Raiders quietly in receiver market as NFL draft approaches

OAKLAND, Calif. — The Raiders may have tipped their hand.

In mid-March, shortly after signing wide receiver Jordy Nelson, the team hosted Ryan Grant for a visit. The wide receiver signed with the Indianapolis Colts days later. So, the Raiders kept scouring. They hosted another free-agent wide receiver, Eric Decker, on March 20. He also left without a deal.

Their diligence reflects where the Raiders stand at receiver entering next week’s draft.

They are open.

The Raiders are expected to address one of their many defensive needs Thursday during the first round. But as early as Friday, in rounds two and three, it would not surprise to see a receiver selected. Such a move would be consistent with one of the franchise’s focal points this offseason.

The Raiders want to surround Derek Carr with more help. A better supporting cast, they believe, can help correct the quarterback’s 2017 dip in production. So far, the Raiders mostly have flipped personnel.

At wide receiver, Nelson was the only multiyear signing before Michael Crabtree and Cordarrelle Patterson were traded. Tight end Derek Carrier was signed before Clive Walford was released.

Amari Cooper, Nelson and Seth Roberts are left standing atop the wide-receiver depth chart. Dwayne Harris and Griff Whalen both signed one-year deals and offer return ability. Johnny Holton, Keon Hatcher and Isaac Whitney round out the group as holdovers.

Clearly, an adequate deep threat is missing. Injuries forced Holton into the role last season, but his skills proved too raw to be relied upon consistently, quality targets twice resulting in an interception downfield.

The Raiders could use another receiving tight end, too. Jared Cook is coming off wrist surgery and entering the final season of a two-year contract. Lee Smith and Carrier primarily have been used as blockers. Pharaoh Brown, as an undrafted rookie, blocked on 32 of his 39 offensive snaps in 2017.

It’s possible Decker, still a free agent, could re-enter the conversation after the draft.

Regardless, on the topic of providing Carr more receiving talent, plenty of work remains.

Top receivers in 2018 draft

— Calvin Ridley, Alabama: 6 feet; 189 pounds. Set to join Cooper (2015) and Julio Jones (2011) as only Alabama wide receivers taken in first round since 1970 NFL-AFL merger. Knack for separation.

— DJ Moore, Maryland: 6 feet; 200 pounds. Set single-season school record with 80 receptions in 2017. Did it with four different quarterbacks. Thick frame. Explosive after catch.

— Courtland Sutton, SMU: 6 feet, 3 inches; 218 pounds. Big-bodied possession receiver. Won’t blow lid off secondaries; ran a 4.53 40-yard dash at combine. A feel for leverage in routes. Basketball background.

— Christian Kirk, Texas A&M: 5 feet, 10 inches; 201 pounds. Elusive playmaker with ball in hands. Capable of stepping in and starting immediately as slot receiver over Roberts.

— DJ Chark, LSU: 6 feet, 3 inches; 199 pounds. Speed not a question here. Fastest combine 40 at his position (4.34 seconds). Offers dimension Raiders lack. Route tree, though, may prove limited.

Contact reporter Michael Gehlken at mgehlken@reviewjournal.com. Follow @GehlkenNFL on Twitter.

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