Raiders’ defense will have a new look in the “Back 7” this season, and it will be anchored by Littleton. The 26-year-old had been an absolute machine for the Rams the past two seasons. Littleton is the only player in the NFL with at least 125 tackles, three interceptions and two sacks each of the past two seasons. Only one other player (Darius Leonard) has done that even once during the span. Littleton will be an every-down player at linebacker alongside Nick Kwiatkoski, with Damon Arnette, Damarious Randall, Jeff Heath and Maliek Collins among the other newcomers to the first defense to hit the Las Vegas strip.
ESPN’s top five biggest upgrades were:
- Colts DI DeForest Buckner over Margus Hunt
- Buccaneers QB Tom Brady over Jameis Winston
- Cardinals WR DeAndre Hopkins over Damiere Byrd
- Dolphins CB Byron Jones over Nik Needham
- Eagles CB Darius Slay over Ronald Darby
Interesting that the Raiders were in on signing Byron Jones and trading for Darius Slay, but lost out on those attempts. They would end up instead drafting Damon Arnette and signing Prince Amukamara.
Along with adding Littleton at outside linebacker, the Raiders also signed Nick Kwiatkoski to play the middle linebacker spot. Though bringing back Will Compton would have made sense as well.
Wide receiver had a gaping hole at one of the starting spots. Namely the number one receiver spot. Teams can’t exactly expect to do a whole lot on offense without a number one receiver.
For that reason, finding some outside speed was a must. They signed Nelson Agholor in free agency for depth, but to fill that number one spot, they needed a potential game breaker.
I listed Ruggs as the third best addition to the team and again ESPN agreed, listing him among the fourth most notable rookie upgrades over 2019 dud trade acquisition, Zay Jones.
The over/under for Ruggs’s receiving numbers are set at 800 yards according to prop bets that came out this morning. While Jones had just 216 yards between the Raiders and Bills last season. His career high is 652 yards which he put up in 2018.
The top three most notable rookie upgrades were:
- Bengals QB Joe Burrow over Andy Dalton
- Washington ED Chase Young over Ryan Anderson
- Lions CB Jeff Okudah over Rashaan Melvin