The Oakland Raiders have some big names playing wide receiver these days. Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams are bound to steal most of the spotlight. Sprinkle in a little rookie Hunter Renfrow and the guys behind the top three aren’t likely to get a lot of attention. Wide receiver used to be a weakness for the team, but now it’s starting to look like a strength. There’s been a fourth guy that was added in free agency that is proving he should get plenty of targets in 2019.
J.J. Nelson Is Exactly the Speed Demon That the Raiders Need
Everybody knows that Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams are fast. But are they 4.28 40-yard dash fast? Nope, but there is a player on the roster that is. J.J. Nelson spent the first four years of his career with the Arizona Cardinals. He had two relatively productive seasons there before he fell off in 2018. One thing Nelson has always done well is make big plays as he has averaged 17.8 yards per reception in his career. The Raiders brought him on with very little fanfare and it was anybody’s guess if he’d actually make the roster. Well, in training camp, he’s not only making a case to be on the roster, but he’s also making a case to see big playing time. He’s been proving that he’s more than just a speed guy.
Nelson also loves him some Derek Carr.
I love Derek, man,” Nelson said earlier in training camp. “Like … I really love Derek Carr. I have been in the NFL for 5 years, been playing since I was little and he’s one of the best teammates I’ve ever had. Honestly. And I’m not just saying that because he’s my QB and I want passes. Great guy.”
Carr has shown an ability to spread the ball around effectively in the past and Nelson is showing that he should get more than a few targets. The Raiders are loaded at wide receiver, but each of the top guys brings something different to the table. Brown is the do-it-all every-down player. Williams is the tall red zone/deep ball presence. Renfrow is the sure-handed slot receiver. Nelson gives the team a wild card with his nightmare speed. A player like him lets Jon Gruden be very creative. Nelson could also factor into the return game. Regardless of how the Raiders use him, Nelson is going to be an exciting player to watch in 2019.
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No News is Bad News for Ryan Grant
Another receiver that was brought in to compete for a spot was Ryan Grant. Like Nelson, Grant has put up productive years in his career. He made headlines last offseason when the Baltimore Ravens gave him a big contract and then took it back after Michael Crabtree became available. He proceeded to have a mediocre year in Indianapolis. He has an opportunity to turn things around in Oakland but hasn’t shown much to this point. It’s almost as bad to not stand out at all as it is to make bad plays. Just ask Ronald Ollie.
With all that said, he’s still getting first-team reps. It could just be a situation where he’s not making a lot of highlights, but he’s consistent enough for the coaches to want to keep him on. He’ll have to fight off some exciting young guys and rookies, but his experience should help him keep a spot on the team. Grant will have his work cut out for him if he wants to get a lot of looks in the season.