The Raiders will use the entire preseason to evaluate their players and whittle this roster from 90 to 53. There are three exhibition games and several practices remaining to help sort things out, but that won’t stop us from projecting who makes the cut at this point.
There is some wiggle room, and we reserve the right to adjust -- there will be a second version before final cuts -- as the preseason moves forward. There won’t be much movement on a talented squad with most top spots set, but a few battles will rage.
The team can experiment with one extra player while Marcel Reece completes a PED suspension. There will be tough calls ahead for the last cornerback and linebacker, with a few worthy candidates. The No. 5 receiver spot should be key as well, with an undrafted player making the squad.
Here’s our first crack at projecting the Raiders 53-man roster:
Behind the selection: There are four obvious choices here, with an undrafted free agent in the No. 5 spot. He has been the best rookie receiver in practice, and showed special teams muster with a 43-yard kickoff return. He’ll have to make that selection stand with more quality preseason performances.
Offensive tackle (4)
Behind the selection: Each guy has started an NFL game, with Penn on the left, and either Watson or Howard on the right. The reserve is the swing tackle, with McCants in deep reserve.
Behind the selection: Osemele and Jackson should start, with Feliciano as the swing interior lineman. Alexander has upside and can play guard and tackle, with versatility preferred in reserve linemen.
Behind the selection: Hudson will play every snap if healthy, and Feliciano will be his backup.
Tight end (3)
Behind the selection: This group would’ve had four members had Gabe Holmes avoided injury. His ankle ailment is expected to land the promising young player on IR. His spot can be used on a special teams contributor for another position.
Behind the selection: The Raiders kept two quarterbacks last year, but they’ll employ three to develop Cook throughout the season. McGloin is the primary backup.
Running back (4)
Behind the selection: There’s a tough choice ahead for the No. 4 running back spot. We’re trying not to be swayed by one game, when George Atkinson III played his best game against Arizona. He does need work in pass protection, a crucial role for anyone asked to man the backfield. We’re sticking with Richard for now, assuming he gets a chance to shine in the preseason and takes advantage. If that doesn’t happen, he seems destined for the practice squad. Atkinson III could stick in that scenario, at least until Marcel Reece returns from suspension.
Behind the selection: Reece returns from a PED suspension after Week 3, and will be brought back on the roster and used as a versatile receiving threat. Olawale can be an H-back or a short-yardage player also valued on special teams.
Defensive end/tackle (5)
Mario Edwards Jr.
Behind the selection: The Raiders have to stay deep here with Edwards Jr. out initially. McGee has filled in for him some at end and tackle. Orr can also play nose tackle, though he’s going to have to beat out hard-nosed undrafted free agent Darius Latham, who has looked good thus far.
Nose tackle (2)
Behind the selection: Both guys will be contributors in a scheme that uses a nose tackle regularly. Both guys make the team easily.
Edge rusher (4)
Behind the selection: The Raiders like Cowser, a fixture on the second unit. The undrafted free agent seems destined for a spot. Calhoun will be a rotational player behind Mack and Irvin.
Interior linebacker (5)
Behind the selection: This was an extremely difficult a position group to sort out. Smith and Heeney are automatic. They like James backing up at middle linebacker. Toomer is a good special teams player and it’s hard to imagine the Raiders giving up on Ball despite injury woes. That left Bates on the outside despite quality special teams play.
Behind the selection: Neiko Thorpe played well against the Cardinals, the only game played prior to this roster projection. We’re sticking with McDonald here, who had a superior training camp and looked pretty good against Arizona. He’s a tough corner, and would fit in well if pressed into action.
Behind the selection: The fourth safety spot could be a tough call. Dewey McDonald has been the second-unit strong safety most of the time, with first team reps if Joseph rests. He was terrible against Arizona, but could easily rebound later in the preseason and warrant a spot. McGill is the pick here due to the recent timing of his position switch from cornerback and that he was a 2014 fourth-round pick Raiders brass might not be ready to move on from yet. He is, however, far from a lock. Competition for the final safety spot is not over.
K Sebastian Janikowski
LS Jon Condo
P Marquette King
Behind the selection: No explanation necessary here. Pretty solid group of specialists.