One of the needs that the Oakland Raiders need to address this offseason is the need to find a reliable third receiver to compliment the Cooper and Crabtree duo. Moreover, the silver and black have been fortunate because both men have been fairly healthy during their time with the Raiders but as we all know injuries happen and the next man up has to be a worthy replacement. To be fair, worthy replacements are hard to find in the modern NFL and Raider fans learned this the hard way when starting quarterback Derek Carr broke his fibula on Christmas Eve.
Entering the 2016 season both fans and coaches had felt that they had seen enough of Seth Roberts and Clive Wolford to accept that they could take the pressure off Coop and Crab as a reliable weapon for Oakland’s offense. Roberts caught 38 passes for nearly 400 yards and his 5 receiving touchdowns tied him for second on the team. Those numbers sound good but the reality is Roberts has not done enough to prove that he can be reliable enough to help or replace Crabtree and Cooper. To be fair, Seth Roberts has proven to be a deciding factor in games by making a few spectacular receptions and scoring key touchdowns in key moments.
That will not be enough to make him the weapon that the Raiders so desperately need.
Throughout the season but Crabtree and Cooper were pressured more and more to get open by teams playing a mixture of zone/man coverage that would take them out of many game situations. This sometimes forced Derek Carr to look Roberts way and most of the time that didn’t work out for the silver and black.
For one thing, Seth Roberts ended the 2016 season with the lowest catch percentage (a pitiful 49.4%) on the team. Carr and his replacements targeted Roberts 77 times last year but Roberts only successfully caught 38 of those passes. Too often he was dropping easy receptions or not getting open at all.
Roberts receiving numbers are nearly identical to his output in 2015. However, his catch rate dropped almost 10% even though he recorded more receptions (38) than he did in 2015 when he caught 32 passes. You can’t fault Carr for not targeting Roberts. In 2015, Roberts only recorded 55 targets but in 2016 his targets went up to 77. He just wasn’t making the necessary plays when given the opportunity to do so.
Secondly, After re-watching every offensive play in 2016 I noticed that Roberts just vanishes at times because he doesn’t work as hard to get open as a receiver should. Roberts route running is too easily disrupted by a defensive player and any receiver worth his grain of salt needs to win in most of those situations. Roberts doesn’t win those most of the time. Roberts size is not a problem. He is listed at 6 foot 2 inches and he weighs around 200 pounds. Roberts is a good enough blocker so not winning enough at the line of scrimmage is unacceptable. I don’t think its effort but perhaps it is his personality. Some players just don’t have the attitude to fight to get open. What made Tim Brown so great was his ability to fend off defenders and become a reliable target for Jeff Hostetler or Rich Gannon. Roberts struggles to do this at times and that impacts his ability to improve his receiving numbers and be the reliable receiving target that Oakland needs.
Another area in Roberts receiving numbers that helps prove my theory is his yards per catch drop off in 2016. During the 2015 season, Seth Roberts averaged over 15 yards per reception. In 2016 however, that number dropped to 10.45 and that is because he isn’t fighting enough to get open. Defenders are trailing him or keeping him in front of them and as soon as he catches the ball they are able to tackle him quickly. To be fair again, that isn’t the sole reason that his average yards per reception dropped in 2016 but it is a part of it.
What should the Raiders do?
Roberts is under contract for 2017 (or at least he will be once he signs his tender) and it is more likely that the Raiders will stick with him for one more season. They have also signed Cordarrelle Patterson who will compete with Roberts for the third WR spot.
Still, the team should keep its eye open during the 2017 NFL Draft and if their is a young, reliable slot receiver available than the Raiders should take him in one of the later rounds. They should sign that player to a rookie contract and see how it goes with Roberts and Patterson. Meanwhile, they should work that rookie into the lineup and see if he provides Carr with more opportunities for completions and if he takes some of the pressure of Crabtree and Cooper. Travis Rudolph (Florida State), Stacy Coley (Miami, Fla) are just two of the receivers that are available this spring.
The Oakland Raiders need to look into this situation. Seth Roberts still deserves another year but Oakland should protect themselves by grooming someone just in case. Moreover, when Seth’s contract ends the Raiders can move on rather than overpay him.
Seth Roberts: Career numbers
2015: 55 targets, 32 receptions, 480 yards, 15 yards per rec., 5 touchdowns. Catch %: 58.2%
2016: 77 targets, 38 receptions, 397 yards, 10.4 yards per rec., 5 touchdowns. Catch %: 49.4%