The Oakland Raiders saw one of the greatest wide receivers in franchise history earn his way into the Hall of Fame this offseason when Tim Brown received the honor after waiting six years. But unfortunately for the team, they have been waiting even longer to replace Brown: over a decade, to be exact. Ever since Brown left the Raiders after the 2003 season, they have invested in free agents and draft picks in an attempt to replace him. In that time, Raiders fans have seen a number of players show promise only to fade away into obscurity, while others never even displayed any potential.
Since Brown left, the Raiders have spent 14 draft picks on wide receivers without finding any success.
- Carlos Francis: 2004 (Fourth Round)
- Johnnie Morant: 2004 (Fifth Round)
- Kevin McMahan: 2006 (Seventh Round)
- Johnnie Lee Higgins: 2007 (Third Round)
- Jonathan Holland: 2007 (Seventh Round)
- Arman Shields: 2008 (Fourth Round)
- Chaz Schilens: 2008 (Seventh Round)
- Darrius Heyward-Bey: 2009 (No. 7 overall)
- Louis Murphy: 2009 (Fourth Round)
- Jacoby Ford: 2010: (Fourth Round)
- Denarius Moore: 2011 (Fifth Round)
- David Ausberry: 2011 (Seventh Round)
- Juron Criner: 2012 (Fifth Round)
- Brice Butler: 2013 (Seventh Round)
The most notable names of that group of picks were Ford, Moore and Heyward-Bey, not exactly the most impressive trio. What’s even worse is that only one player of those receivers listed above will be on the roster next season (unless the Raiders decide to re-sign Moore this offseason). That player is Brice Butler, who’s shown some sparks of talent but hasn’t been consistent enough to earn regular playing time.
In that same time period, the Raiders have also signed more than two dozen wide receivers as veteran free agents or undrafted rookie free agents. The only real success story of those signings was undrafted free agent Rod Streater, who had two solid seasons with the club before spending the majority of the 2014 season on the injured reserve. Of all the wide receivers the Raiders have signed and drafted over the years in an attempt to replace Brown, Streater is by far the most talented and most likely to make an impact with the team in the long term (James Jones had a good first year with the club, but is older and is more of a stopgap No. 2 wideout). Then again, Streater himself has yet to show he is capable of being anything more than a solid No. 2.
The worst signing during that period was easily Javon Walker. Signed in 2008, Walker ended up playing two years for the Raiders, catching 15 passes for 196 yards and no touchdowns while collecting $21 million.
It’s no surprise that as the Raiders enter the 2015 offseason, wide receiver is easily their biggest need. They have finally found a quarterback with the potential to be a franchise guy, but the team watched him flounder in his rookie season due to being surrounded by a painful thin complement of skill position players.
With a star-studded free agent class of wide receivers (headlined by Dez Bryant, Demaryius Thomas, Randall Cobb, Torrey Smith, Jeremy Maclin and Michael Crabtree) and another deep draft class at the position (several mock drafts have the Raiders taking Amari Cooper from Alabama, but other first round talents include Kevin White, DeVante Parker, Dorial Green-Beckham, Jaelen Strong and Sammie Coates), don’t be surprised if the Raiders bring in more than a couple of new pass catchers this offseason in an attempt to finally put an end to the post-Brown search for a true No. 1.