If only we could fast-forward to September 9 when the Denver Broncos visit the Oakland Raiders for Week 1 of the NFL season, right? If only…
While unfortunately we can’t, I wanted to imagine a fun scenario: what if I could fast-forward a few months and read all of the headlines surrounding the Raiders between now and then? If everything went perfectly, what would they say? Here’s five ideas…
1) Clelin Ferrell and Co. are proving the doubters wrong
Of all the potential storylines, I have to think this would be the best. If the Raiders are going to turn this franchise around, it’s going to center on the 2019 draft class becoming everything Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden expect them to be. Atop this list, of course, is Clelin Ferrell — the surprise No. 4 pick, who came at a position of desperate need. If Ferrell develops into a Pro Bowl defensive end, Josh Jacobs into a franchise back and Jonathan Abram into the backbone of the Raider defense for years to come? The 2019 season will be an unmitigated success.
2) 2016 Derek Carr is back
A one-time MVP candidate, Derek Carr has fallen back to earth over the past two seasons and the Raiders are hoping that this can be explained by a lack of talent around him and some bad injury luck. If that’s the case then he’s got no excuses this year.
Not only is Carr entering his second year in the same offensive system, but now he has one of the league’s best collections of weapons and a pretty expensive (and massive) group of blockers scheduled to play in front of him. If Carr solidifies his status as the Raider quarterback of both the present and the future, it will quell a lot of fears heading into the Las Vegas era.
3) Antonio Brown: model citizen
When the Raiders traded for the league’s best receiver a couple of months ago, you just assumed he’d come with some off-the-field drama. So far? It’s been basically the exact opposite. While other divas like Odell Beckham Jr. and Leveon Bell have been question marks in their new homes, Brown has spent the spring building a relationship with his new quarterback and spending a ton of time with his new teammates. Will that continue once he realizes this team isn’t anywhere near as good as his Steeler teams have been? We’ll see — but even if this storyline continues through the preseason that will be a big win.
4) Raiders become America’s Team after best Hard Knocks season ever
Okay, so this is a selfish one, but I freaking love Hard Knocks — and the dream of having the Raiders on it this season remains a possibility. Just imagine how much fun it would be to have Jon Gruden, Mike Mayock, Antonio Brown and others in your life every week on HBO? I honestly think it would make this team more likable, and would probably ease some of the negativity the national media puts on them from the outside.
Would it really matter? Of course not, but it’d sure be fun.
5) Gareon Conley fully healthy and ready to roll
This one might be surprising on a list of the five most desirable headlines, but I think Conley is a critical piece to the Oakland Raiders future. So far, we’ve seen glimpses of greatness from him — but it has never come consistently or for extended periods of time.
If 2019 becomes a breakout season for Conley, it’ll go a long way towards helping the development of everyone else on defense. Having a No. 1 corner might be one of the greatest luxuries in a league with a dearth of cornerback talent, and of everyone on the Raider roster, Conley has the best chance of getting there.