The wide receiver position for the Oakland Raiders has been a problem for a number of years now. The last time that the Raiders had a 1,000 yard receiver was back in 2005 when Randy Moss was with the Raiders. Since then, the Raiders have struggled to find a legitimate number one receiver.
In recent years, the Raiders have gone away from the game plan of signing veteran receivers like Randy Moss and Javon Walker, choosing instead to rely on the NFL draft to find their next thousand yard receiver. Since 2008, the Raiders have taken six wide receivers in the NFL draft.
2010: Jacoby Ford (4th round)
2011: Denarius Moore (5th round)
Of those six players, only Arman Shields is no longer with the team. Every other player has made themselves serious contenders for playing time in Oakland. This has left Oakland stacked with young talented receivers, but none of them have stepped up to take the number one receiver role. As a result, Oakland continued to see former tight end Zach Miller lead the team in receptions and yards the past few years.
Because of the fact that the Raiders are so young at the wide receiver position, many believed the Raiders should have signed a veteran receiver this off season in order to help develop the young talent. While there were rumors that the Raiders pursued Chad Ochocinco, as well as rumors that they might pursue former Raider Randy Moss. However, as the season inched closer, it appeared as though the Raiders were not going to sign the veteran receiver that many believed they needed.
Meanwhile, unbeknownst to many, it looks as though the Raiders did go out and get a veteran to help lead the youngsters, but did so in a much smarter way. On August 6, the Raiders quietly signed five year veteran Derek Hagan to the team. Most believed that Hagan would primarily be a training camp body that would struggle to make the final roster. However, Hagan has impressed not only on the field, but also off the field, likely forcing the Raiders to not only ensure him a spot on the roster, but also to find playing time for him once the season starts.
Through the first three games of the preseason, Hagan has racked up 10 catches for 195 yards and a touchdown. Those numbers easily lead Raiders receivers this preseason, and are better than Darrius Heyward-Bey's totals for his entire rookie season.
Not only has Hagan proven himself to be a leader on the field, the coaching staff has noted that he is a leader by example off of the field. Ealier this month, coach Hue Jackson sent a message to the team about how they should be preparing for the season by complimenting Hagan on his work ethic:
"He understands that instead of going in and playing Xbox at night time and trying to figure out what man can score a touchdown on that video game, he goes in, he takes his playbook, opens it and works on it. That's a tribute to him."
Not only is Hagan proving himself to be a reliable option for Jason Campbell in games, he is proving himself to be a valuable addition to the Raiders locker room as well.
It was just a few years ago that the Raiders were thought to have one of the worst defensive lines in the league. Then, the Raiders drafted a slough of young players and added a veteran in Richard Seymour to help them develop. Since that time, the Raiders defensive line has turned into one of the better units in the league.
Now, it looks as though the Raiders may have found a veteran wide receiver that can help the young wide receiver corps develop into the vertical threat that Al Davis dreams of. The best part of it is that the Raiders have found that talent without running the extra baggage of a big pay check and a diva's attitude.