Oakland Raiders fans and commentators are familiar with all of the big names on the roster like Khalil Mack, Derek Carr, Amari Cooper and so on. But it takes good play from more than just the big names in order to have a good season. Today, we’re going to look at three names who are not necessarily well known and certainly not guys who are expected to be difference makers, but who could surprise everyone with how much they will contribute to the success of the team.
For a guy who only had seven targets last season, Switzer sure is getting a lot of attention this offseason. The Raiders traded Jihad Ward for Switzer in what was essentially a trade of disappointing picks. But the Raiders have hope that Switzer will be a playmaker for them. Not only is he a valuable return man for both punts and kickoffs, he’s being seen as a threat in the slot, something that the Cowboys clearly did not see.
In fact, Switzer believed the Cowboys had him on the path to convert him into a running back, something that Switzer was not too keen on. In Oakland, he will get a shot at being in the rotation at slot receiver and the coaches already think he could have an impact there as reviews from offseason workouts so far have been great for the shifty wideout.
I know, Derrick Johnson is a pretty big name for a piece on sleepers but this is not the same Johnson that was one of the best linebackers in the NFL for years. This is a Johnson who is hanging on and trying to squeeze another year or two out of his career. But despite that fact, there’s a good chance that Johnson is an upgrade for the Raiders.
As we all know, the Raiders have been trying to find an answer at middle linebacker forever with NaVorro Bowman being the most recent stopgap. And while this Johnson isn’t the same guy who terrorized the Raiders for years, he still has enough in his tank to be an upgrade for Oakland, specifically because of his coverage abilities.
He may be a liability in the run game, but he’s still good in coverage. Better than anyone the Raiders has had covering tight ends for years.
What Justin Ellis does isn’t sexy or exciting. It’s the dirty work that has to be done but that rarely gets recognized by fans because the work doesn’t show up on the stat sheet. Perhaps partially because of this, many were surprised that of the many free agents the raiders had this offseason, Ellis was the one they focused on re-signing. But given the importance that Paul Guenther puts on the defensive tackle position, it’s likely a sign that Ellis will play a big role in this defense.
And now that the Raiders have added an elite pass-rushing defensive tackle in Maurice Hurst to compliment Ellis, Jelly can focus on what he does best, stop the run. And with Guenther’s one gap scheme, Ellis will have less responsibility which will hopefully lead to more production. Ellis has always been good for the Raiders but under the guidance of Guenther, he could have his best year yet.