Raiders' 53-man roster projection suddenly a study in consistency

Star receiver Amari Cooper will be looking to help the Raiders earn a second straight playoff berth. Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

The Oakland Raiders open training camp on July 29 at the Napa Valley Marriott in Napa, California. Here’s a 53-man roster projection:

QUARTERBACKS (3): Derek Carr, Connor Cook EJ Manuel

Carr, coming off a broken right leg, is the highest-paid player in the game, while Manuel, a former first-round pick of the Buffalo Bills, and Cook, who started the Raiders’ first playoff game since the 2002 season as a rookie in January, will battle it out in camp to be his backup.

RUNNING BACKS (4): Marshawn Lynch, DeAndre Washington, Jalen Richard, Elijah Hood

Might Taiwan Jones, the last remaining position player drafted by Al Davis, be on the way out, even as he is a special-teams ace as a gunner? What about John Crockett, the former Packers bruiser, over one of the Mighty Mites, or seventh-round pick Hood, whose skill set most resembles that of Lynch?

FULLBACK (1): Jamize Olawale

Sure, the days of the massive blocking back may be done, but with his size (6-foot-1, 240 pounds) and speed (remember his 75-yard catch-and-run TD in Mexico City?) Olawale is a hybrid.

WIDE RECEIVER (5): Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, Seth Roberts Cordarrelle Patterson, Johnny Holton

While Crabtree and Cooper each had 1,000-yard receiving seasons, Crabtree and Roberts led the league with 12 drops each. Patterson should see more time in the slot and get those end-arounds that went to Holton. If so, perhaps undrafted rookie Ishmael Zamora, who is a much larger target at 6-foot-3, 224 pounds, gets the call over the 6-foot, 190-pound Holton.

TIGHT END (3): Jared Cook, Lee Smith, Clive Walford

What, no Gabe Holmes? Tough, I know, but with only three tight ends, Smith, who has recovered from a broken ankle, is the blocker, Walford is the pass-catcher and Cook is the most complete tight end Carr has had in his nascent career.

OFFENSIVE LINE (9): Donald Penn, Kelechi Osemele, Rodney Hudson, Gabe Jackson, Marshall Newhouse, Denver Kirkland, Jon Feliciano, Vadal Alexander, David Sharpe

Austin Howard would figure to be the incumbent at right tackle but Newhouse, signed this offseason, had the first-team reps in the offseason program. Also, Feliciano was dealing with injury late in the offseason program, so might Oni Omoile get the call instead, especially if he can play some center? And seventh-round draft pick Jylan Ware seems perfect for the practice squad.

DEFENSIVE LINE (8): Khalil Mack, Treyvon Hester, Justin Ellis, Mario Edwards Jr., Denico Autry, Darius Latham, Jihad Ward, Eddie Vanderdoes

While Mack is the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year and Edwards, who played in just two regular-season games, is healthy, the Raiders are thin in experience up the middle, even with Ellis in the mix. Hester, Oakland’s final draft pick, was running with the first-team defense in minicamp and Vanderdoes missed everything except rookie minicamp due to UCLA being on the quarter system, so he has a lot to catch up on.

LINEBACKER (7): Bruce Irvin, Tyrell Adams, Jelani Jenkins, Cory James, James Cowser, Shilique Calhoun, Marquel Lee

Sure, the Raiders play in the Black Hole at the Oakland Coliseum, but they also have a black hole in the middle of their defense, as in no vet at middle linebacker. Adams, who did not play a single snap on defense last season, was in the middle with the starters in the offseason, while James also saw some reps. Lee, a fifth-round pick, has the opportunity to play his way into the rotation while Ben Heeney, who suffered a season-ending ankle injury after starting the year at MLB, seems lost in the mix. Oh, and Aldon Smith remains suspended but under contract, for what it’s worth in terms of football matters.

CORNERBACK (5): David Amerson, Sean Smith,Gareon Conley, TJ Carrie, Dexter McDonald

Al Davis believed in building a team from the cornerback position on in and so, too, apparently does reigning NFL Executive of the Year Reggie McKenzie. Because for the second time in five years, the Raiders general manager used his first draft pick on a cornerback, albeit, one that fell into his lap in Conley, who was accused of rape, though charges have not been filed nor had he been arrested. Conley, with some seasoning, could potentially start on the outside but projects more as a nickel now, much like Carrie. Smith is looking to bounce back from a star-crossed first season in Oakland and Amerson is hoping to bounce back as well.

SAFETY (5): Reggie Nelson, Karl Joseph, Keith McGill, Obi Melifonwu, Shalom Luani

Nelson is coming off his second consecutive Pro Bowl and turns 34 in September, so not only will he be counted on for his ball-hawking skills, he will also be counted on to continue his tutoring of Joseph, last year’s first-round selection, and this year’s second-rounder in the ultra-athletic Melifonwu, who is expected to help solve the Raiders’ issues in covering tight ends. McGill is a wild card while Luani, a “football-playing Jessie,” per McKenzie, should be a crowd favorite and special-teams standout.

SPECIALISTS (3): Sebastian Janikowski, Marquette King, Jon Condo

The team’s all-time leading scorer, its most entertaining follow on social media and a former Pro Bowler. Any more questions?