Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of stories focused on the Raiders’ trek toward a pivotal 2014 NFL Draft (May 8-10). We'll have content every day, including position breakdowns, retrospectives, mock drafts, comments from general manager Reggie McKenzie and more. Bookmark our Road to the NFL Draft and set your DVRs for April 29, when the Raiders 2014 Draft Special debuts on CSN California at 8:30pm.
The Raiders need their 2014 draft class to pay dividends this season. The same can be said about last year’s crop, which was high on talent and light on production.
Injury slowed progress and in some cases, stopped it all together. Ineffectiveness troubled others.
There were bright spots -- most notably tight end Mychal Rivera and strongside linebacker Sio Moore -- with potential for greater growth all around this season.
That’s a requirement in a year where the Raiders must win more games against a far tougher schedule. While veteran free agents were brought in to support that cause, expectations are already high for the 2013 class.
First round selection D.J. Hayden is penciled in as a starting cornerback. There’s hope second-rounder Menelik Watson will take hold at right tackle. Rivera and Moore should continue to grow.
Before we dive headfirst into the 2014 draft, let’s pause a beat and assess last year’s class, what they did as rookies and what they’re expected to do in 2014:
CB D.J. Hayden
No. 12 overall, Houston
5-foot-10, 190 pounds
First impression: Hayden missed most of the offseason program due to abdominal surgery related to a cardiovascular rupture that nearly killed him during his senior season at Houston. He lost valuable time to bulk up and prepare mentally for his rookie season. Hayden was tentative at times and paid for it, but there were flashes of brilliance that showed the player he can be.
Hayden started the year playing outside corner in the nickel package, but his rookie season was cut in half by a groin injury. He spent the second half on injured reserve. All told, Hayden had 25 tackles, an interception and two passes defensed.
Next step: The Raiders believe Hayden can start opposite Tarell Brown in the base defense, though Carlos Rogers is available if Hayden struggles. If that happens, he’ll go back to his 2013 role, working primarily in the nickel package. After an offseason getting bigger, faster and stronger, the Raiders believe Hayden will be more confident, aggressive and become a true impact player in 2014.
OT Menelik Watson
No. 42 overall, Florida State
First impression: Injuries ruined Watson’s rookie season. He missed nearly all of the preseason and the start of the season will various ailments, a setback magnified by how little football experience Watson has. The Englishman played just two years of organized football -- only one at a major college -- before turning pro, so he was never able to make up for missed time. He played five games but took significant snaps only twice.
Next step: The coaching staff has great faith that Watson will be a major contributor if he can stay healthy. They hope to move recent signee Austin Howard to right guard, which will open a starting slot for Watson at right tackle if he can claim it with a quality offseason and a good camp.
SLB Sio Moore
No. 66 overall, Connecticut
First impression: Moore was plugged right into the starting lineup last offseason, and thrived there. His snap counts increased as the year went on after generally getting pulled in the nickel package. Moore proved to be a solid run stopper and pass rusher with even more room to grow. He was the MVP of last year’s rookie crop, with 50 tackles, 4.5 sacks, a forced fumble, 11 quarterback hits and 12 hurries.
Next step: If Moore continues to make strides, his numbers should increase in 2014. The Raiders upgraded their four-man pass rush significantly in free agency, and hope Moore can develop into a feared presence getting after the quarterback.
QB Tyler Wilson
No. 112 overall, Arkansas
First impression: Wilson quickly fell behind Matt McGloin on the preseason depth chart and never regained his footing. He was placed on the practice squad for most of the season. He was promoted briefly after Terrelle Pryor got hurt, and was claimed off waivers by Tennessee when the team tried to move him back to the practice squad.
TE Nick Kasa
No. 172 overall, Colorado
First impression: Kasa fell behind fellow rookie Mychal Rivera on the depth chart and wasn’t given many reps during the regular season. He was always viewed as a developmental prospect after playing three of his four collegiate seasons on the defensive line. His only NFL catch went nine yards for a touchdown.
Next step: The jury’s still out on Kasa, and he must have a strong preseason to earn playing time outside special teams.
RB Latavius Murray
No. 181 overall, Central Florida
First impression: Murray never had a chance to make a real one. He was lost for the season with an ankle injury early in camp and spent the year on injured reserve.
Next step: Murray’s rookie season essentially starts over again. If he can stay healthy and get off to a solid start, the physical back with surprising speed can earn carries with Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden during the regular season. If one of those players gets hurt and he wins the No. 3 job over Kory Sheets or Jeremy Stewart, Murray’s role could increase.
TE Mychal Rivera
No. 172 overall, Tennessee
First impression: Rivera should be considered the team’s offensive rookie of the year after turning in solid numbers as a pass catcher. He had 38 catches for 407 yards and four touchdowns in 16 games played. Jeron Mastrud was the preferred blocking tight end, but Rivera showed sure hands as an outlet receiver.
Next step: Rivera must show improved blocking skill to become an every-down tight end. The Raiders are counting on him to be an active part of the passing game. Anything else would be a bonus.
DT Stacy McGee
No. 205 overall, Oklahoma
First impression: McGee became a favorite among the coaches after progressing throughout the year as a run-stuffing defensive tackle. He earned five starts -- generally as part of a heavy defensive line specialized to stop the run -- and had 20 tackles and half-a-sack in 15 games played.
Next step: Experience should help McGee grow as a player. The Raiders expect him to be an active part of a defensive line rotation, primarily at nose tackle behind veteran Pat Sims.
WR Brice Butler
No. 209 overall, San Diego State
First impression: Butler had a solid preseason, but drifted down on the depth chart due to ill-timed drops and the emergence of Andre Holmes as a third receiver. He had nine receptions for 103 yards in 2013, but didn’t have a catch after Week 6.
Next step: Butler will have to work hard to make the 2014 roster. The Raiders have upgraded in free agency with James Jones and could add more competition through the draft.
DE David Bass
No. 233 overall, Missouri Western State
First impression: Bass made some solid plays in the preseason, but the Raiders chose to cut him in favor of undrafted free agent Ryan Robinson. Bass had 23 tackles, a sack and an interception returned for a touchdown in 2013 as a member of the Chicago Bears.