Photo by Matthew Putney & AJ Mast/ AP
Jared Cook, the Raiders leading receiver last season is testing the free agent market and may take his talent elsewhere. Cook and quarterback Derek Carr developed a tight relationship, linking up for first downs and touchdowns quite often during the 2018 season. Cook has expressed his interest in coming back to the Raiders but wants to get what his market value suggest, out on the open market.
Last season Cook caught 68 passes for 896-yards and six touchdowns. He was awarded his first pro bowl selection, as the Raiders only representative for the 2018 season.
The Raiders currently have Lee Smith, Derek Carrier, Darren Waller and Paul Butler but none of the bunch has shown flashes as the vertical pass catching threat that Cook brought to the team. The Raiders will likely look to bring Cook back for the 2019 season. If that doesn’t work out they will likely explore options via free agency or through the draft.
The best options coming out of college and entering the 2019 draft are, the two tight ends out of the University of Iowa. T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant are arguably the best tight ends in this years draft. The Raiders may look to bring in one of the young pass catchers who can mold to Gruden’s offense and grow with the team, when they make their move to Vegas in 2020.
Hockenson and Fant both attended the NFL combine in Indianapolis last weekend and were among the best tight ends of the draft class. Both of them show the freakish ability to block, catch and run. Being a versatile tight end in today’s NFL is what it takes to stay on the field for all downs. Having the blocking ability gives these guys the benefit of the doubt, that they will be in regardless if it’s a pass play or run play. Hockenson and Fant with both be day one draft selections, as they both have the ability to be an elite playmaker in the NFL.
If the Raiders choose to go the free agent route to find their new tight end, they could make a run after Tyler Eifert, Austin Seferian-Jenkins or Jesse James. Carr really got into a grove, down the home stretch in finding his tight ends in short yardage and goal line completions.
Tyler Eifert has impressive tools as a high level tight end, but the downside of his game is he’s constantly hurt. Eifert’s 2015 season he was selected to the pro bowl when he caught 52 passes for 615-yards and 13 touchdowns. Since his breakout year, he’s only played 14 games over a three-year stretch. The injury bug has hit him hard and has put a limit on the production that Eifert is able to produce.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins is a large tight end who can help out in both the run game with his blocking, and through the air in the passing game. He played a key role two years ago with the New York Jets, when he caught 50 passes for 357-yards and three touchdowns. Seferian-Jenkins is a large figure listed at 6’5″ 262 pounds, who can high point the ball in the end zone over smaller defenders.
Jesse James has had an important role of the Pittsburg Steelers system over his short four-year career. James has been a crucial blocker, but can also be a difference maker in the passing game. Last season James caught 30 passes for 423-yards and two touchdowns. James averaged 14.1-yards per catch lasts season, catching balls from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. James could also help provide additional protection for Derek Carr on drop backs with his 6’7″ 261 pound frame.
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