The Oakland Raiders passing attack is led by a three-headed monster of Derek Carr, Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. While none of that is likely to change, the team has gotten a statistical boost from their No. 3 wide receiver, Seth Roberts, over the past two seasons.
So, the question now becomes, what will the Raiders do with Roberts next season and more importantly, what will his role be?
For starters, it’s worth noting that Roberts is set to become a free agent after the 2017 season, so this is a pretty big make-or-break season for him. He’s a player who has shown flashes of upside, scoring 10 touchdowns over the past two seasons. Nevertheless, it’s hard to overlook the fact that he’s struggled quite a bit with drops, specifically last season.
In 2016 alone, Roberts tallied 5 drops. That may not seem like a big number, but when it’s on 77 targets (he had 38 receptions) it equates to a pretty poor 6.5 percent drop rate. Interestingly, while Crabtree also dealt with his fair share of drops (9), his drop percentage was actually lower at 6.2 percent, according to Sporting Charts.
Plus, Crabtree was dealing with a finger injury down the home stretch last season, which didn’t help. Even still, Roberts was on the field for 66.9 percent of the team’s offensive snaps, per Football Outsiders, so it’s tough to argue that he doesn’t play a large role in this offense.
What makes matters slightly more interesting for Roberts this season, though, is that the only other wideout (besides Cooper and Crabtree) who played substantial snaps is Andre Holmes (23.3 percent), and he’s now signed on with the Buffalo Bills.
In turn, this means that Roberts is going to get all the work he can handle as the team’s No. 3 receiver. With the large number of three-receiver sets that the Raiders play, it’s not impossible to envision him potentially having the best year of his career. With TE Jared Cook and WR/KR Cordarrelle Patterson also being added to the mix, it’s tough to see him topping 5 touchdowns, the number he hit each of the last two years. But, the yardage could increase, and his targets could float around 75 again.
So the role for Roberts in the Raiders offense is going to be largely dependent on Patterson and the type of rapport that Cook can build with Carr. If Patterson proves to live up to the potential he showed at times as a wide receiver, Roberts may actually lose work. But, on the flip side, there’s a reason why the Minnesota Vikings let Patterson walk.
The speedster and excellent return man took massive steps back in recent years, which leaves little reason for anyone to believe that he’s ready to supplant Roberts as the team’s No. 3 receiver.
With the fact that Roberts already has a strong rapport with Carr, paired with the whole “contract year” thought process, it’s easy to envision Roberts having a big year. That is assuming the drops don’t get in the way of his upside, which is certainly a possibility.
Realistically, Roberts should remain right in the mix, and if he really locks in and focuses on fixing those shortcomings, we could be looking at one of the best three-headed monsters at wideout in the entire NFL in 2017.