The Oakland Raiders will not need to make their final cuts and get their roster down to 53 men until September 3. However, with the draft and free agency over, this is the least exciting time of the NFL off season. While some news trickles out of OTA's and mini camps, they are not much to get excited about. So while it is far too early to make a true judgment on many players vying for a spot on the Raiders roster, it never hurts to take a look at who the 53 men who are on the roster when the Raiders open the 2012 season against San Diego on Monday Night Football.
So, based on very little actual facts, here are the 53 men that I believe the Raiders will take into the 2012 season:
Quarterback (3): Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart, Terrelle Pryor
Halfback (3): Darren McFadden, Mike Goodson, Taiwan Jones
Fullback (2): Marcel Reece, Owen Schmitt
Tight End (3): David Ausberry, Brandon Myers, Richard Gordon
Wide Receiver (5): Darrius Heyward-Bey, Jacoby Ford, Denarius Moore, Juron Criner, Louis Murphy
Offensive Tackle (3): Jared Veldheer, Khalif Barnes, Joseph Barksdale
Offensive Guard (4): Cooper Carlisle, Mike Brisiel, Tony Bergstrom, Lucas Nix
Center (3): Stefen Wisniewski, Alex Parsons, Jon Condo
Defensive End (4): Matt Shaughnessy, Lamarr Houston, Dave Tollefson, Jack Crawford
Defensive Tackle (4): Richard Seymour, Tommy Kelly, Desmond Bryant, Jamie Cumbie
Outside Linebacker (4): Philip Wheeler, Aaron Curry, Miles Burris, Kaelin Burnett
Middle Linebacker (3): Rolando McClain, Travis Goethel, Nate Stupar
Cornerback (6): Ron Bartell, Shawntae Spencer, DeMarcus Van Dyke, Chimdi Chekwa, Bryan McCann, Brandon Underwood
Safety (4): Michael Huff, Tyvon Branch, Matt Giordano, Curtis Taylor
Kickers (2): Sebastian Janikowski, Shane Lechler
A lot of these are fairly obvious. The Raiders have depth issues all over the field and do not have the luxury of having serious competition at many positions. Thus, a lot of the positions are filled out simply by taking all of the guys with any kind of experience.
There are, however, a few players that could be deemed surprises on my list. Guard Lucas Nix is a undrafted free agent who had previously been thought of as a mid round talent. Nate Stupar was the Raiders 7th round pick in the 2012 NFL draft. Seventh round picks do not often make the team, but Stupar's special teams talents and the need for depth at linebacker will enable him to make the squad. Kaelin Burnett is another undrafted free agent. Raiders general manager liked Burnett enough to have him come work out for the Raiders leading into the 2012 Draft. He, like Stupar, is benefitting from the lack of depth at the outside linebacker position.
Finally, and perhaps most significantly, I have the Raiders carrying two fullbacks. This is rarely done in the NFL as the trend towards pass first offenses has massively diminished the importance of the fullback position. This is not your ordinary fullback battle, however. Marcel Reece and Owen Schmitt play completely different roles. While Schmitt is a traditional fullback, Reece is more of a TE/FB/WR hybrid. Reece excels in the pass game by creating mismatches and showing surprising speed to go with his big body. Reece may one day re-define the fullback position, but he lacks the traditional blocking skills that Schmitt can provide.