Raiders Have The Best Pass-Catching Core In A Loaded AFC West

July 7, 2022

In what should be the toughest division in the NFL this season Derek Carr is universally viewed as the fourth-best quarterback. But that is based more on historical perspectives and some hype. Yes, Patrick Mahomes and Russell Wilson have both won Super Bowls and Justin Herbert is widely regarded as the most promising young quarterback in the league. 

But Mahomes has lost Tyreek Hill, Wilson has not made a deep playoff run in the past seven seasons and Herbert has yet to participate in a postseason game. Meanwhile, Carr was a major reason why the Raiders advanced to the playoffs last year, and now he could be headed for his best season yet – which gives the Raiders even better odds to finish first in the AFC conference

Derek Carr Positioned For His Best Season Yet

The Raiders Have The Best WR Duo In the Division And a Top TE

For the first time in a very long time, Raiders fans can truly feel optimistic about their chances, even in a division that looks as formidable as the AFC West does this year. Carr may indeed be the least decorated/lowest rated quarterback in the division, but he has the best pass-catching trio among the four teams. 

Mahomes and Wilson are established superstars, and Herbert is a star on the rise. But Carr is a highly respected veteran, and with the addition of Davante Adams, the Raiders have the most firepower in their passing game of any team in the division. 

This is the best supporting cast of Carr’s career, as Adams is the best wide receiver in the division, and maybe in the entire AFC. JuJu Smith-Schuster may be Kansas City’s No. 1 WR this season, and the Broncos still have to figure out who will be the No. 1 for Wilson. Keenan Allen is an established standout, but not at the level of Adams. 

Hunter Renfrow is arguably the best No. 2 wide receiver in the division. The Chiefs don’t have a clear No. 2 wideout, and neither Denver receiver has performed at the level that Renfrow did last season. Mike Williams had his best year in 2021, but Renfrow had 17 more receptions than Williams. 

Travis Kelce is still the best tight end in the AFC West, but Darren Waller is the definite No. 2 in the division and one of the best receiving TEs in the league. No other team in the division can match the trio of Adams, Renfrow, and Waller. Adams and Waller both deserve to be double-teamed, but that will not be possible. Renfrow will remain a very important target on key passing downs and you can expect him to continue to flourish as a chain-mover. 

This is the group of pass-catchers that Carr has deserved after so many seasons of relying on mediocrity at receiver. Adams should prove to be the team’s best wideout since Tim Brown and could become one of the most productive in team history overall. He could boost his former Fresno State teammate to the best season of his career in 2022. 

Improved Playmakers Will Raise The Game Of The QB

Around the league, we are seeing many teams improve the playmakers around the quarterback if they cannot acquire an established franchise player at the position. Miami has done so around Tua Tagovailoa, the Steelers have loaded up at RB and WR, and the Jets have started to build a promising supporting cast around Zach Wilson. The Eagles acquired A.J. Brown to give Jalen Hurts a better chance to prove he can develop into a franchise QB. 

Such roster construction takes the pressure off the quarterback to carry the offense. In the case of Carr, he has never played at the level of a true franchise QB, but it was better to keep him than take chances in a thin free-agent market or unimpressive 2022 NFL Draft class. There simply isn’t much in terms of high-level availability at QB in today’s NFL. Carr has never worked with a true quality receiving crew before, and it’s possible he may elevate his game further with the right set of playmakers around him. 

This will be a pivotal year for Carr because if he fails to lead the Raiders back to the postseason and at least win a playoff game there likely won’t be any excuses to make for him anymore. There is pressure on Carr to deliver significant success this season, but we can also believe that he is very capable of meeting raised expectations. Carr is a highly respected leader for both his on-field play and intangibles. He just needed the right complementary teammates to shine brighter. 

Other moving parts will play major factors in the possible success of the 2022 Raiders, though. Is Josh McDaniels truly a better coach this time around? Will the offensive line hold up in front of Carr? On defense, the Raiders have a solid front seven, and the pass rush will be downright fearsome with Chandler Jones and Maxx Crosby leading the way. But can the cornerbacks win out frequently against the other top passers in the division? That will be an area of concern. 

We could see some shootouts between the Raiders and their divisional rivals this season. Mahomes will remain one of the best pure passers in the league, and Wilson is one of the top deep ball artists in the NFL. Herbert can trade offensive punches with anyone. 

But Carr is hungry for more success and has the best weaponry of all passers in the AFC West. So even though Carr is the least respected QB in the division by outside observers, this could finally be the year when he overshadows his more celebrated rivals in the division.