NFL 2018 power rankings countdown No. 24: Oakland Raiders

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - NOVEMBER 05: Derek Carr #4 of the Oakland Raiders of the Oakland Raiders celebrates a touchdown during a game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium on November 5, 2017 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
MIAMI GARDENS, FL - NOVEMBER 05: Derek Carr #4 of the Oakland Raiders of the Oakland Raiders celebrates a touchdown during a game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium on November 5, 2017 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

A preview of the Oakland Raiders ahead of the 2018 season.

Check back every day for a new 2018 team preview in this year’s NFL power rankings countdown.

Today’s team is the Oakland Raiders.

24. Oakland Raiders

Keegan’s highest rated player: Khalil Mack, edge rusher

Biggest strength: Offensive line

Biggest weakness: Interior defensive line

Best offseason move: Trading for Martavis Bryant

Worst offseason move: Passing on defensive help in the first round

Game to circle on calendar: Week 1, vs. Los Angeles Rams

Breakout candidate: Karl Joseph, safety

Key players in contract years: Marshawn Lynch, Doug Martin, Martavis Bryant, Jared Cook, Breno Giacomi, Khalil Mack, Mario Edwards, Derrick Johnson, Rashaan Melvin, Reggie Nelson and Giorgio Tavecchio

Offensive preview

The productivity of this offense will depend on how Derek Carr works with Jon Gruden. It’s possible that Gruden helps him rebound into his 2016 form, but it’s also possible the two of them don’t get along and Carr’s development is halted. Either way, it’s certain that the relationship between these two will greatly affect the rest of this team for years to come.

Even though there are mixed opinions on Carr, he should be able to improve from his 2017 performance. The Raiders added pass protection help with Kolton Miller through the draft, while also adding a veteran receiver in Jordy Nelson to help replace Michael Crabtree. The additions of these two players will help Carr, but I doubt it will be enough to lead this team back to the playoffs.

A position of optimism is their backfield, which will be led by Marshawn Lynch. Expect Lynch to be productive this season. He will be behind one of the best offensive lines in football, and will have more familiarity with this offense in year two. The Raiders have more than just Lynch, though. With veterans Doug Martin and Jalen Richard, this will be a deep backfield.

The Raiders were smart to add Nelson, but they also lost Crabtree. The loss of Crabtree will cancel out the addition of Nelson, and as a result this receiving corps didn’t get much better or worse from last year.

The best acquisition the Raiders made this offseason actually wasn’t Nelson, but instead Martavis Bryant. If Bryant stays out of trouble, he could be a true difference maker in this offense. Don’t forget about the addition of Ryan Switzer either.

The two strongest players in this receiving corps will be Amari Cooper and Jared Cook. There are still reasons to believe in Cooper despite his mediocre 2017 performance, and Cook has the potential to be one of the best tight ends in football this season. If Cooper and Nelson rebound, this receiving corps could be scary.

The Raiders have one of the best and most experienced offensive lines in the league. The tackle pairing of Donald Penn and Kolton Miller will bring a nice balance of experienced veteran and future impact starters, while the interior offensive line has three experienced starters. The best player will once again be Kelechi Osemele.

This is an experienced offense, but they may be a year or two away chemistry-wise with a new head coach in town.

Defensive preview

The Raiders’ defense is talented at a few spots, but this unit is in desperate need of improvement in a lot of areas. The Raiders had an opportunity in this last draft to add a future difference maker to their defense with someone such as Derwin James, Roquan Smith, or Tremaine Edmunds, but they passed on that opportunity.

More from Lombardi Ave

The defensive line is mediocre right now, despite the fact that they have Khalil Mack. Mario Edwards Jr. has potential, but he’s the only veteran besides Mack I believe in on this defensive line right now. I like the draft picks of Arden Key and Maurice Hurst, but they both feel like boom-or-bust players. Mack’s holdout certainly won’t help this defensive line either.

One strength is the linebacking corps. Bruce Irvin and Tahir Whitehead are both dominant linebackers who will help this team particularly well in run support. The addition of multi-time All-Pro Derrick Johnson won’t hurt either, he will bring leadership to a defense greatly in need of it.

This secondary has potential, but also a lot of ifs attached to it. The cornerback corps has two potential impact players in Gareon Conley and Rashaan Melvin, but there is a chance both corners struggle this season.

The breakout player to watch is safety Karl Joseph, who will be paired with veteran Reggie Nelson. This safety corps has potential, as long as Joseph lives up to expectations and Nelson’s age doesn’t get to him.

The Raiders’ defense has a few talented players on it, but too many holes for me to believe in it. It’ll certainly be fun to see Khalil Mack in a contract year though.

Coaching staff/front office preview

I would temper your expectations with this Raiders coaching staff this season. Jon Gruden has been out of coaching for a long time, and it will be harder than many people think to go from the broadcast booth back to the sideline after 10 years out of coaching.

Gruden is a good coach, but he may need a year just to get back in the swing of things before he is fully ready to take this team back to the playoffs. Luckily for him, he should have a good staff around him. This coaching staff features two experienced coordinators on both sides of the ball with Greg Olson and Paul Guenther, as well as two experienced coaches on the offensive side in Edgar Bennett and Tom Cable.

The front office situation is concerning right now. If Reggie McKenzie had full control over the personnel department there would be reasons to be very optimistic, but reports from Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman have said that Gruden has “consolidated power” in the Raiders front office.

This report should be incredibly concerning to Raiders fans. McKenzie brought the Raiders out of the Al Davis-era doldrums, and drafted players such as Amari Cooper, Derek Carr, Gabe Jackson and Khalil Mack on top of signing players such as Bruce Irvin, Donald Penn, Jared Cook, Kelechi Osemele and Rodney Hudson.

All of the players listed above have helped revive the Raiders, and giving less power to the man that did all of this reminds me of what the Eagles did with Howie Roseman just a few years ago. History repeats itself folks, and if you learned anything from Chip Kelly’s controversial tenure in Philadelphia, it’s that coaches should coach and scouts should lead the personnel department.

Overall outlook for 2018

The Raiders have talent, but too many distractions and holes in their roster for me to believe in them this season. The AFC West is incredibly tough and the Raiders’ roster doesn’t match up to the other teams in their division.

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Previous teams:

25. Baltimore Ravens
26. Washington Redskins
27. Cleveland Browns
28. Buffalo Bills
29. New York Jets
30. Cincinnati Bengals
31. Miami Dolphins
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers