Midseason MVP: Derek Carr
Honorable Mention: Kelechi Osemele
Starting off with the best of the best, Carr has been amazing this season for the Raiders. Carr has consistently carried Oakland on his back and has led them to multiple wins with his clutch plays. Wins in Tampa, Baltimore, and New Orleans came from Carr carrying the Raiders kicking and screaming to victory. Carr has been accurate, avoided turnovers, and put the Raiders in a position in every game. He has been everything Raiders’ fans have dreamed of and even more. If the Raiders are able to make the playoffs this season, Carr absolutely merits MVP votes, but he’ll be the league’s MVP in my heart no matter what.
Osemele was one of the Raiders’ biggest grabs this offseason, and many wondered if he was worth the 5-year 58 million dollar deal he received. Well. He has been worth every penny, much to the chagrin of Ravens’ fans. If you tuned in to the game Sunday night against Denver and heard literally anything Cris Collinsworth said, you know why. Osemele displayed such raw power and strength, simply bulldozing through Denver’s front. He has kept Carr clean and helped this offense reach a new level.
Biggest Surprise: DJ Hayden
Honorable Mention: Michael Crabtree
Hayden, the former first round pick from Houston, hasn’t had the best couple years in the NFL. Picked 12th overall by the Raiders, Hayden had high exceptions as the replacement for Nnamdi Asomugha. Hayden failed to perform to the draft spot he was selected at, usually resembling burnt toast than a starting NFL corner. When the Raiders declined Hayden’s 5th-year option, the corner must have taken it as a personal insult. Hayden’s play this season has been nothing short of spectacular. He has shaken his holding problem, he’s played the ball a lot better, and has shown confidence and skill. Hayden is easily earned a new contract in Oakland.
Crabtree had a very good first year in Oakland, earning himself an offseason extension. This year however, Crabtree has been on a tear. Crabtree has 6 touchdowns through 8 games and has slowly become Derek Carr’s go to target. Since the move from San Francisco to Oakland, Crabtree has not only found a competent QB but has found new life, making Raiders’ fans eat their words him.
Biggest Disappointment: Ben Heeney
Honorable Mention: Reggie Nelson
Not everything this season has gone perfect for Oakland. Heeney had a very strong rookie season after being selected in 5th round out of Kansas. He displayed great tackling skills and looked like another gem found by GM Reggie Mckenzie and a future MLB for years. Heeney even earned play call responsibilities over the offseason. With Raiders’ fans buying into the hype, Heeney started the season as the team’s’ MLB and promptly fell on his face. He missed tackles, played poor coverage, and could not get off blocks. Heeney looked lost on defense and it showed. In the two games Heeney started, Oakland gave up over 1,000 yards of offense. He was promptly benched for rookie Cory James and ended up finding himself on IR. While it’s too early to give up on Heeney, he clearly not the player Raiders’ fans thought he was.
Nelson was a late signing in the offseason was pegged as Charles Woodson’s replacement at FS, tough shoes to fill. Nelson struggled early on as the high safety, allowing big plays over the middle of the defense. He has since settled into his role and played better, but many fans still wish they had C-Wood over the middle. Can you blame them?
Rookie of Year: Karl Joseph
Honor Mention: DeAndre Washington/Jalen Richard
This was a very easy pick. The first round draft choice has been as advertised, bringing the lumber and showing exceptional coverage skills. When Joseph took over the SS spot in the Raiders’ defense, there was a noticeable change. The Raiders played tougher and put up a fight rather than a playing doormat defense. This is no coincidence. Joseph has quickly become a leader in that Raiders’ defense and should be for years to come.
The dynamic duo of Washington and Richard has opened new doors for Oakland on the ground. While Latavius Murray is still the go-to back, Washington and Richard have both added their own skills. Washington is a very shift back who can hit the whole quick and gain positive yards every touch. Richard is lighting fast and does his damage in the passing game, while still being able to bust off 30-yard gains. While these two aren’t taking the running back throne anytime soon, they give Oakland options and allow Murray rest, letting him play at his best.
This has been Oakland’s best season in 15 years. While the champagne bottles haven’t been popped just yet, fans are cautiously optimistic that this will be a playoff team not just this year, but years to come. If Oakland is able to continue their fantastic play, Oakland will have playoff football for the first time since 2001.