The Oakland Raiders showed a lot of promise last season, making a late playoff charge before fading at the end to finish just out of contention. The future appears to be bright though, as Oakland does have a lot of young talent on their roster.
Football Outsiders compiled their newest rankings to determine who had the best group of young talent in the league, and they put the Raiders in the top ten.
The Raiders got the second-least expected value out of the 2012 draft, so their ranking here is based almost exclusively on the under-25 talent of 2011. Aside from DE Lamarr Houston (25) and middle linebacker Rolando McClain (23), that talent is on offense. In the running game, Darren McFadden has built up quite a résumé when healthy and is only 25 years old. C Stefen Wisniewski (23) anchors the blocking in front of him. Both starting wide receivers also qualify for our list. Although nearly certain to be a draft bust given expectations, 2009 first-rounder Darrius Heyward-Bey "broke out" in his third season, improving his DYAR ranking by 42 spots. The revelation, however, was 2011 fifth-round pick Denarius Moore, who will start at split end opposite Heyward-Bey and figures to be the beneficiary of Carson Palmer's proclivity for deep passes. Further helping matters is LT Jared Veldheer, who gave up only 2.0 blown-block sacks in 2011.
The news is pretty good for 49ers fans too. No true stars on this list (San Francisco is full of gritty veterans), but there's potential for these guys to develop into something special down the line.
Some teams on this list have an inordinate amount of young starters; the 49ers aren't one of those teams. However, if you were to skip over the foursome of T Anthony Davis, WR Michael Crabtree, G Mike Iupati and LB NaVorro Bowman as only "pretty good" you'd be missing the forest for the trees. DE Aldon Smith showed he could be a dynamic pass-rusher last season, Chris Culliver played early and often at nickelback and RB Kendall Hunter is going to be part of a large group of committee backs that will also include 2012 second-rounder LaMichael James. This group has a few potential stars and, perhaps most importantly, very few young starters who started purely due to injury attrition.
Check out the full Football Outsiders article by clicking here and logging in with your ESPN Insider account (or registering to get one).
Talk about the rankings with Raiders fans at Silver and Black Pride, and with 49ers fans at Niners Nation.
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